100 Ways Organic & Natural Leads to a Healthier YouPosted April 11th, 2008 by Site Administrator in Environment, Nutrition, Organic Health (3 Comments »)
When did it become possible to purchase food at a gas station or at a clothing store? Many U.S. citizens are at an age where fast food seems a way of life. But, fast food and industrial farming have gravely injured human health, animal welfare, and the environment. Fortunately, choices are available, and the ability to choose “slow food” as opposed to fast food now is becoming more widely available and affordable.
The following list details some of the issues that individuals face when making organic choices. Are organic foods really more nutritious? Can they lead to better health? Are they safer for the environment, and can they lead to a more ethical environment for the animals that America consumes? Some answers remain debatable, but – on the whole – an apple grown organically and locally seems a better choice in the long run than an apple grown with pesticides and shipped from a foreign country.
The list below is in no particular order. While the sites are numbered, the numbering does not indicate that we favor one site over another or that they are listed in order of value.
Definitions for the term, “organic,” have been modified over the past decade by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), and they often seem confusing for consumers. Supposedly, organic food is produced by using sustainable agricultural production practices. Not permitted are most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients, or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. But, there are various grades to the term, “organic,” and the following definitions closely define the terms listed below:
- 100% Organic: This means that all ingredients, not counting water and salt, are organic rather than synthetic or man-made. Products with this rating can use the green and white USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) seal, which was put into official use on 21 October 2002.
- Certified Organic: In the U.S., “certified organic” means that an independent organization accredited by the USDA has verified that a manufacturer’s products meet strictly defined organic standards as specified by the NOP (National Organic Program). Such programs may be state run, such as the Pennsylvania Certified Program (PCO). Organic products are certified based on farming, handling, manufacturing, distribution and labeling practices. A government inspector must certify the farm after visiting it; farmers must keep detailed records on crops.
- Organic: Means the food item is made of at least 95% organic ingredients with the remaining 5% heavily restricted and with no genetically modified organisms. These products also may carry the USDA seal.
- Made With Organic: At least 70% of the content is made with organic ingredients with the remaining 30% heavily restricted and no genetically modified organisms. The front product panel of the product may display the phrase “Made with Organic” followed by up to three specific ingredients. These products are not allowed to wear the USDA seal.
- Certified Naturally Grown: Farmers who gross less than $5000 from organic products and sell direct to consumers or retailers are exempt from the 100% and the Certified Organic certification requirement. Those farmers may call their products organic, but they cannot use the USDA seal. Some critics of the USDA certification program see this exclusion as a slight against small farmers. CNG procedure requires significantly less paperwork, yet arguably results in more transparency and fostering of better farming practices.
- Learn about nonconformists: Even farms that earn more than $5000 from organic crops may shy away from using the USDA organic seal. Eden Foods represents one example, as ” this seal does not approach Eden’s high standards for organic, in practice or in spirit.”
- Greenwashing: No, this doesn’t mean you can wash your food until it’s organic. But, corporations try to do just that by mislabeling products. Learn more about the corporations that practice this pseudo-ecology.
- Organic Matters: It does make a difference if that organic tomato came from Chile rather than from the farm in the next town. This article explains the organic paradox succinctly.
- Stay informed: If you plan to “go organic,” you might want to stay informed about changes in USDA regulations. Many critics of the USDA organic certification program find that the USDA is lax about certification controls.
- Get involved: When you learn that corporate greed has skewed the organic definitions or when the government plans to use untested pesticides (such as the spray planned for San Francisco beginning summer 2008), learn as much as possible about the plans and take action to either support or debate the government’s decisions.
Is organic food better for you nutritionally? Many proponents say so, and others debate those opinions. The newest report, released in March 2008, shows that organic foods are, indeed, more nutritious (see #8 below):
- Organic Foods: Are They Safer? More Nutritious? Learn the difference between organic foods and their traditionally grown counterparts. Decide which is best for you, considering nutrition, quality, taste, cost and other factors.
