10 Reasons to Buy Organic
1. Organic Foods are Nutritious and Healthy
Organic produce contains more vitamins, minerals, enzymes, trace elements and even cancer-fighting antioxidants than conventionally-grown food. In an organic farm, healthy soil produces strong and healthy plants that become nourishing food. A two year study compared organically and conventionally grown apples, potatoes, pears, wheat and sweet corn purchased in the western suburbs of Chicago for mineral content. The average levels of minerals were much higher in the organically grown than in the conventionally grown food. Calcium is 63% higher; Chromium, 78% higher; Iron, 73%; Magnesium, 118%; Molybdenum, 178%; Phosphorus, 91%; Potassium, 125% and Zinc, 60% (1).
2. Reduce potential health risk
About 90% of all fungicides, 60% of all herbicides and 30% of all insecticides used in the U.S. are found to be oncogenic or potentially oncogenic (2). Other than increasing risks for cancer, exposure to chemical pesticides can cause a range of ill effects in humans, from relatively mild effects such as headaches, fatigue and nausea to more serious effects such as neurological disorders, endocrine and immune system dysfunction (3). According to a report made by World Health Organization, there were about 120 thousand people in proportion were hospitalized for being poisoned with pesticides where 5% death were related to pesticide poisoning in 7 developing countries in South East Asia in 2000 (4).
Organic farming avoids the use of artificial pesticides and fertilizers. But due to pesticide drift from conventional fields and persistent pesticides in the soil, organic produce cannot completely free from all chemical contamination but it may reduce consumers’ exposure to pesticide residues significantly. Organic fruit and vegetables have a significantly lower incidence and lower level of pesticide residue than conventionally grown and integrated pest management (IPM)-grown produce (5).
Other than chemical pesticides, organic farming prohibits the use of genetically engineered organisms and their derivatives. Organic regulations also prohibit irradiation of food. Organic produce is a much safer choice consumers can made.
3. Protect Future Generations
About 600,000 U.S. children age 5 and younger get a dose of organophosphates that exceeds the acute “safe” dose on a typical day (6). Infants and children are more vulnerable to pesticide because they consume more food per unit of body weight than adults and far fewer types of foods than adults. Besides, their organs and nervous and immune systems are still developing; they might be more susceptible to pesticide damage. Many people buy organic food whenever possible to protect their health and the health of their children, who are especially at risk.
4. For the Health of Our Planet
As pests become more resistant to chemical pesticides, more and more chemicals are needed to farm successfully in conventional farms. Excessive chemical pesticides and fertilizers pollute environment and becomes an on-going problem worldwide. On the other hand, organic farming ensures that the air, soil and water in the vicinity will not be contaminated as a result of farming actions.
Conventional farming uses more energy to produce synthetic petrochemical-based fertilizers than to till and harvest. In contrast, organic farming reduces dependence on non-renewable resources. It relies upon good cultural practices and recycles organic matter back into the system to maintain the soil fertility.
In conventional farming, soil is merely used to hold plants up so they can be chemically fertilized. Conventional farms are suffering from serious topsoil erosion in history. In the U.S., more than 26 million hectares of cropland continue to erode at rates greater than the soil loss tolerance which threatens the soil’s agricultural productivity (7). On the contrary, organic farmers see healthy, nutrient-rich topsoil as the foundation of food production and their greatest ally. They build their soil by returning organic matter into the soil and by planting diverse crops. Their practice results in less water usage and soil erosion and sustainably fertile soil.
5. Protect Water Quality
Chemical pesticide and fertilizer contamination in water bodies is a common problem in most agricultural area. M ore than 90% of water and fish samples from streams and about 50% of all sampled wells contained one or more pesticides (9) in the U.S.. While in areas of intensive farming in the U.S., the nitrate-nitrogen concentration may approach or exceed their national drinking water limit (8). Fertilizer nitrogen is one of the major sources of nitrate. Nitrate could be converted to nitrite in our bodies. Nitrate may induce "blue baby syndrome" in new born babies that their blood lacks the ability to carry sufficient oxygen. Nitrite may cause health hazard in pregnant women and is potentially carcinogenic. Organic producers use practices that eliminate polluting chemicals and reduce nitrogen leaching, and thus protect and conserve precious water resources.
- Protect the health of farm workers
While pesticides may pose health risks to consumers, the risks are far greater for field workers. Field workers on conventional farms, due to their direct exposure to pesticides, are the most vulnerable to illness . It is estimated that there were at least 10,000 to 20,000 pesticide illnesses and injuries per year in farm work (9) . This is particularly true in developing countries, where pesticide use can be poorly regulated. Several of the pesticides banned from the use in developed countries are still imported to developing countries. Organic farms eliminate the risk by eliminating harmful pesticides and other chemical inputs from their practices. Eliminating exposure to toxic pesticides creates a healthier environment for people who work in the fields – and their families, too.
