Why do I eat Organic and Non-GMO foods?

Someone recently asked me why I choose to eat organic and non-gmo foods and after some discussion asked that I present evidence that this is a better choice. While I don’t feel obligated to defend my choices this person was not the first person to ask me this question and wonder what evidence I found so compelling. I did feel that in order to educate those who are genuinely interested in this subject I would like to have something to refer them to. I am not an academic and writing papers is not my forte… so forgive my lack of academic flair in this writing. There is no simple source that fills in the blanks on this subject… “Why do you elect to eat organic and non-GMO foods?” So I decided to answer the question to the best of my ability… keeping in mind this is why “I” choose to go this route in my life.

 

The first thing to address is what qualifies as organic. Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones. The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows:

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.

 

There are three categories of organic labeling…

 

100% Organic: Made with 100% organic ingredients

Organic: Made with at least 95% organic ingredients

Made With Organic Ingredients: Made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms)

Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.

 

I try to purchase 100% organic when available, although many small community farmers cannot afford to go through the process of being certified organic by the NOP, and I do frequently purchase produce and other food products from the local farmers market after carefully questioning their growing and harvesting methods. I use my own judgment in determining if I feel this is a healthy resource for my family and myself. As with all things in life… it is a personal choice. I simply elect to be informed and educated when I make my choices.  I want to eliminate as much of the bad stuff as I can… we have way too much to deal with in life without the food we consume being a threat to our health and environment in my opinion.

 

With all of this said… I believe that organic is a term that is highly debated among purist in the industry. “Organic standards as defined by the USDA. Organic is definitely a step in the right direction for the “average” person who is not educated in the matter. However, it is backwards progress for the rest of us. Now that the USDA legally owns and regulates “Organic,” a significant portion of its intent and purity has been eroded. This is obvious especially to those of us who have been involved in the industry for a long time (approximately 25 years for Dr. Sheridan). Whereas Organic “certifies” its weaker standard with paperwork only but does NO ACTUAL testing,” Dr. Jameth Sheridan – Dr. Jameth Sheridan, Doctor of Holistic Medicine, Naturopath, and Hard-Core Natural Medicine Researcher, is one of the early pioneers of the Vegan, organic, holistic, and raw foods movements. As of 2013, he has been deeply immersed in holistic health for 29 years, veganism for 27 years, and raw foods for 26 years. He is a ceaseless researcher, experimenter, and inventor.

 

GMO’s are another issue. First off what is a GMO? GMOs, or “genetically modified organisms,” are plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.

 

It will suffice to say that this is not considered safe by 60 other countries in the world, as they have completely or substantially banned GMO’s. Honestly I’m not sure why we continue to have them in the US… other than Monsanto essentially is the leader of GMO and they have the money to lobby and fight to continue the madness they are part of creating.

 

The USDA National Organic Standards prohibit the use of GMOs.

 

For a number of reasons I am opposed to this… I will go into one of them very briefly here, as I don’t really cover it elsewhere. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) urges doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients. They cite animal studies showing organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. Human studies show how genetically modified (GM) food can leave material behind inside us, possibly causing long-term problems. Genes inserted into GM soy, for example, can transfer into the DNA of bacteria living inside us, and that the toxic insecticide produced by GM corn was found in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn fetuses.

Numerous health problems increased after GMOs were introduced in 1996. The percentage of Americans with three or more chronic illnesses jumped from 7% to 13% in just 9 years; food allergies skyrocketed, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others are on the rise. Although there is not sufficient research to confirm that GMOs are a contributing factor, doctors groups such as the AAEM tell us not to wait before we start protecting ourselves, and especially our children who are most at risk.

The American Public Health Association and American Nurses Association are among many medical groups that condemn the use of GM bovine growth hormone; because the milk from treated cows has more of the hormone IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1)?which is linked to cancer. http://www.responsibletechnology.org/10-Reasons-to-Avoid-GMOs

Because GMOs are novel life forms, biotechnology companies have been able to obtain patents with which to restrict their use. As a result, the companies that make GMOs now have the power to sue farmers whose fields are contaminated with GMOs, even when it is the result of inevitable drift from neighboring fields. GMOs therefore pose a serious threat to farmer sovereignty and to the national food security of any country where they are grown, including the United States. Farmers are loosing their lands, homes, and lives defending their own seed from the GMO giants.

 

Over 80% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced. GMO crops are also responsible for the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs:’ which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons like 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange). GMOs are a direct extension of chemical agriculture, and are developed and sold by the world’s biggest chemical companies. The long-term impacts of GMOs are unknown, and once released into the environment these novel organisms cannot be recalled.

http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/  (Non-GMO project is Americas ONLY third party verification for NON-GMO compliance)

 

Polls consistently show that a significant majority of North Americans would like to be able to tell if the food they’re purchasing contains GMOs (a 2012 Mellman Group poll found that 91% of American consumers wanted GMOs labeled). And, according to a recent CBS/New York Times poll, 53% of consumers said they would not buy food that has been genetically modified. The Non-GMO Project’s seal for verified products will, for the first time, give the public an opportunity to make an informed choice when it comes to GMOs.

