I feel very fortunate to belong to such an incredible community of health and sustainability minded folk. But every once in a while, I stumble upon someone who displays a heavy dose of skepticism about nutritional leanings. You know the conversations: where “my grandfather ate steak and eggs every morning, smoked, and still lived to be 103” or, “our parents certainly did fine without organic food”. To me, these conversations illuminate the common belief that little has changed with the everyday foods we eat but in reality, every foodstuff you enjoy – from cereal to cheese to jam – has evolved within this industrial food system to contain ingredients that are in fact very different from those our elders consumed to their ripe old age.
Instead, we make sugar out of corn, entice taste buds with hydrolyzed proteins and douse our crops with ever-increasing amounts of chemical inputs. According to one 2012 study, the first 16 years of genetically modified crops in the US brought with them an extra 404 million pounds of pesticides and 527 million pounds of herbicides. Time and time again, I find myself remarking at how our relatively newfound interest in health and the environment is both borne out of necessity and with deference to some very old ideas about how to feed ourselves on this planet.
So, Why Organic?
My reasons for choosing organics are just as much about the past as they are the future. The more sophisticated nutrition research becomes, the more complex our understanding of what might be best for our bodies. In many cases, decades of modern research only prove that our grandparents and great-grandparents were on the right track: grow in sync with the earth and enjoy those foods prepared simply.
Our modern dissociation from the tradition of food cultivation has led us astray, and placed us in the midst of the worst chronic disease epidemic we have ever faced. My grandparents had a huge garden and could prepare everything on their table from scratch – all while holding down jobs and household. And while they didn’t shy away from using weed killer, they didn’t douse their garden in chemicals unnecessarily – my parents grew up eating home grown food that was simply and lovingly prepared.
Growing up, my own food was further removed as we didn’t have space for a garden but even I didn’t consume a GMO food until I was in my late teens and those early years of rapid growth had passed. This is a fate that my son, as much as we try to buy exclusively organic, will not know.
Our species is pushing the boundaries of what we thought possible, yet at the end of the day, human ingenuity and technology is still entirely dependent on fueling the basic metabolic functions of our body. That requires access to safe and sustainable food. Why does organic matter? Because millennia of survival as a human species depended on careful food production – not chemical inputs. And it’s not just about our own daily exposures; now that food production is removed from our everyday life, we think little of those who do the back-breaking work of feeding us – and the impact that high level exposure to agricultural chemicals has on them. Eating organic food is a vote for those who grow our food and an investment in a healthier future.
Looking to make organic a part of your life? Desiree's got some fantastic tips to make organic work for you!
Learn More:Benbrook, Charles M. "Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the US--the first sixteen years." Environmental Sciences Europe 24.1 (2012): 1-13. Curl, Cynthia L., et al. "Estimating Pesticide Exposure from Dietary Intake and Organic Food Choices: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)." Environ Health Perspect (2015). Curl, Cynthia L., Richard A. Fenske, and Kai Elgethun. "Organophosphorus pesticide exposure of urban and suburban preschool children with organic and conventional diets." Environmental health perspectives 111.3 (2003): 377. Mills, Paul K., and Shelia Hoar Zahm. "Organophosphate pesticide residues in urine of farmworkers and their children in Fresno County, California." American journal of industrial medicine 40.5 (2001): 571-577.