- Are organic foods really better for you? Read more to find out…
- Brocolli needs fewer pesticides: As do onions, sweet peas, and pineapple among other foods. Learn about which foods contain the most pesticides as well from Healthy Child Healthy World. Learn even more about the “dirty dozen” from the Environmental Working Group. Here’s a hint: conventionally-grown peaches contain the most pesticides, and you can’t wash them off.
- Protect future generations: The average child receives four times more exposure than an adult to at least eight widely used cancer-causing pesticides in food. Therefore, children’s enzymatic, metabolic, and immune systems are at greater risk to develop problems from exposure to chemicals and to foods that contain chemicals.
- Consume more vitamin C: Organic food tends to contain higher levels of vitamin C, cancer-fighting antioxidants, and essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and chromium. This is especially true for oranges, according to the linked report.
- What about genetic foods?: The jury remains out on genetically altered foods and how they affect nutrition. Read some of the debates here.
- Yes, organic food contains calories: Overweight vegans are living proof that food contains calories. Learn more about the nutritional value of what you put into your mouth here.
- Organic food contains more micronutrients: Read this new report that shows how organic food trumps conventional food in micronutrients, the nutrients that really do matter.
- Learn about micronutrients: These substances are the “magic wands” that enable the body to produce enzymes, hormones and other substances essential for proper growth and development. Deficiencies can produce iodine deficiency disorders, vitamin A deficiency, and iron deficiency anemia.
- Conventional food does contain more vitamin A: But, the process to get there includes depleting vitamin C.
- The truth about yellow food coloring: Tartrazine (the yellow food coloring E102) and other additives have been linked to allergic reactions, headaches, asthma, growth retardation and hyperactivity in children. If that’s what a simple food coloring can do, then what about other additives?
Good nutrition usually means good health. However, there are some specifics problems contained in conventional foods, and most of those problems are caused by additives such as pesticides:
- Organic feed leads to a more alert immune system: Even chickens benefit from organic food – so should humans. This report is from the International Research Association for Organic Food Quality and Health (FQH), an organization that aims to establish a network of research institutions that specialize in the background of organic food and its effects on human health.
- Organic foods reduce toxic accumulations: Learn key facts about how organic foods reduce the amount of ingested toxins from a summary of an article published in “Coronary and Diabetic Care in the UK 2004” by the Association of Primary Care Groups and Trusts (UK). It was written by James Cleeton, Policy Projects Coordinator at the Soil Association. See more about detoxification at the end of this article.
- Avoid some cancers: The Environmental Protection Agency approved many pesticides before extensive research that linked those pesticides to cancer and other diseases was established. Now, the EPA estimates that 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides and 30 percent of all insecticides are carcinogenic.
- Again, avoid more cancer: Although conventional farming methods may not be the cause of some cancers, an overall healthy lifestyle may help to reduce cancer risk in the developed world by up to 60 percent.
- Avoid birth defects: [PDF]: Pesticide use in industrial and in home farming have shown to elevate risks for birth defects (in California) by 1.5%. Another study shows that herbicides used on wheat may be causing birth defects.
- Prevent nerve damage: Accidental exposure or overexposure to pesticides can have serious implications. The Poison Center in Omaha, Nebraska reports that agricultural pesticides are responsible for 4.6 percent of all accidental exposures reported in that state alone. Even home use of pesticides can be extremely dangerous. And you want to eat this stuff?
- Reduce breast cancer: Women with breast cancer are five to nine times more likely to have pesticide residues in their blood than those who do not.
- Learn about irradiation: Is it safe? Or can it prove dangerous to human health? You decide…Currently, organic foods do not allow this process, but that may change in the future.
- Save the farmer: One simple fact: farmers exposed to herbicides had a cancer risk six times greater than non-farmers. By choosing organic, you’re choosing to help the farmer who chooses to grow organic produce for his health and for the health of his family.
- No nasty additives. Organic food doesn’t contain food additives that can cause health problems such as heart disease, osteoporosis, migraines and hyperactivity.