Although more large scale farms are making the conversion to organic practices, most organic farms are small independently owned and operated family farms in developing and even developed nations. Organic farming may be one of the few survival tactics left for the family farm. Value-added premium pricing enables many small family farms to thrive. In Hong Kong, there are some 1,500 vegetable farmers still with production. Their farm size is about 4.2 D.C. (approx. 30,000 square feet) in average. Since 2001, some conventional farmers converted to organic through a conversion scheme carried out by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. Together with the others, Hong Kong has about 60 organic farms. Majority of them are family farms. To purchase locally produce organic vegetable is the strongest encouragement for them.
While organically grown products may seem more expensive, current prices for conventionally grown foods do not reflect their hidden costs borne. Even consumers need not to pay for these costs right after his purchase. The cost will have to be paid by taxpayers and the whole society. Hidden costs include pesticide regulation, cleaning up of contaminated drinking water and environment, medicinal costs for illness and injure caused by pesticides. Besides, we have loss of wildlife habitat, soil erosion and other environmental damage. In contrast, organic farming conserves environment, protects the health of farmers and cares for the welfare of farm animals. When you buy organically grown products, you pay now for a more sustainable environment.
Mono-cropping is a common practice in conventional farming system. The approach might increase the productivity, but the lack of natural diversity of plant life has left the soil depleting in natural minerals and nutrients. To replace the nutrients, chemical fertilizers are used, often in increasing amount. This system also encourages the outbreak of pests and diseases. As a result, conventional farmers relies more on pesticides while creating insects resistant to certain pesticides.
Organic farming encourages diverse plantings, works with crops that promote beneficial insects, practices crop rotation and intercropping, recycles nutrients with earthworms, composts and green manures. Organic farming promotes an abundance of species living in balanced, harmonious ecosystems. According to a report from UK in 2000, there are 4 times more wild plants, 2 times more non-pest butterflies, 60% more arthropods and 44% more birds in autumn/winter in organic farms than in conventional ones (10).
- Organic Foods Taste Better
Many people prefer organic food because it tastes better. Many conventional growers select crops that are of high productivity, convenient for shipping, with uniform and cosmetic appearance – concerns that ignore the importance of flavour. In contrast, most organic farmers are small family farms, their produce are sold to vicinity areas. They do not need to sacrifice flavour for long distance shipping. Besides, organic farmers produce food in healthy farms, they harvest food when ripe at peak flavour and nutrition, getting the maximum taste and health benefits for our bodies.
Buying organic products is one of the most important contributions any of us can make to protect you and your family’s health and to save the planet.
(1) "Organic Foods vs. Supermarket Foods: Element Levels", Journal of Applied Nutrition , 45: 35-39, 1993. (http://www.organicconsumers.org/Organic/organicstudy.cfm)
(2) Regulating Pesticides in Food – The Delaney Paradox , National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington , D.C. , 1987. (http://www.nap.edu/books/0309037468/html/)
(3) Agriculture Pesticides – “Management Improvements Needed to Further Promote Integrated Pest Management” , United States General Accounting Office, 2001. (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d01815.pdf)
(4) Pesticide Poisoning Database in SEAR Countries , WHO, 2001. (http://whqlibdoc.who.int/searo/2001/SEA_EH_534.pdf)
(5) “Pesticide residues in conventional, IPM-grown and organic foods: Insights from three U.S. data sets.” By B. Baker, C. Benbrook, E. Groth , and K. Benbrook. Food Additives and Contaminants , Volume 19, No. 5: 427-446, May 2002.
(6) Update: Pesticides in Children's Foods – An analysis of 1998 USDA PDP Data on Pesticide Residues , E. Groth, C. Benbrook, K. Lutz, Consumers Union, 2000. (http://www.ecologic-ipm.com/PDP/Update_Childrens_Foods.pdf)
(7) Conservation Implications of Climate Change: Soil Erosion and Runoff from Cropland , Soil and Water Conservation Society, 2003.
(8) “Nitrates and Nitrites in Drinking Water”, Center for Environmental Quality, GeoEnvironmental Science and Engineering Department, Wikes University . (http://wilkes1.wilkes.edu/~eqc/nitrate1.htm)
(9) Agriculture Pesticides – Management Improvements Needed to Further Promote Integrated Pest Management , by the United States General Accounting Office, 2001.
(10) The Biodiversity Benefits of Organic Farming , the Soil Association, 2000. (http://www.soilassociation.org/)