There are numerous reasons why we should choose organic. Organic food in Australia if often more expensive than non-organic, but the more you know about the overall benefits of organic food, the more you will realise it is much better value.
Even if we are ego-centric we cannot ignore the compelling reasons to choose organic food. Here are some reasons – not in any particular order:
1. Organic food tastes better. Organic farming starts with the nourishment of the soil, which leads to the nourishment of the plant and, ultimately, our palate. Many people prefer organic food because they consider it tastes better.
2. Organic food production helps protect future generations. The average child receives approximately four times more exposure than an adult, to at least eight widely used cancer-causing pesticides in food. Food choices made in the family and community now, determine our children’s health – not only now but into the future.
3. Organic food has higher levels of nutrients. There is now plentiful research findings that show organic food is far superior in vitamin, mineral and nutrient content. They are especially higher in antioxidants, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. Organic foods have higher levels (up to six times) of salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is produced naturally in plants as a protective compound against stress and disease. Salicylic acid acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps combat hardening of the arteries.
4. Organic farming methods prevent soil erosion and build healthy soils. Organic farms protect the environment by building soil organic matter and by mimicking natural systems rather than relying on synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. Compared to soils on conventional farms, organically farmed soils have been shown to have:
- Less nitrogen leaching
- Better nutrient holding ability
- More efficient biological nutrient cycling
- Less runoff and erosion.
Good soil nutrient management planning is critical for any farming operation to optimise plant growth and decrease risks of nutrient leaching and runoff.
Many crops are genetically engineered with the Bt toxin in order to resist infestation from insects. Yet root exudates from these plants release the toxin into the soil, where it retains its activity for at least 234 days, long after its release. This stimulates major changes in soil biota that could affect nutrient cycling processes and reduce soil fertility.
5. Organic farming helps protect water quality. Pesticides and other chemicals widely used in conventional farming contaminate ground water and rivers and pollute primary sources of drinking water.
6. Organic food is free of artificial additives. Organic food doesn’t contain food additives which can cause health problems such as heart disease, osteoporosis, migraines and hyperactivity. The use of antibiotics, anti-microbials, hormones and other growth promotants are prohibited in organic production. In the case that animals are treated with veterinary drugs or chemicals, they are prohibited from being sold as organic. The use of synthetic chemicals as preservatives, colourings, antioxidants etc are also prohibited in the processing of organic foods.
7. Chemical residues are missing or at very low levels in organically produced food. Many studies show that most conventionally farmed foods have pesticide and other chemical residues. Over 400 chemical pesticides are routinely used in conventional farming and residues are often present in non-organic food. Research has shown that 30 percent of insecticides, 60 percent of herbicides and 90 percent of fungicides are known to cause cancer. These chemicals can also lead to nervous and endocrine problems.
Many pesticides and herbicides were registered long before extensive research linking them to cancer and other diseases could be established. Many are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Using chemicals to deal with crop pests creates the same problem as indiscriminate us of antibiotics against germs. The germs get tougher and nastier over time, because antibiotics influence their evolution, killing susceptible organisms and selecting resistant ones. It is the same with pesticides and pests – in some places where pesticides have been used longest and heaviest, patterns of insect predation on food crops are now worse than they were before farmers started using insecticides on crops.
Organic growers have pest and disease management strategies that do not use artificial and toxic chemicals.
8. Organic food production uses less energy than conventional food production. Modern conventional farming uses more petroleum than any other industry. More energy is now used to produce synthetic fertilisers than to till, cultivate and harvest crops. Organic farming is still based on labour intensive practices such as hand weeding, green manure, and cover crops instead of chemicals.
9. Certified organic means GE/GM free. Genetically modified organisms are not allowed under the strict organic certification standards.
10. Organic farming practices maintain or enhance seed, crop and ecological biodiversity. According to a study reported in 2004, by New Scientist, ‘organic farming increases biodiversity at evert level of the food chain – all the way from lowly bacteria to mammals’. Organic farming uses traditional seeds, and focuses on a diverse range of plant species – this increases seed and crop biodiversity. Conventional farming relies on monocultures and chemicals to eradicate other plant and insect species – this considerably reduces biodiversity. One of the side-effects of the use of toxic pesticides is the inadvertent killing of non-target animals, plants and insects, which not only reduces biodiversity but may also exacerbate pest management problems by promoting pest resistance. There are far reaching effects from conventional farming and the attendant use of toxic chemicals. Polluted soil and waterways affects all life forms in the ecosystem and reduces biodiversity.
11. Support for small farmers. When we purchase organic food we support traditional farming systems. Most organic farms are small, independently owned family farms of less than 50 hectares. Many family farms have been sold-up during the last couple of decades because of economies of scale – they are not profitable under conventional farming systems. Organic farming could be one of the ways family farms can survive.
12. Organic food has lower nitrates levels. The use of soluble chemical fertilisers has resulted in high nitrate concentrations in many conventionally farmed foods, especially in fruits and vegetables. The leaching of these fertilisers has also resulted in high nitrate levels in some drinking water systems around the world. The nitrate content of organically grown food is usually significantly lower than in conventionally grown produce. High nitrate levels in food and drinking water are converted to carcinogenic nitrosamines. Nitrates have been shown to impair the ability of the blood to carry oxygen, and may pose a risk of methemoglobinemia.
13. Organic food is not irradiated.