 

Several of the reasons I site for electing organic and non-gmo are as follows:

 

1. I believe that organic non-gmo foods are nutritionally superior. 2. They are relatively free of toxins. 3. I also am a believer that organic food is earth supportive and supports sustainability, I believe that organic farming is environmentally friendlier.  4. I believe in supporting independent small farmers – it goes along with buying local and supporting your own community. 5. Organic foods taste better to me – there is a fresher more pure flavor that granted could simply come from the fact that it did not take weeks to get from the farm to my table… but nonetheless the flavor in my experience is superior. 6. There is additional evidence that strongly points to less cancer risk with organic non-gmo foods.

 

Now if we take these issues one at a time this is where that goes.

 

1. Organic and non-gmo foods are nutritionally superior… It is extremely difficult to conduct studies that would control the many variables that might affect nutrients, such as seeds, soil type, climate, postharvest handling, and crop variety.

However, some recently published studies in peer-reviewed journals have shown organic foods to have higher nutritional value. For example, researchers at the University of California, Davis, recently found that organic tomatoes had higher levels of phytochemicals and vitamin C than conventional tomatoes. There are other similar studies. While the evidence does show that the nutritional value of organic and non-organic foods are essentially equal, there are studies showing some differences. There are many variables such as heirloom produce vs. modern day hybrid produce. William Woys Weaver, director of The Keystone Center for the Study of Regional Foods and Food Tourism published author and food historian, stated in a presentation at the National Heirloom Expo that, “Heirloom food plants are far more nutrient rich than commercially raised hybrids, especially hybrids raised on chemical fertilizers and pesticides.”  He backs that up with research quoted below.

Dr. Donald Davis, research associate at the Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas, Austin, analyzed 43 fruit and vegetable crops. For two decades, Davis and two colleagues Melvin Epp, and Hugh Riordan analyzed nutritional data taken from selectively bred high yield conventionally grown produce. In 2005, their study titled “Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999” showed the results.

According to Davis, “We tracked 50 years in U.S. Department of Agriculture food composition data for 13 nutrients in 43 garden crops, vegetables, strawberries and three melons. Low and high yield varieties were grown and analyzed side by side eliminating key uncertainties that applies to historical data. The data was then analyzed. “

The following information is taken from that paper with editorial changes made to increase its understanding for readers. What the researchers found were declines in average concentrations of six nutrients. The subtraction sign representing the negative symbol indicates decline. The results of 20 years showed declines in: protein of – 6%, calcium:  –16%, phosphorus: – 9%, iron: –15%, riboflavin: – 38%, and vitamin C: – 20%. To read the article go here: http://www.organicauthority.com/organic-food/organic-food-articles/declining-nutritional-value-of-produce-due-to-high-yield-selective-seed-breeding.html or read Davis’ study, “Tradeoffs in Agriculture and Nutrition” in March 2005 in “Food Technology”.

Chief scientist and sustainable agriculture expert for The Organic Center, Charles Benbrook had this to say about nutritional declines. “Plant breeders could maintain and even increase the nutrient content of most crops. But this goal usually takes a back seat to economic issues,” Benbrook said. “Large growers want size and fast growth so they can harvest early. These factors feed into sacrifices in nutritional quality.”

 

 

Other evidence:

Carey Reams, one of the founding fathers of the high nutrition farming movement, has been quoted saying, “top quality produce does not rot – it dehydrates.” This may sound outrageous to you. No way, you may react. or may think that high nutrition farming must grow some sort of Frankenfood using technology principles sort of like GMOs. Wrong. And I am going to prove it right now.

Google “modern miracle man” and you find the link http://art-bin.com/art/obeach_soils.html. High nutrition farming pioneer Charles Northern, M.D., had been achieving a super shelf life over 70-80+ years ago, the days when organic farming was the norm. When article writer Rex Bleach tried Dr. Northern’s farming approaches he stated the following:

“I did try and I succeeded. I was planting a large acreage of celery and under Dr. Northen’s direction I fed minerals into certain blocks of the land in varying amounts. When the plants from this soil were mature I had them analyzed, along with celery from other parts of the State. It was the most careful and comprehensive study of the kind ever made, and it included over 250 separate chemical determinations. I was amazed to learn that my celery had more than twice the mineral content of the best grown elsewhere. Furthermore, it kept much better, with and without refrigeration, proving that the cell structure was sounder.” – http://highnutritionfood.com/top-quality-produce-does-not-rot-it-dehydrates-signs-of-superior-nutrition-part-5-shelf-life/ This is a 5 part series of articles on high nutrition foods.

 

Genetically altered seeds are programmed to produce more often at the expense of nutrients. For instance if a corn seed is programmed to take in more nitrogen so that it will grow faster and up production then it will naturally take in less of other nutrients. Jere Gettle heirloom seed farmer stated that, “One thing is vital though: heirloom seeds have not been toyed with. They are the result of open pollination ‘they are planted and left alone to do their own thing. They are not hybridized or genetically altered. Ultimately nature (wind, insects, birds) will pollinate the plants, which creates the seeds.