- Prewashed doesn’t mean “clean’: The public has seen an increase in diseases caused by leafy greens (organic and conventional) over the past thirty years. Although the cause is uncertain, you can be certain that “prewashed” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wash food before eating it, even if it is organic.
- Avoid imported foods: The government only inspects 1.3 percent of imported fish, vegetables, fruit and other foods. Those inspections that are conducted reveal food unfit for human consumption. See more about imported foods below.
Is organic farming better for the economy? The jury might be out on this issue as well, but it appears that – in certain areas – the economics of organic foods saves on health and other hidden costs. Read more…
- Save the local farmer, save the world: Although more large-scale farms are converting to organic practices, most organic farms are small, independently owned and operated family farms of less than 100 acres. Buying locally helps those farmers succeed.
- Buy family farm produce: It’s been estimated that the U.S. lost more than 650,000 family farms just within the past decade and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (DOA) has predicted that half this country’s farm production will come only from one percent of farms nationwide. Learn why supporting family farms is so important, and do your part at your local farmer’s market or coop.
- Watch imported foods [PDF]: There are clear, and in some cases, dramatic upward spikes in human pesticide residue levels and risks during the winter months when imports account for a large share of perishable fresh fruits and vegetables in the market place. Transportation costs are added to imported foods, making them more expensive.
- Domestic transport costs: Then again, you might be surprised to learn that domestic transport may cost more than importation. Read about the study done in the UK.
- Save money: The rising cost of fuels may ultimately make conventional foods more expensive than locally grown foods.
- Support FarmAid: Although small farmers don’t receive large government subsidies, they do receive help through outlets such as FarmAid. If you can’t buy locally, then support some local farmer in the U.S. through this organization.
- Supply and demand: The more people who demand healthier food choices, the more that demand must be met. Be aware that high demand for organic foods may mean higher demand for imported items that don’t meet U.S. standards.
- Learn the economics: Although organic foods might seem more expensive than conventional foods, the latter choice doesn’t reflect the hidden costs born by taxpayers. By 2001, total direct payments to farmers soared to more than $20 billion per year since 1998, rising about $74 billion above a 10-year baseline agriculture spending projection. The major recipients to this money (almost a whopping 90 percent) included wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton farmers.
- Learn about other hidden costs: Even vets are concerned about the hidden costs behind reduced animal welfare, the inflated risk of anti-microbial resistance, and the current pandemic of human obesity.
- More hidden costs: Other hidden costs include pesticide regulation and testing, hazardous waste disposal and clean-up, and environmental damage.
- Cost of health: Eating healthier may be more expensive than eating chemically treated foods, but the price is mitigated down the road if those conventional foods create health problems.
- Learn which companies push the drugs: Monsanto is receiving a hit from large-scale retailers as Wal-Mart, Kroger, and Sam’s Club are introducing labels on milk that state “no artificial growth hormone rBST.” Monsanto produces rBST (see more about rBGH in Animal Protection listed below).
Groundwater is available in limited quantities. Since groundwater is an important resource for so many people, it is important to protect it.
- Learn about groundwater: Groundwater is used for drinking water by more than 50 percent of the people in the United States, including almost everyone who lives in rural areas. But, the largest use for groundwater is to irrigate crops. But, it also supplies 51% of the drinking water for the entire U.S. population.
- Learn about your drinking water: This is the advice from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) as they warn about congestion of heart, lungs and kidneys; low blood pressure; muscle spasms; weight loss; damage to adrenal glands caused by an herbicide used in 1987 and still found in drinking water today. Its most extensive use was for corn and soybeans in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin.
- Drugs in your drinking water?: If the Associated Press can find pharmaceutical drugs in drinking water, why can’t our government find them? Just how safe is our water from human waste, let alone chemical waste?
- Save groundwater: Heavy use of pesticides on industrial farms contaminates groundwater, and remedies are illusive. Organic farmers preserve groundwater since they don’t use pesticides.
