Each year the land and crops of many nations are drenched with millions of pounds of poisonous chemicals. Chemical pesticides are used to kill unwanted insects, rodents and fungi. Chemical poisons are also used to kill weeds and defoliate plants. Many of these chemicals-some of which do not easily break down-cling to our vegetables and fruits or enter the food chain where they are stored in the meat we eat.
No one can say what the limit of tolerance of these chemicals is for any person. What may not harm one who enjoys enough vitality so that his body appears to throw off harmful agents may kill another who does not enjoy that vitality. So who is to say how much of a chemical really harms one’s health? Even if it is only a small percent of the population that is harmed, would you care to be part of that percent?
Thus, some are looking to organic farming methods to supply their much needed nutritious food requirements.
What is organic food? A report by the Alberta Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development defines it as “food grown under a production system that, in addition to the avoidance of synthetic chemicals, also promotes soil health, biodiversity, low stress treatment of animals and sound environmental practices.”
Organic farmers believe this stands in contrast with food production by large commercial farm operations. There is at trend with enormous farms to grow vast single crops, whose high yields are produced through intensive mechanization and an over-kill of pesticides and fertilizers.
In addition to the residues that such chemicals can leave in food, the nutritional content declines when produce is picked before it’s ripe, a given when it must travel long distances to reach its market. To ensure that crops arrive at their destination intact, they may also be gassed, waxed or irradiated with a nuclear by-product.
Who is buying organic food? The Alberta report says that buyers “range from the health-conscious teenagers, to concerned mothers, to aging baby boomers…. They are no longer merely the stereotyped sixty’s flower child.”
However, not all people are convinced that organic food is better. Canadian Geographic observes: “The generally higher cost of organics causes skeptics to question its worth without hard science to prove its benefits. Others worry about a two-tier food system that excludes the poor.” Proponents of organic food argue that changes in diet, marketing, and delivery can make organics available to everyone, regardless of their economic station. In view of the wide range of opinions and scientific data, the debate over organic food continues.
What can help you decide if you should spend the extra money on a product labelled ‘organic’? Because organic foods are grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers there can be derived two main benefits. Firstly, by choosing to support organic rather than products grown with the aid of chemicals; you are helping to protect the environment. Some pests have become immune to repeated applications of chemical pesticides, so scientists have developed poisons that are even more dangerous. These potent chemicals have then leached into the groundwater and have contaminated our precious water supply. Secondly, you are avoiding ingesting chemicals and will ultimately be healthier.
So, if you’re on a budget, pass over organic fruits and vegetables that you can peel, like oranges and bananas. After all, once you’ve discarded the peel, you’ve also discarded the chemicals. Instead, opt for organic items like apples, where you eat the peel. No matter what you buy, however, make sure that you rinse off the food when you get home.
Whatever your preferences in food, carefully examine what you buy. Many consumers only look at the price. Being price conscious is laudable, but inspect the list of ingredients as well. It is estimated that nearly half the people buying food in Western lands do not take the time to read the nutritional information printed on labels. Granted, in some lands labeling is not comprehensive. But if you want safe food, then do what you can to examine the ingredients.
Whatever decisions you make regarding the foods you eat, you will probably need to be willing to bend at times, adapting to the realities of the land in which you live. For many people in this day and age, it is simply impossible-too expensive, too time-consuming, too problematic-to make sure that they eat only foods that are verifiably safe in every respect.