In addition to superior flavor and nutrition, heirloom gardening enables an independent food supply that’s not hybridized or genetically altered to exist apart from the large agricultural corporations that control much of the seed industry. A genetic heritage is also being kept alive.”

Now I don’t know about you but personally I prefer things that are the least molested and the closest to the way nature intended them to be. Science is not always good for us… it does not always produce the result that is in your best benefit.

Consider this… Farming in America is subsidized. There are requirements to receive that subsidization and this is overseen by government organizations that are heavily lobbied by factory farming advocates. Do you really think these people have your best interest at heart? We are one of the sickest countries in the world and have the lowest food standards of any first world country and many second world countries,  the European Union has in many cases banned all GMO’s, but we still allow and even encourage them? What is that all about? Hummmm

2. Relatively free of Toxins

This is simply not worth even arguing about if you asked me. Evidence is overwhelming. But here are some facts. David C. Holzman writes on science, medicine, energy, economics, and cars from Lexington and Wellfleet, MA. His work has appeared in Smithsonian, The Atlantic Monthly, and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, was quoted in an article written for Environmental Health Perspectives (http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/120-a458/) saying… “In one key finding, the team reported a “risk difference” of 30% between conventional and organic produce, meaning organic produce had a 30% lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional produce. That number was based on the difference between the percentages of conventional and organic food samples across studies with any detectible pesticide residues (38% and 7%, respectively).”

But the concept of risk difference is potentially misleading in this context, as the metric does not refer to health risk, according to Charles Benbrook, research professor and program leader for Measure to Manage (M2M): Farm and Food Diagnostics for Sustainability and Health at Washington State University. Furthermore, says Benbrook, “Pesticide dietary risk is a function of many factors, including the number of residues, their levels, and pesticide toxicity,” not just whether contamination was present.

In a letter accepted for publication in the Annals of Internal Medicine,3 Benbrook pointed to the Stanford team’s (they published a paper claiming there were no differences between organic and non-organic produce) lack of consideration of extensive government data on the number, frequency, potential combinations, and associated health risks of pesticide residues in U.S. food. Using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program,4 Benbrook calculated a 94% reduction in health risk attributable to eating organic forms of six pesticide-intensive fruits.3

Brenda Eskenazi, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. Eskenazi conducted one such study,5 one of a trio published in April 2011 that examined the relationship between cognitive development and prenatal pesticide exposures in two multiethnic inner-city populations6,7 and one farmworker community in California.5 One of the studies7 found deficits of seven IQ points in 7-year-old children in the highest quintile of pesticide exposure, compared with children in the lowest quintile, as measured by maternal urinary pesticide metabolite levels during pregnancy. Results were comparable in the other two studies.

 

Hormones, Antibiotics and other Toxins…

Again I can go on and on: According to an analysis of U.S. Food and Drug Administration data by the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future, 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in 2009 were for use on livestock and poultry, and only 20 percent was for human medical use (Center for a Livable Future 2010) WHAT!!!! NOTE THAT YOU ARE EATING THAT WHEN YOU CONSUME THOSE ANIMALS… I WONDER IF THIS HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE RISE OF MRSA AND SUPERBUGS! In 2010, the FDA said in a non-enforceable “guidance” that because “antimicrobial drug use contributes to the emergence of drug-resistant organisms, these important drugs must be used judiciously in both animal and human medicine.” It urged strict limits on antibiotic use in livestock (FDA 2010). Hello!!!

Antibiotics used this way get into the environment via soil and water, often from animal waste that is either stored or spread on fields. Once in the water, these drugs can get into people (Chee-Sanford 2009 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19398507 ). A 2007 study by scientists at the University of Illinois found that genes that conferred resistance to the widely used antibiotic tetracycline had transferred from bacteria in waste pools of hog manure into the bacteria in nearby water wells (Koike 2007 –www.asciencejournal.net/asj/index.php/NES/article/download/329/302). Groundwater is an important source of public drinking water. Lead researcher Dr. Roderick Mackie commented, “At this stage, we’re not really concerned about who’s got these genes. If the genes are there, potentially they can get into the right organism at the right time and confer resistance to an antibiotic that’s being used to treat disease” (University of Illinois 2007). –

The FDA has tried for decades to restrict the use of antibiotics for non-therapeutic uses but has been stymied repeatedly by Congress (Harris 2010 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20479207 ). At a 2010 press conference, former Principal Deputy Commissioner Joshua M. Sharfstein said the FDA believes “this is a public health issue of some urgency” (Harris 2010).

