Why Buy Organic?
By Tyler Woodward
Organic foods, are they safer? Is organic food more nutritious? Is organic food healthier? What’s the real difference? Find out this and more…
What Does Organic Mean?:
Organic foods refers to how your food is grown, it basically determines what is and what is not used to grow your food. To understand what organic food is, it’s a lot easier to understand what organic food is not.
Organic Food is not grown with or using:
- GMO’s - Genetically modified organisms, plants that have been genetically modified through engineering to produce bigger, more durable, and sometimes even insect resistant crops
- Synthetic Chemicals - Many chemicals most commonly known as pesticides and herbicides have been developed in order to keep away pests, insects and animals from eating the crops
- Hormones - Hormones can be administered to animals to trigger increased growth rates, allowing animals to be grow bigger and at a faster rate
- Antibiotics - Antibiotics can be used primarily in two ways in agriculture
- Increase Growth Rates - Specifically in cattle and pigs, antibiotics can be administered to make the animals grow faster
- Prevent Sickness - Due to poor living conditions present in many mass farming sites, animals frequently become sick and can infect other nearby animals. Many farms use antibiotics freely in their animals feed in order to prevent the animals become sick, whether or not the animals are sick
- Food Additives - Organic foods contain any additives to increase their shelf life, make them look better/ more colorful, or improve their flavoring
The next question becomes is it worth buying organic food, what are the downsides to all of these methods of growing conventionally-grown food:
Read More: What Does It Mean To Be Healthy
Is Organic Food Worth It?:
To get to the bottom of this question, you have to consider that conventionally-grown food is produced with the shear intention of making a profit. The more food they can produce, the bigger the food is, and the faster they can do it all results in more money in their wallet. And so while one of chemicals in isolation may not be too bad, they’re never used in isolation! Without further ado, let’s dive into it…
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) -
GMO’s are foods that have either been genetically engineered in order to induce certain beneficial traits, usually for higher profits. This is in a way similar to forced natural selection. If you think of natural selection as only the strongest survive, genetic modification is hand-picking the “strongest” to be used in the next generation.
One of the issues with genetic modification is a lack of genetic diversity. If every plant is genetically modified to be identical because it's deemed “perfect”, then a single virus can wipe out this entire population. Genetic engineering has led to the development of multiple “super bugs” and “superweeds” that can only be killed with extremely toxic poisons. But the biggest concern when it comes to GMO foods is their ability to make plants pesticide-resistant.
100 years ago if the pesticides used in modern agriculture today were sprayed on the crops, it would’ve killed nearly the entire harvest. Today, thanks to genetic engineering, the plants have been infused with specific strands of DNA that allow them to survive these pesticides/herbicides. You can imagine this similarly to a vaccine. A vaccine is designed with the intent to make the host immune to a particular virus, preventing them from infection. This allows for these pesticides and herbicides to be used on the crops to prevent pests (like insects or animals) from eating the crops or weeds from growing and taking the soil nutrients without killing the crops themselves.
According to the FDA GMO food is perfectly safe for human consumption, but long-term evidence on the safety of genetically modified organisms is virtually non-existent. So although they claim GMO food is not harmful, no one really knows what the long term effects are or if there are any. The real question is are the pesticides that can be used only on GMO, pesticide-resistant crops harmful?
Read More: The Grass-Fed Difference
Synthetic Chemicals -
When farming crops you’ve got two primary competitors to worry about, pests like animals and insects that eat the crops and herbs or weeds that “steal” nutrients from the crops. To combat these, we’ve developed pesticides to fight pests and herbicides to fight weeds.
There are two main herbicides that we’ll focus on today being that these are by far the two most common herbicides used in the US: glyphosate (also known as Roundup) and atrazine.
Roundup is classified as a known carcinogen in California, a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization and is currently being phased out of use across the majority of the European Union if not already banned. The US on the other hand has not yet acknowledged its cancerous potential, saying it is unlikely carcinogenic in humans. For many years we did not understand how glyphosate could cause cancer, so Roundup was largely brushed off as a carcinogen, but new data has appeared showing the mechanisms.
Roundup selectively competes with the amino acid glycine in our body, replacing it and taking its space in a number of glycine receptors. Roundup is a much larger molecule than glycine, so when it replaces glycine it completely changes the shape of the protein. When you change the shape of a protein it can no longer do its job, it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Additionally, glycine has been found to chelate (remove) both manganese and copper from our body, both of which are trace minerals necessary for normal cellular metabolism. Without these two minerals your cells can’t breathe (cellular respiration) and thereby can’t produce energy, resulting in dysfunction of the cells. Lastly, glyphosate is known to have antibacterial properties and has been shown to negatively impact the “good” bacteria found in our colon.