- Adopt your watershed: Water quality varies from region to region and from residence to residence. More than 140 contaminants with no enforceable safety limits found in the nation’s drinking water (including prescription drug residue!). Learn more about your local watershed and what you can do to preserve it.
- Protect others from your water usage [PDF]: Be aware that what you do affects others around you. If you live in a residence where you can plant flowers, foods or herbs, be aware that your use of water, mulches, and other products can affect your local watershed.
- Don’t eat contaminated fish: Eating fish contaminated with chemicals will not affect you immediately. But, if you keep eating them, you can develop cancer, liver disease and developmental effects, as well as effects on the immune and endocrine systems. Pregnant women can pass DDTs and PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyl, a persistent and pervasive environmental contaminant) on to their infants.
- Where did that fresh fish come from?: If you love to eat fish, you might want to learn where that fish came from. If it’s fresh caught in the U.S., you might want to check out this map and study conducted by the EPA between 2000-2003. In all 486 instances across the country, fish were found to contain both mercury and PCBs (Monsanto, by the way, is the only company ever to manufacture PCBs). There were 378 instances of DDT found in the fish (out of 486 instances), a pesticide that was banned from U.S. usage in December 1972. Persistent, no?
- Farm-raised fish included: When you think about contaminated groundwater, think about fish farms. If the freshwater fish contained contaminants, it may not surprise you that farm-raised fish may contain them as well.
When and if you do choose to eat animal products, you can make a significant difference toward animal welfare if you choose to go organic. Here’s why:
- Repress drug use: Organic meats are free from antibiotics, added hormones such as the bovine human growth hormone (rbGH), GMO (Genetically Modified) feed and other artificial drugs.
- rbGH injures cattle: If cattle experience 50 percent increase in the risk of lameness (leg and hoof problems), over a 25 percent increase in the frequency of udder infections (mastitis), and serious animal reproductive problems, i.e., infertility, cystic ovaries, fetal loss and birth defects, then what does it do to humans who consume dairy products and beef?
- Promote organic food growth: Organic animals are not allowed to be fed genetically modified foods. They eat organic feed and are offered a wider range of nutrients than animals raised in factory farms.
- Reduce Mad Cow disease: Organic animals aren’t forced to be cannibals, a practice that appears to cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a disease that destroys the central nervous system and brain. This disease can be passed on to humans who eat beef. The disease in humans has a long latency period and is called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
- Promotes ethical treatment: Animals that are raised organically are allowed to roam in larger enclosures or to roam free rather than be cooped up in tightly confined pens offered by factory farms.
- Reduces manure waste: Industrial farms tend to produce so much contaminated manure that it becomes a animal and human health risk through E. coli and other pathogens. Sustainable farms, on the other hand, produce organic manure (from organic feed). Both types of manure are used to fertilize crops. Which one would you prefer?
- Reduce chemical usage: Organic farms do not use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers on the land or in the food. This practice reduces such persistent chemicals as DDT, PCBs, dioxin, and other chemicals found in factory farm animal fat.
- Keep animals healthy: When less chemicals are used, the animals stay healthy. The reduction of chemicals safeguards groundwater, topsoil, habitats, and entire neighborhoods.
- Protect wild animals: In one study, organic farms were found to contain 85% more plant species, 33% more bats, 17% more spiders and 5% more birds than conventional farms.
- Learn about ethical standards: The ethical and behavioral bases for farm animal welfare legislation is an interesting paper that shows how divided society can be about ethical treatment for animals.
- Become an advocate: If you’re so inclined, you can help to protect and save some animals from factory farms through efforts such as Farm Sanctuary.
How does your organic food purchase help the environment? Here are a few answers…
- Reduce pesticides: Pesticides accumulate in the soil, in the water, and in our bodies. By choosing organic rather than conventional foods, you can help to eliminate a small portion of pesticide use.
- Use natural pesticides: Remember to eliminate the use of pesticides in your yard as well, as those chemicals can leach into local groundwater. Try some of these natural pesticide ideas.