Residues of artificial hormones that are widely used to promote growth in beef cattle, dairy cows and sheep may also increase the risk of cancer in humans and lead to higher rates of infection in animals. Many studies have found increased risk of breast, prostate and colorectal cancer associated with higher levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in blood and serum (Yu 2000, Hansen 1997). Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), also known as rBGH, causes a significant increase in IGF-1 levels in milk from treated cows (Hansen 1997). Further, rBST-treated cows suffer higher rates and more severe cases of udder tissue inflammation and infection (mastitis), which requires increased use of antibiotics (Craven 1991, Pell 1992, FDA 1993, Monsanto 1993, Kronfeld 1997 – read the report here http://consumersunion.org/news/potential-public-health-impacts-of-the-use-of-recombinant-bovine-somatotropin-in-dairy-production-part-1/  or here http://ec.europa.eu/food/fs/sc/scah/out21_en.pdf ).

Using hormones this way is banned in most European countries and in Australia, Japan, and New Zealand and is not permitted in U.S. pork or poultry products, but it is common in U.S. beef cattle, dairy cows and sheep. (Clancey 2006, USDA 2011 – http://county.wsu.edu/kittitas/Documents/Grazing%20for%20global%20health%20SWCS%20article%202012.pdf ).

More than a decade ago, scientists in Europe raised serious concerns about a wide range of potential health effects related to hormone use in livestock, particularly in the U.S. In 1999, the European Union’s Scientific Committee for Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health said in a press release that six commonly used growth hormones had the potential to cause “endocrine, developmental, immunological, neurobiological, immunotoxic, genotoxic and carcinogenic effects,” adding that “even exposure to small levels of residues in meat and meat products carries risks, and no threshold levels can be established for any of the six substances” (EU 1999). The EU subsequently banned imports of U.S. beef because of scientific concerns about hormones, but the U.S government successfully challenged the ban in the World Trade Organization.

A number of widespread environmental toxins build up in animal tissues and are found in meat, sometimes at high levels. According to the FDA, “studies suggest that exposure to dioxin-like compounds (DLCs) may lead to a variety of adverse health effects, including reproductive and developmental problems, cardiovascular disease, increased diabetes and increased cancer. Because DLCs tend to accumulate in the fat of food-producing animals, consumption of animal-derived foods (e.g., meat, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy products) is considered to be the major route of human exposure to low levels of DLCs.” (FDA 2004a) According to the FDA, most human exposure to dioxins comes from food, with 95 percent of that coming from animal fats (FDA 2004a).

Among fish, tuna and farmed salmon are of particular concern. A 2004 analysis of two metric tons of farmed and wild salmon purchased from stores around the world showed consistently and significantly higher concentrations of PCBs, dioxins, and the widely banned insecticides toxaphene and dieldrin in farmed salmon (Hites 2004). EWG’s tests of farmed salmon from U.S. stores support this finding. On average, the farmed salmon had 16 times the dioxin-like PCBs found in wild salmon, four times the levels of beef, and 3.4 times the levels found in other seafood (EWG 2000). Mercury contamination of seafood is also a well-documented problem. According to the FDA, “Nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of methyl mercury. However, larger fish that have lived longer have the highest levels of methyl mercury because they’ve had more time to accumulate it. These large fish (swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish) pose the greatest risk” (FDA 2004b).

“The best way to reduce your personal dioxins level and your potential risks from dioxins is to reduce dietary exposures to dioxins.” – U.S. Food and Drug Administration

 

See more at: http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/other-meat-concerns-antibiotics-hormones-and-toxins/#sthash.Ps8a4vnw.dpuf

 

One another NOTE:  BROILER CHICKENS ARE READY FOR SLAUGHTER IN 42 DAYS!!! According to Compassion in World Farming SA, in 1968 South Africa, broilers were slaughtered at 62 days, weighing 1.2kg. Today, they are slaughtered at 42 days, weighing 1.9kg. The birds grow so rapidly that their hearts and lungs are not developed well enough to support the remainder of the body, resulting in heart failure and tremendous death losses. The chickens also become crippled because their legs can’t support the weight of their bodies. About one third of them suffer agonizing ammonia burns on their feet as a result of spending their short six-week lives on feces-saturated litter. Furthermore, they are in overcrowded conditions and in order to prevent them from pecking themselves and others their beaks are seared off.  This is what you’re eating when you eat store bought chickens. It’s the same in the US today. If we can speed up the maturation rate of chickens artificially this way by introducing hormones and antibiotics it is no wonder we have young girls maturing earlier and earlier and are facing rampant health challenges, you are what you eat!

 

Studies and Resources: Just to name a few… they are countless and there is an overall consistent agreement among them that exposure to pesticides, chemicals, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics all do not bode well for our health.

USDA. Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary, Calendar Year 2010. Washington, DC: Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (May 2010). Available: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=stelprdc5098550 [accessed 14 Nov 2012].

Bouchard MF, et al. Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and IQ in 7-year-old children. Environ Health Perspect 119(8):1189–1195 (2011); http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1003185.

Engel SM, et al. Prenatal exposure to organophosphates, paraoxonase 1, and cognitive development in childhood. Environ Health Perspect 119(8):1182–1188 (2011); http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1003183.

Rauh V, et al. Seven-year neurodevelopmental scores and prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos, a common agricultural pesticide. Environ Health Perspect 119(8):1196–1201 (2011); http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1003160.