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Anxiety Disorder
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Thyroid Dysfunction
And the list goes on…
Sadly, it turns out that the second most commonly used herbicide in the US is pretty much just as bad. Atrazine is known to act as a potent estrogenic in the body, meaning it mimics the effects of estrogen. Despite what you may have been previously told, estrogen is not the pro-health hormone or the female equivalent of testosterone and is in fact quite problematic when in excess. Estrogenics like atrazine and BPA have again been associated with a ton of health issues which is likely why the entire European Union banned atrazine from use in 2004.
Atrazine is also a huge environmental hazard as rain washes it off the crops into nearby water and eventually can make it into our drinking water or nearby lakes and rivers. Atrazine is extremely toxic to wildlife and has been shown to chemically castrate frogs at relatively low doses. In the words of Brett Hartl, a director at the Center for Biological Diversity, “atrazine chemically castrates frogs even in tiny doses, is an endocrine disruptor, and likely causes birth defects in people. The EPA should have banned this years ago.” And it doesn’t just stop at frogs, herbicide use is putting tons of species throughout the country at risk, including us!
The US yet again, doesn’t seem to think atrazine is too big of a deal and still allows its use, but does regulate the amount of atrazine that can be present in our food and drinking water. Although they still allow significantly higher levels than that of the European Union and many other countries throughout the world.
Chlorpyrifos is the most widely used pesticide in the US and has unsurprisingly undergone multiple failed attempts to be banned. Chlorpyrifos used to be commonly found as in-home insecticide, but was phased out of residential usage after 2000. Chlorpyrifos was the replacement to DDT which was the replacement of lead arsenate, both of which were found to be toxic both to humans and the environment and became outlawed.
Direct exposure to chlorpyrifos can cause severe toxicity issues and has caused multiple toxic outbreaks across US farmers who routinely spray the chemical. Multiple studies have found neurotoxic effects on chlorpyrifos and others have found that exposure to chlorpyrifos in pregnant women resulted in [their children] “to be smaller, have poorer reflexes, and show higher risks of having ADHD and other developmental disorders years after being exposed”.
The FDA regulates the amount of chlorpyrifos in our food supply to what is deemed as a safe and harmless level, but does not seem to have any intention of banning chlorpyrifos from use.
80% of the total antibiotics used in the US are from agriculture, particularly in pigs & poultry. Antibiotics are used in agriculture to:
- Increased The Rate Of Growth
- Prevent Sickness
Antibiotics allow for a shortened weaning period in calves, piglets, and lambs. In nature for instance pigs generally wean off their mothers milk in about 3-4 months, comparatively to 17-28 days in US agriculture practices. This does not allow these animals to properly develop the good gut bacteria needed to maintain immunity.
Animals that are prematurely weaned off their mother often experience diarrhea among other infections, so farmers will preemptively give the animals antibiotics to prevent this. Additionally, the high-stress and low space environment found in commercial farming is a breeding ground for bacteria and disease leading to increased rates of sickness and thereby an increased requirement for antibiotics. Antibiotics also increase the rate at which animals can eat and assimilate their food, resulting in a bigger, fatter animal in less time.
The most controversial issue with antibiotic usage in agriculture is the potential to spread antibiotic resistance to humans, creating a “superbug”. Although according to most experts this risk is low, unnecessary antibiotic usage should be minimized. Although I believe that the biggest issue with antibiotic usage in livestock is its ability to increase their growth rate in combination with the hormones used to do so...
Livestock are frequently injected with artificial hormones like progesterone, testosterone, estrogen, recombinant growth hormone, among other synthetic steroids and drugs. The USDA claims that cows can be consumed immediately after slaughter without any negative health effects and that the injected hormones are not absorbed by humans or not of any harm.
Currently, the evidence is lacking as to whether or not these hormones have any negative effects on humans and contribute to diseases. We do know that non-organic cows do have slightly higher levels of estrogen, due to the injections, but the effect is marginal.
Generally, I believe it's better to be safe than sorry and this is just one reason of many to buy organic food.
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My goal in writing this article, as always, is to provide you with logically-based principles that you can use to form your own conclusions regarding any information you may come across within this subject. I really hope you found this article interesting and if you have anything to add to this article, or any comments or criticism, feel free to reach out to me on our facebook groups or on Instagram @tylerwoodward_fit. Also, please feel free to share this article with anyone that might be interested.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time… be good~Tyler Woodward