Men's Health, General, Women's Health | January 19, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
There is an increasing demand globally for organic food. Consumers believe that it is more nutritious and better for the environment than conventionally produced food. So what exactly are the health benefits and is organic really worth the extra money?
Organic growing is generally defined as food produced without artificial or synthetic chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides or weedicides. These farmers don’t use genetically modified components or expose the food to irradiation.
Often organic farming factors in environmentally sustainable farming techniques and takes care of the environment by conserving water, soil and energy. Crops are usually rotated to prevent depletion of nutrients in the soil and natural farming cycles are incorporated.
Animals raised using these methods are treated humanely and with respect. They are usually free from lots or cages and not fed any growth-regulating drugs, steroids, hormones or antibiotics.
Biodynamic agriculture is a related system which recognises a spiritual dimension to farming by incorporating lunar and astrological cycles which are thought to influence the growth of plants and animals. Biodynamic gardeners use special therapeutic preparations for the soil, plants, compost and manure.
Organic and biodynamic standards are set out by The Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) and certification is licenced by several private organisations such as the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA) and the Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA). While there are currently no requirements for certification of domestic organic products sold in Australia many organic business choose to do so to promote consumer confidence and to underpin truth in labelling requirements.
When buying organic food don’t be fooled by the phrases “chemical free”, “organic” or “natural” if the proper certification label isn’t displayed. Biodynamic food should also display the Demeter symbol.
Environmental pollution is a major concern worldwide. Modern farming methods have led to a decline in soil fertility, and in increase in salinity and waterway pollution. The overuse of fertilizers increases algal blooms and waterweeds in lakes and rivers, which in many cases has literally choked them to death.
Organic farmers aim to minimise damage to the environment by using animal and green manure as well as other safe methods of pesticide and weed control.
There are many short and long-term effects of pesticide exposure. Many studies have shown that it can increase the risk of leukaemia and lymphoma and cancers of the brain, kidney, breast, prostate, liver, lung and pancreas.
A child’s risk of developing leukaemia, Wilms tumour and brain cancer are also increased if their mother was exposed to pesticides during pregnancy. Pesticide exposure can also negatively affect our nervous system. Exposure to low levels of pesticides increases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 70%. A number of pesticides have also been shown to negatively affect fertility in males and females.
Glyphosate, a common herbicide marketed under the trade name roundup, is also linked to many adverse health conditions including cancer, depression, pregnancy and reproductive problems, colitis, autism and even celiac disease. It is common agricultural practice to spray crops such as wheat, barley, oats, soy beans, sugar cane and beans for faster and easier harvesting. Unfortunately this leads to contamination of commonly consumed foods and levels of glyphosate in the body can increase leading to ill health.
Scientific opinion on the nutritional difference between organic and non-organic food is mixed. Some studies have shown that organic food has the following nutritional advantages:
Organic food can be found in some supermarkets, green grocers, health food stores, food markets, the internet and certified organic retailers. Online stores that deliver to your door are becoming a popular option as they have a wider variety of products and often guarantee fresh supplies.
Organic food is generally more expensive because farms usually operate on a much smaller scale than conventionally produced food. Farming methods are more labour intensive and crop yields are usually smaller. If we focused on the quality of food rather than the quantity of food and ate less portions, purchasing organic food can be affordable.
Organic farming practices can be used at home at a low cost so that you can supply your own healthy produce either on a small or large scale.
The organic movement offers a healthy, sustainable view of the future by caring for our environment and treating animals in an ethical way. Organic food is healthier for the people who consume it as it has significantly less residues of pesticides and other synthetic chemicals. Nutrients such as antioxidants, omega 3, vitamin C and selenium are found to be in higher concentrations in organic food compared to non-organic food.
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Basil KL, et al. Cancer health effects of pesticides: a systematic review. Can Fam Physician. 2007 Oct;53(10):1704-11
Ascherio A, et al. Pesticide exposure and the risk for Parkinson’s disease. Ann Neurol. 2006 Aug;60(2):197-203
Baranski M, et al. Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. Br J Nutr. 2014 Sep 14:112(5):794-811
Srednicka-Tober D, et al. Composition differences between organic and conventional meat: a systemic literature review and meta-analysis. Br J Nutr. 2016 Mar 28:115(6):994-1011