- Promote organic farming: When you purchase organic wheat, corn, grains, dairy products and beef, you promote organic farming. When you support organizations such as the Organic Farming Research Foundation, you do your part as well.
- Reduce antibiotic use: When you purchase organic milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and meat, then you’re promoting the reduction of antibiotic usage in farm animals. But, be aware of mislabeled content as you shop.
- Protect water resources: The elimination of polluting chemicals and nitrogen leaching, done in combination with soil building on organic farms, protects and conserves water resources.
- Preserve diversity: Organic farmers and gardeners have been collecting and preserving seeds to help maintain biodiversity rather than conform to genetic standards.
- Encourage innovation: Organic farmers have led the way, largely at their own expense, with innovative on-farm research aimed at reducing pesticide use and minimizing agriculture’s impact on the environment.
- Conserve forests: When you choose to eat less meat, you help to conserve the world’s forests. Plus, when you support organic farms, you help them to help others with organic practices.
- Eat fewer animals: Your choice to eat fewer animals will help the environment as well, as animal agriculture produces an alarming amount of air and water pollutions and is the cause of 80 percent of the world’s annual deforestation. Additionally, animal agriculture requires significant amounts of water. Worldwide, livestock consumes half the world’s total grain harvest.
- Stop erosion: The soil conservation service estimates that more than three billion tons of topsoil are eroded from U.S. croplands each year. Conventional farming uses soil more as a medium for holding plants in a vertical position so they can be chemically fertilized. The farming techniques of organic farms builds topsoil and doesn’t contribute to its erosion. In fact, organic farming requires careful landscaping and attention to surrounding land masses.
- Promote biodiversity: Mono-cropping is the practice of planting large plots of land with the same crop year after year. This type of farming reduces natural soil nutrients, which are then replaced with chemical fertilizers in ever increasing amounts. As a group, organic growers have a wealth of experience regarding crop rotations, cover crops, soil health, and disease control. Many organic practices enhance resource conservation. Organic growers can help promote conservation practices and pollution prevention by participating in field days and other activities.
- Avoid sludge: Organic standards prohibit the use of sewage sludge as a fertilizer, instead relying on use of composted manure, crop residues, green manures, cover crops, and rock powders to provide needed nutrients to plants. U.S. government regulations permit sludge to be used on conventional farms despite concerns about contamination by high levels of heavy minerals, dioxins and other chemicals from industrial and commercial. Learn more from this link about sludge issues nationwide..
- Promote open space: Organic standards prohibit confinement or feedlot style livestock operations, as organically-raised animals generally must be allowed access to range or pasture. This promotes animal health and contributes as well to maintaining large areas of open land in otherwise developing communities. Additionally, as you’ll learn from this link, many organic farmers are seeking to preserve space for organic farming.
- Oppose new feedlots: On most factory farms, animals are crowded into relatively small areas; their manure and urine are funneled into massive waste lagoons. These cesspools often break, leak or overflow, sending dangerous microbes, nitrate pollution and drug-resistant bacteria into water supplies.
- Beware of arsenic in home-grown foods: In Australia, they learned to test their soils before growing veggies at home. Toxic wastes from previous land use may remain in local soils. Before you buy local, find out more about the local food source origin and its reputation.
No matter if the farm is conventional or organic, raising food takes a tremendous amount of energy. In some ways, it has been proven that organic farming saves energy, but the farmers must remain diligent with their practices…
- Save Energy: When you buy local produce as much as possible, you help to reduce conventional and organic production, transportation, processing and marketing saps on the nation’s energy.
- Reduce fossil fuel use: Conventional farms rely heavily upon nonrenewable fossil fuels. In the study linked here, it was found that organic farms use up to 30 percent less fossil fuels in raising soybeans and corn over 22 years.
- Support local: Buying products from local farmers reduces energy by reducing the amount of miles the food travels to your table.
