Organic and Chemical Agriculture
Growing food without pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers has been done for thousands of years, and it wasn’t until the chemical revolution in the 20th century that a distinction was made between “conventional” and “organic.” Conventional actually means “chemically grown” while organic means the food has been grown through the ancient practice of enriching the soil with compost, diversification, rotating crops and companion planting, while animals are often free to roam outside and eat a natural wild diet without antibiotics and hormones.
One major concern regarding chemical agriculture is the pesticide residue (neurotoxins) still left on the plants that also reach our water supply. Children are the most vulnerable to these toxins because their nervous system is still developing. The other major concern is the contamination of unlabeled GMO crops in the food supply that are only found in non-organic foods.
A recent four-year European Union study, funded at a cost of $25 million, raised fruits, vegetables, and cows on adjacent organic and conventional fields at a 725-acre farm near Newcastle University in England and other places in Europe. Researchers found that the: 1) organic fruits and vegetables contained up to 40% more antioxidants; 2) organic produce had higher levels of iron, copper, and zinc; and 3) milk from organic herds contained up to 90% more antioxidants.
Higher Cancer Protection
Along with higher vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, a lesser known benefit of organic comes from the plant’s version of an immune system called “phytochemicals.” Dr. Donald Abrams, director of integrative oncology at UCSF medical center, explains: “If a vegetable is grown indoors or in a hothouse, it doesn’t need to protect itself from its environment. Whereas if you grow, say a tomato organically outdoors, it needs to protect itself from insects and other predators and from sunshine. So it produces chemicals to protect itself. And it turns out, for the most part, that those are the phytonutrients that are beneficial to people.”
Where to Purchase Organics
The most affordable way to purchase organic is to buy from local farmers markets. If you are lucky, you can find eggs, raw honey, fruit, nuts, seeds, vegetables, chicken, beef and fresh baked bread from organic grains. We are not as concerned about a farm being certified organic if the farmer follows an organic approach. Often times it is too expensive for the farmer to pay for organic certification costs and may indeed be using zero chemicals on their farm. The added benefit to buying from farmers markets is freshly picked, seasonal produce that will last all week if not longer in the refrigerator. It’s important to remember that if you are on a budget, buying whole foods in bulk may actually be cheaper but it’s your time in the kitchen that may be expensive.
The following list is ranked from highest to least contaminated:
Here is the 2012 list of 45 fruits and vegetables with the heaviest pesticide residue to the least amount of pesticide residue.
Sweet bell peppers
Cantaloupe – domestic
Sweet peas – frozen
If Budget Allows, Buy Organic
It’s Your Call
1. Rebecca Katz. The Cancer Fighting Kitchen
2. Environmental Working Group, foodnews.org Papaya
3. Four-year European Union study of organic foods, www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article2753446.ece.