Going Organic: Yay or Nay?

What if I told you that you could become just as good and noble as any superhero with just a minor adjustment to your grocery list? You would probably say I’m making it up or, at the very least, being dramatic, but it is entirely true. So long as you stick with it. So, what sort of change am I referring to? I’m talking about going organic. Buying ingredients and foods that are 100% organic, not just “natural” or “fresh,” or even simply “non-GMO.” The best change you can make to your grocery list is by shopping all organic because, in addition to being better for your health, it is better for the planet and our environment. 

Before we can understand how organic food is better than non-organic foods, though, we first have to understand what exactly organic food is. According to the US Department of Agriculture, “Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible.” What this means is that whenever given a choice to use pesticides, bioengineered ingredients, etc., organic farmers will pass on this in order to maintain the USDA Organic certification. So organic produce is produce that was grown in soil that is free of any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, and organic meat is meat derived from animals whose living conditions are accommodative of their natural behaviors (this means the animals were able to graze from pastures rather than raised in cages, and all of the food that they consumed, was organic as well). 

With a better understanding of organic food and the standards it has to be held to in order to have such a title, we can better understand how it improves our own health. By eating foods that were produced with pesticides, particularly synthetic pesticides (which are those that come from inorganic matter and have been manufactured in labs), these toxins then enter people’s bodies and can have serious effects on their health. According to an article by Mathew Thorpe for Healthline, “Increased exposure to pesticides may be linked to a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and several types of cancer.” This claim is supported by several studies published in BMJ Journals. 

If you’re not worried about your own health, then perhaps understanding the impact of non-organic foods on the environment will persuade you. As I’ve mentioned many times by now, non-organic food is often produced with synthetic pesticides. Pesticides take a tremendous toll on the environment. They impact everything from bee colonies to soil quality and even whether or not the water we drink is clean. The primary pollutant that is responsible for declining bee populations is an insecticide called Neonicotinoid. The downfall of the bee population is a crisis that will affect everyone because bees are keystone species, meaning that they are a species that supports many other species (people included) within a shared ecosystem. Without bees (a primary pollinator), people can say goodbye to many of their favorite foods, from apples to almonds. Additionally, if we were to lose the bees, we would be in an economic crisis as food prices would rise dramatically due to the scarcity of certain foods and the increased labor to produce them manually (or mechanically). 

But it’s not just the bees. Our soil and water are threatened by the increased use of pesticides as well. According to a research paper by David Pimentel that was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, as little as just 0.1% of applied pesticides actually engage with the targeted pests or weeds. This means that the remainder of these pollutants is free to interact with the air, soil, and water, contaminating it all. “…[Pesticides] can make their way into groundwater or surface water systems that feed drinking water supplies,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. While possibly safe to consume in microscopic amounts, it is absolutely unsafe to ingest these chemicals at high volumes. So when we consider that the majority of these toxins wind up spreading to the soil (where they can stay for years) and down into our groundwater (which becomes the water we eventually drink), it paints a much clearer picture of the impact of the use of pesticide use. But what exactly does this have to do with organic food? Well, by choosing to support brands and producers that practice organic farming and ranching methods, you are setting a precedent that it is not okay to pollute our planet. I fully support eating organic and do so myself. Suppose you’re still asking why I’ll spell it out one more time. The positives just far outweigh the negatives. The positives, of course, are that shopping and eating organic foods are better not only for your own health but for the health of the planet, and that’s what good people do, right? They save the planet. So why not just make the switch, go organic, and save yourself and the planet?

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