- Break the natural gas habit: Crop growers depend upon synthetic and natural nitrogen to replenish soil, but it takes about 33,000 cubic feet of natural gas to produce 1 ton of nitrogen fertilizer. As the price of gas goes up, so does nitrogen. Instead, some organic farmers suggest using legumes as a rotational cover crop to reduce that dependency on natural gas and to produce needed nitrogen. All methods, by the way, produce nitrogen leaching (even legumes if they’re plowed down at the wrong time).
- Fewer greenhouse gases: When you eat lower on the food chain, you help to reduce the demand for animals that produce methane. Choosing to eat more vegetables and fruits is the answer, and it’s also healthier for anyone.
- Create a compost: If you live in an area where you or a neighborhood group can create a compost heap, then go for it. New studies reveal that organic compost may mitigate greenhouse gases through adding organic matter back into the soils.
If you feel that you need a major cleaning inside and out from all the toxins you’ve ingested over the years, a detoxification might be the route. The following list various methods, which may or may not work for you. Sometimes the best way to detox is to change eating habits for the better and continue on this path!
- Learn about toxins: First, learn more from Michael Lam, MD, about different toxins that can harm the body, as each problem deserves a specific detox method.
- Learn about toxic accumulation: What happens when the body accumulates toxins? Read more from naturopathic cardiologist, Dr. Decker Weiss, about problems that can occur.
- Learn when and how to detoxify: Timing and methods may mean everything when it comes to better health. This lengthy article by Elson M. Haas M.D. provides details on all phases of detoxification.
- Learn to avoid quackery: Learn more about detoxification to avoid expensive solutions that don’t work. At the time this was written (1997), author Frances Berg edited the Healthy Weight Journal.
- Try acupuncture: The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) is a nonprofit association resource for detoxification and provides solutions for the results of addictions and more.
- Exercise: This is the easiest and most important way to detoxify your body. Three naturopathic physicians share insight on why and when to detox, what type of detox program is right for you, and ten ways to start.
- Learn about herbal cleansing: This is one of many choices individuals can make to detoxify the body. Dr. Ted Spence clarifies different herbal detoxification methods.
- Learn about juice fasting: This is one way to speed up the detoxification process. This entire site is devoted solely to juice fasts.
- Learn from professionals: The New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project supports L. Ron Hubbard’s precise regimen that includes exercise, sauna bathing, and vitamin, mineral and oil supplements which were applied to New York rescue workers involved in the 9/11 mission.
- Learn from others: The Internet provides means to learn from ordinary people about their experiences. This writer details his detox efforts in detail.
Granted, you may still want your coffee, tea, and other products that cannot or are not produced in North America. In this case, we suggest that you try Fair Trade products to help support conservation and fair labor practices:
- Coffee and Conservation: The huge worldwide surge in demand for coffee has resulted in a shift from traditional, sustainable coffee growing methods (with coffee plants grown in the shade of a diverse understory) to intense monocultures that require large inputs of fertilizer and pesticides which bring about a loss in biodiversity and quickly deplete the land. This site’s goal is to provide information about the connection between coffee and the environment — especially bird habitat.
- Fair Trade Coffee:The United States consumes one-fifth of all the world’s coffee, making it the largest consumer in the world. But few Americans realize that agriculture workers in the coffee industry often toil in what can be described as “sweatshops in the fields.” Fair Trade is a viable solution to this crisis, assuring consumers that the coffee we drink was purchased under fair conditions.
- Fair Trade Certified: Fair Trade Certification empowers farmers and farm workers to lift themselves out of poverty by investing in their farms and communities, protecting the environment, and developing the business skills necessary to compete in the global marketplace. This link also will show you where to buy Fair Trade goods.
- Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International: This non-profit, multi-stakeholder association involves 23 member organizations, traders, and external experts who develop and review Fairtrade Standards and provide support to Fairtrade Certified Producers. Their support arrives in the ability to assist, gain, and maintain Fairtrade Certification and by capitalizing on market opportunities.
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