Vandenberg LN, et al. Hormones and endocrine-disrupting chemicals: low-dose effects and nonmonotonic dose responses. Endocr Rev 33(3):378–455 (2012); http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/er.2011-1050.

 

http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/AG_Beef_2011-01.pdf

 

3. I also am a believer that organic food is earth supportive and supports sustainability, I believe that organic farming is environmentally friendlier.

The benefits of organic, pasture-raised food and farming systems go beyond improving the health and nutrition of livestock and humans today. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, well-managed pastures provide environmental benefits to rural communities and generations to come. These include: decreased soil erosion; increased soil fertility; and, reduced air and water pollution. (“Greener Pastures: How grass-fed beef and milk contribute to healthy eating,” Clancey, K. Union of Concerned Scientists, March 2006. http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/solutions/smart_pasture_operations/greener-pastures.html#  and “The Hidden Costs of CAFOs,” Union of Concerned Scientists, Sept. 2008.
http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/cafo_issue-briefing-low-res.pdf ).

Well-managed grazing and grass-fed operations are better for the environment. They use fewer energy-intensive inputs and, by regularly moving animals to fresh pasture and keeping them away from streambeds, they spread the manure more evenly and improve the quality and quantity of forage growth. This helps to conserve soil, reduce erosion and water pollution, increase carbon sequestration and preserve biodiversity and wildlife (Johnson 2002, FAO 2009, Pelletier 2010 – http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/pubs-and-papers/2010-04-comparative-life-cycle-environmental-impacts-three-beef-production-strategies-upper-midwestern-unite.pdf ). Organic feed production and grazing practices are also better for the environment. They reduce fertilizer and pesticide runoff into waterways, and the use of compost, cover-cropping and rotational grazing helps build healthy, productive and water-conserving soils. Organic methods also enhance pest and weed resistance without the use of chemicals and ultimately foster greater resiliency in the face of extreme weather and climate change.

 

There are few definitive studies of the net amount of greenhouse gas emissions from grass-fed versus confined-feedlot, grain-fed meat. Since pasture-raised cattle gain weight more slowly than grain-fed animals (an average of 25 percent slower in one recent study (Gurian-Sherman 2011 – http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/global-warming-and-beef-production-report.pdf ), those animals take longer to reach slaughter weight and consequently emit more methane and nitrous oxide. Confined cattle gain weight much more quickly on their high-starch corn feed.

These higher emissions may be offset, however, by the carbon sequestration benefits that well-managed pasture systems can provide (Pelletier 2010 – http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/09/27/1004659107.abstract ). Rotational grazing and the application of organic soil treatments can have a significant impact on building up soil carbon in pastureland (Follet 2001, Conant 2001 – http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg3/en/ch8s8-4-1-2.html and http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/agphome/documents/climate/AGPC_grassland_webversion_19.pdf ). Far fewer energy-intensive inputs are used in grass-fed beef production.

The climate impact of grass-fed animals depends on factors that vary greatly from one production system to another. They include: average weight gain and quality of forage (the slower the animals gain weight, the more methane they emit); the rate of soil carbon sequestration; and crowding (greater density of animals means more concentrated manure deposits and higher methane and nitrous oxide emissions).

Much more research is needed to determine the comparative climate impact of pasture-based versus confined feedlot systems.

 

Now having said all of this… let me clarify that Organic farming generally falls within the accepted definition of sustainable agriculture. However, it is important to distinguish between the two, since organic products can be (unsustainably) produced on large industrial farms, and farms that are not certified organic can produce food-using methods that will sustain the farm’s productivity for generations. Some organic dairy farms, for example, raise cows in large confinement facilities but are able to meet the bare minimum requirements for organic certification, while a non-organic certified small farm could use organic guidelines and be self-sufficient by recycling all the farm’s waste to meet its fertility needs.

To distinguish between organic and sustainable, here are some comparisons:

Certification

Organic farms must be independently certified every year and approved by the USDA, while a farm using sustainable practices do not require any official certification. Organic is an actual certification; sustainable is more a philosophy or way of life. The best way to be sure about the growing practices is to buy directly from a farmer – that way you can ask questions if you are uncertain about the sustainability of his or her practices.

Animal Welfare

Organic farmers need to give animals “access” to outdoors, but they can actually confine animals and gain organic certification with as little as an open door leading to a cement patio. In recent years, on larger USDA certified organic farms, a system of semi-confinement has been implemented. In this case, animals can spend their entire life in housing, but are granted “access to the outdoors” through screened windows. In a more sustainable system, animals must be permitted to carry out their natural behaviors, like rooting, pecking or grazing. A farmer using sustainable methods might keep his or her animals indoors in bad weather, but the animals are given ample space to move around naturally and are healthy, comfortable and well cared for.

Antibiotics

While no antibiotics can be fed to organic-certified livestock, there is no legal restriction for antibiotic use in sustainable farming. Many farmers using sustainable practices do not administer any antibiotics at all, but some may do so when their animals are sick and need to be treated. The milk and meat of animals given antibiotics on these farms are not used for human consumption until the antibiotics have fully passed out of the animals’ systems.

