Why Eat Organic Food? Part 2 of 2

by Tarilee Cornish, Certified Nutritional Consultant

Doesn't the government protect our environment from being polluted?
Agribusiness releases more chemical pollution into our environment than any other industry. In most industries, the amount of chemical by-product that can be introduced into the environment by each company is strictly restricted by government. However, in the case of conventional agriculture, the industry sprays millions of tons of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides into the air and directly onto the earth each season. Pesticides and herbicides are so named because "cide" means, "to kill". As we learn about the serious implications on world health from the use of these chemicals, we become more insistent about supporting global health by improving organic growers and sellers.

Should we really worry about losing a few animal species a year?
Farming chemicals are contributing to the illness, death and even extinction of thousands of species, including important aquatic life, insects, birds and other animals. Even those of us who don't consider ourselves "animal lovers or nature lovers" can't ignore the fact that every one of the creatures on this planet plays an important role in the delicate balance of the Earth's ecosystem. As we allow species to be recklessly killed off, we endanger our own position in the Earth's ecosystem.

Nature has managed to achieve a relative balance for billions of years on this Earth. As we continue to interfere with natural laws and cause depletion and pollution of its natural systems, the Earth's ability to re-establish balance is handicapped and serious dysfunction sets in. We are now seeing increasing numbers of natural disasters as the Earth's regulating systems shift into emergency strategies. In its current state, the Earth is not going to recover unless we very quickly find ways to tread more lightly on it. Many organic enthusiasts are deeply passionate about the promotion of organic growing methods because they recognize the gigantic potential for change and the healing of the Earth that will accompany an international move to organic growing practices.

Are Genetically Engineered Foods Dangerous?
Although introduced in Canada and the US a few years ago, biotech foods containing GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) have been rejected by many countries in Europe and are even banned from the parliamentary dining room in Britain. Genetic engineering of our foods involves splicing the genes of one plant or animal into another in order to affect the properties of the second organism. For example, fish genes are spliced into tomato plants so that the tomatoes can endure cold storage. Some Genetically modified seeds are even engineered to be resistant to insects by building the pesticide right in. A potato called the New Leaf Potato comes complete with a special bacteria helper. When beetles eat the bacteria it releases a poison that paralyses the insect. This type of Monsanto potato seed is actually registered as a pesticide rather than a vegetable seed.

Other modified seeds are designed to produce plants that will die before they reproduce so that the farmers have to continuously purchase seeds from the chemical companies. Tragically, most conventional farmers find themselves forced to "follow the leader" in these dangerous chemical and genetic practices just to keep up in the highly competitive agri-industry.

However, it can be difficult for customers to choose to avoid the GMO's. In some countries (including Canada), the biotech foods are not even labeled as such. It is impossible to tell the modified foods from the normal conventional produce. These experiments represent a particularly frightening risk to those with sensitive immune systems and/or allergies to some of the gene sources used in the genetic engineering. The only way to tell for sure that your food genes have not been tampered with is to eat organic foods only!

Organic farmers are doing their best to discourage these large scale experiments in hopes of preventing the GMO's from interfering with natural systems in unforeseen ways. Evidence is rising that the GMO scientists don't have as much control over the proliferation of their organisms as they have claimed.

Are dairy and meat products from organically raised livestock of better quality?
Organic dairy and meat are more nutritious and contain no hormones, antibiotics or pesticide residues. The animals are treated humanely and the building of disease-resistant, peaceful herds and flocks is seen as good business. It pays off for the farmer in lower veterinarian expenses and higher productivity and it pays off for the consumer in healthier food. Lloyd Quantz, Dean at Olds College (the US's biggest agriculture school) and founder of AgriTrends Research Company converted his million dollar a year ranch to organic. He says, "It's a classic case of working with natural systems". "I've never had a deficiency problem with my animals."

After being in the industry for so many years, Lloyd has developed a disdain for how cattle are raised conventionally, calling the feedlots "little more than sickbays." He sites the overcrowding, cruelty and drug use as well as the sheer quantity of slaughtering, butchering that is completed in the processing plant as setting the ideal circumstances for diseases like so called "hamburger disease" (caused by E coli 0157:H7), salmonella infections and the creation of antibiotic-resistant "super bugs".

