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We are what we eat but how many of us actually know what we are really eating? We often think that the food which we eat is safe, however this is hardly the case. Food is really only as safe as it is grown and manufactured, and the safest food to eat is organic food.
What is Organic?
Organic farmers and food producers grow and produce food without using synthetic chemicals such as pesticides and artificial fertilisers. They do not use genetically modified (GM) components or expose food to irradiation. Organic foods are foods in their most natural state, just as nature has provided. Some examples of organic produce include fruit and vegetables, dried legumes, grains, meat and meat products, dairy foods, eggs, honey and some processed foods. Any food can be organic or non-organic depending upon the processes it has been through.
Why is it important to eat organic?
It is important to eat organic because due to many of the processes which non-organic foods go through, they can be unsafe. Some of the dangers of non-organic foods include:
Genetically modified (GM): GM are foods that have been genetically modified/altered from its naturally occurring state. Genes from other sources have been introduced into these foods in order to ward off pests/disease and increase yield/profitability. For example, it is common practice for glyphosate (which is the active ingredient in Roundup) to be added to the genetic structure of plants. Currently, GM foods comprise about 55%-70% of the processed foods in the supermarkets, mostly in the way of GM corn and soy bean products. No long term studies have yet been done on the effects of GM on humans, however many have been done on animals which indicate infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, problematic insulin regulation, stomach problems, reduction in digestive enzymes, liver toxicity, allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance, cancer and more.
Manure & Fertilizers: Manure such as animal poo or blood and bone contain anything which the animal was exposed to in its life, including hormones and antibiotics. These are then absorbed by the plant and into our own body when we eat it ourselves. If you’re vegan then you need to eat 100% organic to avoid eating animal products. Natural Fertilizers like peat moss and potash are fine, but chemical fertilizers can also be dangerous to your health in many ways.
Pesticides/Insecticides: Are applied directly to the unwanted pests of plants and can be either non-systemic or systemic. Non–systemic pesticides are topical and can be mostly washed off of a plant before consumption. Systemic pesticides are chemicals that are actually absorbed by a plant when applied to seeds, soil, or leaves. The chemicals then circulate through the plant’s tissues, killing the insects that feed on them. … Unlike with traditional insecticides, you can’t wash or peel off systemic pesticide residues. Pesticides are often sprayed generally more on summer than winter crops due to increased pests. They are also excessively sprayed on out of season crops – which is a real worry when you consider that nearly all fruit and vegetables are available in our supermarkets all year around. And also because 90% of us don’t even know what season most fruit and veggies are naturally grown in. So next time you want to buy tomatoes in the winter or broccoli in summer, take into consideration the impact these excessive additional pesticides may be having on your health.
Fungicides: Are chemicals used to cure diseases in crops and to protect seeds during shipment and storage. Many of the chemicals have adverse effects that harm the skin, lungs (like asthma) and eyes. Fungicide chemicals are known to cause contact dermatitis, chronic skin disease, visual disturbances, pulmonary edema and other effects. Most fungicides are poisonous when ingested and some can be fatal.
Herbicides: Are chemical substances used to control or manipulate all or selected undesirable vegetation, especially weeds. Some herbicides have been labelled endocrine disruptors and have been linked to cancer, miscarriages and more. The more herbicides are used, the more resistant weeds and pests become.
Irradiation: Where food is treated with ionizing radiation to kill bacteria and parasites that would otherwise cause foodborne disease. Similar technology is used to sterilize medical devices so they can be used in surgery. At high doses, food is essentially sterilized, just as what occurs in canning. Products treated with irradiation can be stored at room temperature almost indefinitely – which is great for supermarket chains who don’t have to worry about fresh produce going rotten on their shelves. Research indicates that irradiation also can destroy vitamins (like Vitamin B) and nutrients, disrupt proteins and essential fatty acids, and corrupt flavour, texture and odour.
