We just wrapped up an interview in North Scottsdale, Arizona on “The Truth about Organic Foods” and thought we’d share a sneak peek of information we covered.
Q: What is the definition of “organic”?
The dictionary definition means: “relating to, or derived from living matter.” This could apply to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as well as non-GMO foods…and the nebulousness of the nuance is what confuses consumers. It’s important to discuss the semantics involved with words such as ‘conventional’, ‘natural’, and ‘organic’…none of which contain their commonsense meanings.
Conventional should mean traditional, it doesn’t. Organic should refer to a branch of chemistry. it doesn’t. Natural should mean something like “untouched” or pure. It really doesn’t.
Which word is “best?” Organic, surely. But chemically, this word encompasses everything from poison to cure. [Dog poop is organic matter but we don’t want to eat that! ] If only we could trust the word “natural.”
It comes as no surprise in this linguistic crisis that we equate transgenic biological manipulation to selective breeding, but this is obviously a false equivalence.
We ought to be able to call food “food”, but the very terminology has been warped beyond recognition.
The USDA regulates organic certifications and requires that a product be grown and processed using farming methods that keep biodiversity and foster sustainability in terms of soil, resources, and ecological balance. Synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers are prohibited, although certain approved pesticides may be used. Generally, organic foods do not contain bio-engineered genes, are not irradiated, and do not include industrial solvents or synthetic food additives.
Q: We commonly see the term “natural” on food labels. How does this differ from organic foods?
The word “natural” connotes something healthy and non-toxic but is very overused in marketing and not well-regulated. Petroleum is “natural” but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Also, the words “natural” and “organic” are not interchangeable terms. You might see “natural” and other such claims as “all natural,” “free-range,” “no antibiotics added” or “hormone-free” on food labels. These terms are not regulated and may or may not be truthful. Only foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labeled as organic.
Q: Is it true that genetically modified foods have lower nutrient content?
Some argue that there is little difference between conventionally raised produce and organic, but we have seen scientific research suggesting the genetically engineered food has less nutrients than organic. Also, it makes common sense to those who understand what is done to the quality of the soil and the plant itself when pesticides and genetic engineering are introduced.
A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives looked at the diets of nearly 4,500 people living in six US cities and assessed organophosphate exposure levels, which are among the most commonly used insecticides on US farms. Those who ate conventionally grown produce were found to have high concentrations of organophosphate metabolites, whereas those who ate organic produce had significantly lower levels.
In this way, when you eat organic what the food doesn’t contain is just as important as what it does. This is especially true when it comes to pesticides. These chemicals have been shown to cause cancer, organ [liver, kidney] and blood diseases. They over-work the immune system and our detoxification systems. Pesticides lodge and accumulate in our tissues and can weaken our immune systems, which makes us more vulnerable to other carcinogens and pathogens.
If you don’t want to be a guinea pig in this dangerous experiment, consider opting out and sticking with what nature has provided us with for thousands of years.
Q: Are there any scientific studies that show that organic foods are better for our health?
Some compelling evidence comes a 4-year study funded by the European Union called the Quality Low Input Food (OLIF) Project. The researchers found that organic food is more nutritious than conventionally-grown produce. The organic produce contained more antioxidants and minerals. Milk from organically-fed cows had more antioxidants too.
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, reported higher antioxidant as well as lower cadmium and pesticide residue levels in organically grown produce.
Organic foods are fertilized in ways that support higher levels of certain nutrients and antioxidants. Plants can produce more antioxidants as a response to stress (i.e. pests). These foods may be higher in nutrients and come with the added bonus of not being pesticide-ridden.
Food grown in healthy soil, with natural fertilizers and without harmful chemicals (and genetic modification), is going to be more nutritious and less toxic than food grown in the opposite type of situation.