Artificial Hormones

No added or artificial hormones are allowed for organic farming, nor are they used for sustainable farming.

Corporate Involvement

Organic food can be produced by large corporations, while sustainable food production is carried out by small farmers and families who live on the land where they farm.

Size of the farm

For organic farming, there is no limitation on how many acres can be used to grow crops. Sustainable farmers plant crops in relatively small, mixed plots as a form of pest control and to build soil fertility.

Food Miles

Organic food can travel thousands of miles before reaching your dinner plate, and certification does not take into consideration the use of fossil fuels used to truck food.  Sustainable food, however, is distributed and sold as close to the farm as possible.

Needless to say… I believe in organic farming that is highly sustainable.

 

4. I believe in supporting independent small farmers – it goes along with buying local and supporting your own community.

 

Organic agriculture is becoming more popular because consumers are demanding healthful and environmentally-friendly food. This shift in consumer behavior is good news, but unfortunately, increased demand for organic foods has attracted large agribusiness corporations that intend to profit from the trend. Such corporate involvement can threaten the existence of small sustainable farmers by encouraging farm consolidation and making it harder for small organic farms to compete in a large market.

Corporate-owned organic brands can push down the prices of organic products because they’re willing to cut corners in the production process and share a smaller portion of their profits with the farmers. They’ll confine dairy cows most of the year and sacrifice animal welfare, which allows them to sell their “organic” milk at low prices that small organic farms with higher standards can’t match.

However, the fact that corporations have involved themselves in organic food production is not all bad. As large corporations sell more organic food, more acres of land are being protected from chemical pesticides and fertilizers, thus helping the environment and the soil in which our food is grown. Additionally, corporate organic products have significantly raised awareness of organics among consumers. Buying organic products is the first step in the learning processes necessary to create a more sustainable food system.

So that addresses the corporate takeover that is occurring in the farming and food production industry in America and many other countries in the world for that matter. So you can see that organic does not necessarily mean supporting small farmers… however as a choice whenever possible I support small independent farmers is because I believe in small America. I believe in supporting local businesses and small family farms that are making an effort to produce safe, healthy, environmentally sustainable products for us to consume. You have a choice also. You can purchase from farmers markets and small growers in your community.

Think about this if your wondering if supporting family farms is a good idea: Family farmers in the United States are under extreme economic pressure and thousands are pushed off their land every year. This crisis in farm country is threatening the very existence of the family farm in America. As family farms are forced out by large, factory farms, the quality of our food, our environment and our food security is in danger.

Independent family farmers are the pillars of their communities. They grow high quality food, are active in civic life, and are essential to the economic vitality of both their hometowns and the nation. As stewards of the land, family farmers work to protect the soil, air, water, and biodiversity in addition to producing high-quality, healthy food for everyone. http://www.farmaid.org/site/c.qlI5IhNVJsE/b.2750749/k.89E0/Family_Farmers.htm

 

Sources not quoted in text:

The Alternative Farming Systems Information Center. “Organic Food Production.” National Agricultural Library, USDA 2003.
Lockeretz, William, Ed. Organic Farming An International History. CAB International. Cambridge, MA. 2007.
Kuepper, George and Gegner, L. “ATTRA Publication #IP170 : Organic Crop Production Overview:Fundamentals of Sustainable Agriculture”. National Center for Appropriate Technology. August 2004.
“Fact Sheet: National Organic Production and Handling Standards.” USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. Accessed online April 2008.
National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. “Organic Livestock Workbook.”National Agricultural Library, USDA. 2007.
“Fact Sheet: Organic Labeling and Marketing Information”. USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. Accessed online April 2008.
Certified Naturally Grown website. Accessed online April 2008.
“Fact Pages: Organic Farming.” European Commission Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development. (Europa Website). 2007. Accessed online April 2008.
About IFOAM. IFOAM. Accessed online April 2008.
“Guidelines for the Production, Processing, Marketing and Labeling of Organically Produced Foods.” The Codex Alimentarius Commission and the FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. 1999. Accessed online April 2008.
“National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Organic Livestock Workbook”. National Agricultural Library, USDA 2007.
Gogoi, Pallavi. “Wal-Mart’s Organic Offensive.” Business Week. March 2006.
Howard, Pill. “Organic Industry Structure: Top 30 Acquisitions.” Michigan State University. January 2008. Accessed online April 2008.
Howard, Pill. Organic Industry Structure: Private Label Brands.” Michigan State University. January 2008. Accessed online April 2008.
“Organics at Walmart.” (accessed October 20, 2006).
Warner, Melanie. “A Milk War over More than Price.” New York Times, September 2006.
Wilson, Scott J. “‘Organic’ food rule could have up to 38 loopholes.” Los Angeles Times. June 10, 2007.
Howard, Pill. “Organic Industry Structure: Private Label Brands.” Michigan State University. January 2008. Accessed online April 2008.
“Briefing Rooms: Organic Agriculture: Consumer Demand Continues To Expand”. USDA Economic Research Service. Accessed April 2008.
Demitri, Carolyn, and Catherine Green. “Recent Growth Patterns in the U.S. Organic Foods Market,” USDA Economic Research Service September 2002.
“Organic farming produces same corn and soybean yields as conventional farms, but consumes less energy and no pesticides, study finds.” Cornell University. July 2005.
“Data Sets: Organic Production: Data Files: Certified Organic Pasture and Cropland, by State 1997 ; Certified Organic Pasture and Cropland, by State 2003.” USDA Economic Research Service. 2008. (Accessed online April 2008 )
“Data Sets: Organic Production.” USDA Economic Research Service. 2008. (Accessed online April 2008 )
Ibid.
“Fact Sheet: National Organic Production and Handling Standards.” USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. April 2008. (Accessed online April 2008 )
Fact Sheet: Organic Labeling and Marketing Information.” USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. April 2008. (Accessed online April 2008 )
Ibid.
“Fact Sheet: National Organic Production and Handling Standards.” USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. April 2008. (Accessed online April 2008 )