Growth hormones: Artificial/synthetic growth hormones are injected directly into animals or added to their feed to enhance their growth rate, and the amount of eggs, dairy (including milk), fish and meat they produced. Research indicates that growth hormones in food can lead to cancer and diabetes.
Antibiotics: In order to increase profits many companies no longer allow animals to freely roam the land but instead confine them to small, heavily crowded and often unsanitary places. In order to make sure these animals don’t get disease from such conditions, they routinely feed them large amounts of antibiotics. Also, the feed (such as corn mash) which these animals are given also contain even larger (and unregulated) amounts of antibiotics meaning we are really getting a double dose. This is leading to a new generation of drug resistant super-bugs. In-fact, even viral infections like the common cold and flu are increasingly becoming untreatable with antibiotics.
Aesthetically enhanced: In order to sell more/increase profits, food manufactures often make food more attractive. For example, in the wild, salmon get their beautiful colour by eating krill and shrimp, which contain a reddish-orange compound called astaxanthin. However farmed salmon which live in a pen, are fed kibble made from fish waste, corn gluten, ground-up feathers, soybeans, chicken fat and genetically engineered yeast. This gives them a dull grey flesh which is not very attractive. So in order to get the perfect colour, astaxanthin is synthesized in a lab, using petrochemicals and given to the farmed fish. Another example would be the beautiful looking shiny apples that you buy which are full of wax – Just pour some boiling water over one and see how much wax comes off. Virtually all processed foods contains a various array of chemicals to increase the appearance.
Ripening agents: Natural ripening is a physiological process which makes the fruit edible, palatable and nutritious. During ripening fruits soften, changes colour, and characteristic aroma and flavours develop. However today, so much of the fruit we eat is actually artificially ripened. This is done to achieve faster and more uniform ripening characteristics. It allows many fruits to be picked prior to full ripening, which is useful, since ripened fruits do not ship well. For example, bananas are picked when green and artificially ripened after shipment by being gassed with ethylene. Artificially ripened fruit produce less nutrients and are less tasteful. The substances used are often toxic. For example, Calcium carbide contains traces of arsenic and phosphorus, and is linked to cancer and a host of other health problems.
Long Storage Time: We all know that fresh is best, however not everything we eat is fresh. Much of it is stored in cold storage for long periods (and even gassed with chemical SmartFresh to stop the ripening process) before we actually buy it. For example, tomatoes are stored up to about 2 months, carrots 9 months, potatoes up to 12 months and apples up to 24 months. The result is less taste and less nutritional properties. Think about it, when was the last time you bought fresh produce from the supermarket which was bursting with flavour and tasted amazing? One which tasted just like it was home grown? It’s little wonder why a home grown apple, tomato or anything else often tastes so much better than a shop bought one! Obviously if you are not used to organic eating then you don’t really know what you’re missing.
You have a choice:
As you can see, there are many dangers associated with eating non-organic foods, and these are just some of them. With that said, most of the time the benefits of non-organic fresh produce outweighs any risks, so please don’t let this be a barrier to eating them. At the end of the day, food is a very personal thing, and it’s up to you what you eat. The purpose of this post is simply to ensure that you are aware of what happens to our food from paddock to plate, and now it’s up to you to choose to eat organic or not.
For me, the choice is a simple one – to eat certified organic produce/products whenever possible. I do this because it’s the only real way to ensure that what you are eating is safe. Sure it’s more expensive, but what price can you put on your health? You can however significantly minimize the cost of eating organic by also growing your own – it’s easy once you know how. Even if you grow just some things.
So next time you go to a grocery store and every time you put something in your mouth, ask yourself – where is this food from, what has it been through and is it really good for me? Food is an intrinsic part of who we are as human beings and if we don’t take care of our bodies by being mindful of what we are putting into them we will continue to damage them. Remember, natural food is our medicine, so choose local, choose fresh, choose seasonal and choose to eat organic whenever possible.
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