The title to this blog represents a debate that has raged for quite some time now. People understand that organic farming is more expensive because the process requires more manual labor and prohibits the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, GMOs, etc. In conventional farming the soil has become simply a “placeholder” for the plants and has no nutritive value due to the fact that all minerals, nutrients and microbiology have been killed by the pesticides and herbicides sprayed on the fields. So how does a conventional farm grow crops in dead soil? Simply by bombing the soil with synthetic fertilizers. The plants absorb these chemicals and grow. They get no nutritive value from the minerals and microbiological organisms that used to be in the now-depleted soil before they were bombed out with pesticides and herbicides.
On an organic farm, the soil is the nutrient base for the food that is grown. It is enhanced with organic amendments like compost, minerals, eggshells, mushrooms, etc. These soil amendments add to the microbiological diversity of the soil and maintain a high nutrient dense composition. When seeds are planted in this kind of soil the roots absorb the nutrients and incorporate them into the plant itself. By eating these plants, you are absorbing the nutrient dense fertility of Mother Earth the way it used to be and is still supposed to be.
This is a much more expensive process and more labor intensive. The crop yield from a conventional farm that has been “hyped” with synthetic chemical fertilizers is significantly greater than the yield from an organic farm that is generating strictly organically raised vegetables. That is one of the main reasons for the differential in price.
In addition, organic farmers are prohibited from using synthetic pesticides or sprays if there is any infestation of insects. For example, if there is an invasion of Japanese Beetles, an organic farmer has to hire labor to go out and pluck the Japanese Beetles off the plants by hand one by one. This is labor intensive, time consuming and expensive. But you are not getting any pesticide residue in your food! The conventional farmer just sprays the crops with chemical insecticides that end up in your food.
Here is why organic food is worth the difference in cost. There are very few studies that have been done and there is a good reason why. Studies require lots of participants (thousands of people to be statistically projectable) and are extremely expensive. Studies are funded by the major chemical and drug companies that have billion-dollar products they are trying to sell. There is no organic farm that can begin to fund a major national study. For that reason, you see very few of them. However, the Cleveland Clinic recently published an article entitled “A Diet of Highly Processed Junk Foods Could Kill You.” THAT IS A PRETTY BLUNT TITLE. They found that “junk food and convenience foods may simplify your life, but they can also endanger it. They found that “people who regularly consume a significant quantity of foods the researchers termed “ultraprocessed” are at an INCREASED RISK OF DEATH. These foods include packaged snacks, soft drinks, breads, candies, processed meats and frozen meals. Over 44,000 adults participated. On average more than 29% of their total calories came from ultraprocessed foods. The study took 7 years. The researchers concluded that every 10% increase in the amount of ultraprocessed foods consumed increased the risk of death by 14%. Ultraprocessed foods tend to be high in calories, carbohydrates, salt and fat and low in fiber and vitamins. In addition, they may contain harmful food additives and contaminants.” That is pretty blunt talk from one of the most respected medical institutions in the country.
The New York times cited a study that was led by the Center of Research in Epidemiology and Statistics Shoban Pare Cite of the French National Institute of Health and Medicine Research. This French study followed 70,000 adults and found that FREQUENT CONSUMERS OF ORGANIC FOOD HAD 25% FEWER CANCERS OVERALL THAN ADULTS THAT DID NOT EAT ORGANIC FOOD. “Frequent consumers of organic foods had 76% fewer lymphomas, 86% fewer non-Hodgkin’s Lymphomas, and a 34% reduction in breast cancer.”
The Wall Street Journal published an article citing a study by Alex Lu, an Associate Professor of Environmental Exposure Biology at Harvard School of Public Health. Lu concluded that organic food is healthier than conventional food. He states that: “It only makes sense that food free of pesticides and chemicals is safer and better for us than food containing those substances, even at trace levels.” One fascinating thing he discovered was that within five days of substituting organic produce for conventional produce, pesticides disappeared from the urine of the children he was testing. In other words, the benefits are practically immediate.
And finally, the Associated Press just came out with an article entitled “FDA: Toxic Compounds Found in Our Food.” This article states: “The Food and Drug Administration found substantial levels of a worrisome class of non-stick, stain resistant industrial compounds in some grocery store meats, seafood and in off the shelf chocolate cake according to FDA researchers. Last year’s federal toxicology review concluded that the compounds are more dangerous than previously thought, saying consistent studies of exposed people ’suggest associations’ with some kinds of cancers, liver problems, low birth weight and other issues. These compounds are called PFAS or per-and polyfluoroalykyl substances. The compounds have been dubbed ’forever chemicals’ because they take thousands of years to degrade and because some accumulate in people’s bodies.”
It is tragic that most people in our country do not want to focus on our food supply and the damage caused by consuming ultraprocessed foods. Think about it. The most popular restaurant in the country is McDonald’s. Most people are more concerned with convenience, price, and taste/texture than nutritional benefits. The connection between food and health just does not seem to be on most people’s radar screen.
Is there any wonder that two thirds of us are overweight, about a third of us are morbidly obese and that dialysis is the fastest growing medical procedure in the country? We have a crisis in this country which is simply not addressed by any of our leaders. We are eating ourselves to death. Not only are the amounts inordinately large but the ingredients are unhealthy.
The research cited here shows convincingly that ultraprocessed foods can lead to significant health issues, and that the chemicals used to grow foods conventionally wind up in our bodies. People who choose to ignore the benefits of organic foods can eat at their own risk.