 

5. Organic foods taste better to me – there is a fresher more pure flavor that granted could simply come from the fact that it did not take weeks to get from the farm to my table… but nonetheless the flavor in my experience is superior.

Taste is definitely an individual matter, but hundreds of gourmet chefs across the nation are choosing organic food to prepare because they believe it has superior taste and quality.

An increasing number of consumers are also of the opinion that organic food tastes better. Because organic food is grown in well-balanced soil, it makes sense that these healthy plants have a great taste. Try organic food for yourself and see what you think!

Consider that local produce often reaches your home within 24 hours of being harvested while conventional factory farmed produce must travel on average 1500 miles before reaching the market… that translates into days even weeks before that produce reaches your home. It simply isn’t as fresh, its been sprayed to enhance its appearance and extend its shelf life… what are they spraying it with and can it really be good for you? This has to effect the flavor of food… fresher is better.

 

6. Additionally evidence strongly points to less cancer risk.

A report on chemicals and cancer just released by the President’s Cancer Panel.

The Panel says that the “risk of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated,” that “nearly 80,000 chemicals [are] on the market in the United States, many of which are… un(studied) or understudied and largely unregulated,” and that “the public remains unaware… that children are far more vulnerable to environmental toxins and radiation than adults.”

Evidence suggests that some environmental agents may initiate or promote cancer by disrupting normal immune and endocrine system functions. The burgeoning number and complexity of known or suspected environmental carcinogens compel us to act to protect public health, even though we may lack irrefutable proof of harm.

I’m guessing this report will cause a furor. Why? “Lack irrefutable proof” means that the science isn’t there. In this situation, the Panel advises precaution. Check out these examples selected from the recommendations:

  • Parents and child care providers should choose foods, house and garden products, play spaces, toys, medicines, and medical tests that will minimize children’s exposure to toxics. Ideally, both mothers and fathers should avoid exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
  • It is preferable to use filtered tap water instead of commercially bottled water.
  • Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing… food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers [translation: organics] and washing conventionally grown produce to remove residues.
  • Exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxic run-off from livestock feed lots can be minimized by eating free-range meat [translation: don’t eat feedlot meat].

Read more: Organic Food and Cancer – Does Organic Food Prevent Cancer? – The Daily Green

 

If you read this entire paper then you also read in the section on Toxins about the effects of Hormones, Antibiotics and other Toxins about the risks to ones health when consuming these things. Exposure to pesticides has been tied to cancer and health risks time and time again.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9498903

It’s unclear exactly how much of this country’s cancer results from exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. But according to a report recently delivered to the White House by the prestigious President’s Cancer Panel, evidence of the linkage is strong, and decisive action is long overdue. Here’s an excerpt from the Panel’s letter to President Obama:

The American people — even before they are born — are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures. The Panel urges you most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our Nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.

The Panel goes on to scold regulators for greatly underestimating the links between environmental contaminants and cancer, using data that is “woefully out of date” and allows the chemical industry to “justify its claims that specific products pose little or no cancer risk.” For the past three decades, federal officials have held that environmental pollutants cause just two percent of all cancers.

Chemicals can trigger cancer in a variety of ways, including disrupting hormones, damaging DNA, inflaming tissues and turning genes on or off. Many pesticides are known to cause cancer, and (as the Panel notes) everyone in the U.S. is exposed to them on a daily basis.

Girls exposed to DDT before they reach puberty are 5 times more likely to develop breast cancer in middle age.

Children are at particularly high risk of developing cancer from pesticides as their bodies develop. Girls who were exposed to DDT before they reach puberty are five times more likely to develop breast cancer in middle age. When parents are exposed to pesticides before a child is conceived, that child’s risk of cancer goes up. Pesticide exposures during pregnancy and throughout childhood also increase the risk of childhood cancer. Farmers, farmworkers and their families tend to be exposed to more pesticides than the general population, and experience higher rates of a number of cancers:

  • Farmers and pesticide applicators have higher rates of prostate cancer.
  • Women who work with pesticides suffer more often from ovarian cancer.
  • Crop-duster pilots and farm women have higher rates of melanoma and other skin cancers.

