Why is it important to buy organic?

Farmers Market

Organic doesn’t necessarily mean free of pesticides, but it does mean a better choice.

Despite our suggesting organic products to people, they continue to pushback.

The cost. The legitimacy of being labeled “organic.” Clients wonder if it’s even worth buying.

The short answer is: yes.

To think of an organic product as being free from pesticides is not entirely true. In fact, organic produce can contain pesticides. Organic residues on organic produce come from bio-pesticides (derived from plants), not from the application of synthetic pesticides (man-made chemicals).

I repeatedly get challenged about the negligible dangers of pesticides and about the unnecessary cost of organic products. I hear quite often that the “dirty dozen” covers the basics. It doesn’t. In fact, the process by which organic food is grown has considerably more to do with the advantages of buying organic than the absence of pesticides; a lot more.

It is important to note that pesticide application is a small slice of what it means to be certified as organic. Buying organic is buying into the belief that organic farming practices are better for us and better for the environment. Conventional farming and organic farming practices are two entirely different species.

In addition to buying organic, we strongly emphasize buying produce at farmer’s markets, buying in season (eating seasonally) and avoiding imported produce from countries outside the U.S. (too much time in transit).

The benefits behind organic farming are many. Organic farming practices do not allow the use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic-engineered seeds in the food it plants and harvests. In order to call a farm “organic” it must be free from synthetic application for at least three years after the most recent use of a prohibited material. Let’s investigate further.

ORGANIC FARMING PROVIDES COVER CROPS. Cover crops suppress weeds, build a healthy soil and help control pests and diseases. Cover crops are also used to manage soil fertility.

ORGANIC FIELD CROP ROTATION. Field crop rotation is exactly as the name suggests. It involves a rotating planting cycle (practices used centuries ago) that is utilized anywhere from two to four years. What that means is that the same section of land is not used to grow the same crop (or a crop of the same species) more than once in the specified period. The importance to crop rotation is this; it helps to replenish the soil from one year to the next. Doing so usually results in crop production that is far superior to what is achieved when planting the same crops in the same location year after year. Conventional farming uses the practice of monoculture farming. Monoculture farming plants the same crop year after year depleting the soil of necessary nutrients (also due in part to synthetic pesticide application).

ORGANIC FARMING’S IRRIGATION PRACTICES. Organic farmers usually use drip irrigation vs. sprinklers used in conventional farming. Drip irrigation allows both germination and irrigation of the crop without sprinklers.

Since the crop can be spoon-fed water and organic nutrients as needed, and the plant itself remains dry, the crop is healthier and more resistant to insects and diseases. 

WHAT ARE BIOSOLIDS? Bio-solids are solids are generated during the treatment of domestic sewage at a treatment facility and must be treated to meet EPA’s Part 503 sewage sludge regulatory requirements if they are to be recycled as biosolids and used in irrigation.

These regulations set standards only for nine metals, and not for any toxic chemicals.

Bio-solids are not allowed for use in organic farming but allowed for use in conventional farming practices. Many U.S. consumers are largely unaware of the fact that sewage sludge is often used for fertilizer in conventional agriculture. 

ORGANIC FARMING PRACTICES NOURISH THE SOIL. Conventional farming practices generally “beef up” the plants through artificial and synthetic means. Organic farming practices are in place to provide nourishment to the soil, which in turn provide a healthier plant. Organic farming practices use various techniques to build up minerals and healthy bacteria in the soil that were once lost due to mono-culture farming and synthetic pesticide application. Although we are encouraged to eat fruits and vegetables, many of the conventionally grown produce does not provide the nutrients our bodies need. Organic produce is higher in mineral and nutrient content than its conventional counterparts.

IRRADIATION or IONIZING RADIATION. Irradiating food involves the practice of emitting gamma rays (radioactive forms of the element cobalt or cesium), X-rays and electron beams into food.

It is in place by the by the government as a precautionary measure to keep us safe from microorganisms. While these forms of ionizing radiation are used in the treatment of cancer, in sterilization methods for cleaning medical equipment and a means to produce images of internal human structures, the FDA, the CDC, WHO and the USDA claim irradiation is safe when blasting our food. Organically grown produce is not allowed to be irradiated.

ORGANIC SEEDS ARE NOT BIO-ENGINEERED (GMO). Buying organic seed is important because it guarantees that your seeds are not treated with fungicides. Certified Organic Seeds are harvested from certified organic crops.  Organic seeds may, however, be a hybrid seed (one related species bred with another related species) or heirloom variety (never been altered in any way). In order to qualify for the USDA Organic certification, farmers must purchase organic seed only. If they cannot find organic seed, they are allowed to use conventional, untreated seed. All organic seed is non-GMO.

Written by Laura Bushey, MAT, Certified Health Educator and Personal Holistic Chef with Kitchen of Life.  To find out more helpful tips find us at: www.facebook.com/kitchenoflifewellness.

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