Happy Animals=Safer, Healthier Food
At Quantz's farm, cattle and chickens are allowed to graze outdoors in the fresh air and are moved about every three days within portable enclosures to prevent overgrazed pastures and to introduce their natural fertilization into the soil. The well-managed pastures, in turn, provide highly-nutritious grasses for the animals to eat. Many other humane animal-management techniques, including the use of organically grown, vegetarian-animal foods and natural husbandry are employed to support the profitable aim of happier, more relaxed, healthier animals.

If not from the food industry as we know it, where will we buy our foods? Folks are learning how to put the community back into the food supply. Wouldn't we all rather let the small family farmers who know and care about the customers they supply food to, take responsibility for many food-related health choices that affect our communities. Our local farmer is much more likely to maintain accountability to us than the C.E.O. of a food handling warehouse hundreds of miles away. As Wayne Roberts, author of Real Food for a Change puts it, "You know your doctor, why shouldn't you know your farmer?" Community-run farmer's markets, co-ops and retailers who purchase from local growers first, will be the shopping wave of the future.

Despite what we might like to think, decision-making in the food industry is based on profit and has very little to do with public health. As David Suzuki says, "Economics is fundamentally warped because it is divorced from the things that keep us alive".

How do we get a big industry to change?
Simple, we don't settle for garbage food. We demand good tasting, healthy, organic food at an affordable price. People are now starting to ask for healthier choices and even the fast food chains are starting to comply by redesigning some of their entrees to meet consumer expectations. We are seeing low-fat, high-fiber, even cholesterol-free and lactose-free items cropping up on the menu boards. We also see major grocery chains investing millions in the introduction of organic produce and health food sections. We don't have to stand by and watch the quality of our food supply be sacrificed for the sake of profit. It does make a difference when each one of us expresses our opinion with our wallet while speaking up for what we want.

"Something to 'Chew' on"
Few of us think long or deeply about our food choices. When we choose to settle for the commercially-grown produce at the local grocery store, rather than digging deeper into our pockets for the organic selections, we certainly mean no harm. We do not bite into an orange while reflecting on how the production of that orange is indirectly supporting the build up of toxins in our soil, our drinking water and our bodies, as well as the flesh of our innocent children, farm workers and wildlife. Nor do we think about how it is forcing compassionately and ethically run small farms out of business or into chemically-intensive farming practices. We don't wonder about how many times our orange was sprayed or whether it was gas-ripened or irradiated or dyed, or about how many miles it traveled and how much non-renewable fossil fuel was used to transport it all the way from Florida, just because we want to eat our fruit out of season.

Remember - take some time to think about your family's food choices!

Steinman, Epstein, Diet for a Poised Planet (New York:Ballantine Books 1990)p353-368
Colby, Michael, Nuked Meat Madness", Food and Water(Spring 1998 Roberts, MacRae, Stahlbrand, Real Food for a Change, (Canada:Random House of Canada, 1944) p45.
Globe and Mail, (July 22, 1998).
Roberts, MacRae, Stahlbrand, Real Food for a Change, (Canada:Random House of Canada, 1944)p43.
Roberts, MacRae, Stahlbrand, Real Food for a Change, (Canada:Random House of Canada, 1944)p45

Bibliography and Recommended Reading List

Roberts, MacRae, Stahlbrand, Real Food for a Change, Canada:Random House of Canada.
Jensen Dr. B; (1990). Empty Harvest. New York:Avery Publishing Group. Robbins J. (1987). Diet for a New America. Canada Fitzhenry and Whiteside Ltd.
Roberts W; Brandum S. (1995). Get a Life. Canada: Get a Life Publishing.
Epstein Dr. S; Steinman D. (1995). New York:Macmillan Steinman D. (1990). Diet for a Poisoned Planet. New York:Ballentine Books.
Robbins J. (1996). Reclaiming Our Health. California:HJ Kramer, Inc.
Steinman D. Wisner M. (1996) Living Healthy in a Toxic World. New York:Berkley Publishing Group.
Carlson R. (1962). Silent Spring.
Colburn T. Our Stolen Future. 

Tarilee Cornish is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner with a special interest in immune and digestive recovery including general detoxification and recovery from food allergies and candida overgrowth. She is especially passionate about pure healing food choices that have a democratic, ecological and compassionate production and distribution chain. Tarilee is a moderator on the WholeApproach Support Forum.

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