 

Despite the growing scientific consensus that environmental contaminants are causing cancer in humans, research continues to focus on improving treatments and finding a cure. Our free-market system is not designed to encourage investment in disease prevention, and — let’s be honest — major companies are profiting from both the products that cause cancer and the products that treat it. We’re not saying it’s anyone’s intention to profit from cancer; that’s just the way our system works.

Biologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber comments on the links between cancer and pesticides in the President’s Cancer Panel’s report:

We have sprayed pesticides … throughout our shared environment. They are now in amniotic fluid. They’re in our blood. They’re in our urine. They’re in our exhaled breath. They are in mothers’ milk … What is the burden of cancer that we can attribute to this use of poisons in our agricultural system? … We won’t really know the answer until we do the other experiment — which is to take the poisons out of our food chain, embrace a different kind of agriculture, and see what happens.

Steingraber brings both personal and professional expertise to the issue of cancer. Her book (and now documentary film) Living Downstream  tells the story of her own journey as a cancer survivor, and documents her scientific investigations that expose this simple, tragic truth: As a society, we are so busy treating cancer and searching diligently for a cure that we’re failing to tackle its causes. http://www.panna.org/your-health/cancer

Even the federal government acknowledges that there are risks… Laboratory studies show that pesticides can cause health problems, such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects that might occur over a long period of time.  However, these effects depend on how toxic the pesticide is and how much of it is consumed. Some pesticides also pose unique health risks to children. http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/food/risks.htm

It just seems to me that an ounce of prevention beats a rat race to the cure!

 

Additional information you might find interesting.

The United States is less responsible than many other first world countries in terms of our food industry. In the US we check seafood imports for 16 drugs while the European Union checks for 50. In the US we cultivate more than 60 genetically modified crops… in the European Union there are two. Labeling for GMO’s is not required in the US but is in EU. Antiseptic washes are widely used on poultry in the US but banned in EU. The use of antibiotics to promote growth of meat animals is widely used in the US but banned in EU. Hormones used in US but again banned in EU. rBGH and Atrazine are widely used in the US but banned in EU. Neonicotinois (pesticides suspected in bee colony collapse disorder) are permitted in the US… In EU they have banned three different types. Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, France, Switzerland, India, Thailand, Italy, well all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. The UK’s Daily Mail reports that an estimated 125,000 farmers have committed suicide because of crop failure and massive debt since planting GM seeds.  http://www.examiner.com/article/what-countries-have-banned-gmo-crops

 

The United States population represents 5% of the world’s population and yet Americans consume 50 to 60% of all the world’s manufactured drugs.  Out of 37 industrialized nations monitored by the World Health Organization, the United States is 37th.  We have more medical resources, trained physicians, nurses and other professionals, more technology and more hospitals, so why are we such a sick country suffering from many degenerative diseases?  I believe it’s the diet that we’ve adopted over the last 60 to 70 years.  The American diet has changed drastically since World War II.  We have become a fat and lazy country.  Food is only consumed if it’s convenient, priced right and tastes good.  There is no consideration for what the food provides in the way of nutrients for a healthy body.  Our diet has changed more in the last 100 years than it has done in the previous three million years.  In the early 1900s there was no heart disease and cancer occurred in 1 of 30 people.  Today, heart disease is the number one killer of American citizens and cancer is 1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 2 men.  If we don’t change our diets to the diet of our ancestors, experts believe that we will all die of cancer in the next 40 to 50 years. – Terry Lemerond

 

In conclusion let me say that most of what you have read here I have quoted directly from several articles. I have tried to site the resources within the text to the best of my ability and I believe them to be reputable reliable resources… my opinion. I encourage you all to do your own research and decide for yourself if choosing organic and non-gmo seems like the right choice for you. This is my thinking… I believe that food when it comes from a source that is as close to the natural whole food that it was originally intended to be is the best food you can eat. When it is exposed to chemicals and radiated and injected with antibiotics and hormones we are going to have problems from that.

 

I have read the research that supports the argument that organic is not better and that pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics are not harmful in the amounts contained in non-organic foods and I am not buying it. I cannot have peace with the idea that ingesting these things is ok. I am not without fault in my efforts but I try to purchase and consume the healthiest foods I can find, still I am not always successful… I still eat a regular ole cookie every now and again and I eat at restaurants from time to time. But 90% of the time I eat the healthiest foods I can find by my definition.  I have not achieved perfection by any stretch of the imagination but I try to do as well as I can in as many areas as I can. This is a personal choice and you will have to decide for yourself what you believe and what you want to eat. As many of you know I don’t consume red meat that also is a personal choice. There will always be arguments to support any view… there will always be people doing research to support their view no matter what it is and many of them will be from sources you will consider reliable and reputable… but it’s a double edged sword. It is up to you to use good sense and rational thinking when making decisions. Educate yourself and decide what feels the most authentic for you.

 

I hope you found this helpful!

Blessings… Chyrl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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