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Top 10 Reasons to Go OrganicBy Sylvia R. Tawse
Here are the top 10 reasons to choose organic foods for your family:
1. Protect future generations. The average child receives more exposure than an adult to at least eight widely used cancer-causing pesticides in food. (“Children’s diets are different from those of adults. One-year-olds, for instance, eat three times as many fresh peaches, per pound of body weight, as adults, and four times as many apples, bananas and pears. All this means it’s easier for children to ingest relatively large amounts of pesticides.” Consumer Reports, March 1999.) The food choices you make now will affect your child’s health in the future.
2. Prevent soil erosion. The Soil Conservation Service estimates that more than 3 billion tons of topsoil are eroded from U.S. croplands each year. That means soil is eroding seven times faster than it is being built up naturally. As a result, American farms are suffering from the worst soil erosion in history.
3. Protect water quality. Water makes up two-thirds of our body mass and covers three-fourths of the planet. Despite water’s importance, the EPA estimates pesticides – some cancer-causing – contaminate the groundwater in 38 states, polluting the primary source of drinking water for more than half the country’s population.
4. Save energy. American farms have changed drastically in the last three generations, from family-based small businesses dependent on human energy to large-scale factory farms highly dependent on fossil fuels. Modern farming uses more petroleum than any other single industry, consuming 12 percent of the country’s total energy supply.
More energy is now used to produce synthetic fertilizers than to till, cultivate and harvest all the crops in the United States. Organic farming is still mainly based on labor-intensive practices such as weeding by hand and using green manures and crop covers rather than synthetic fertilizers to build up the soil. Organic produce also tends to travel fewer miles from field to table.
5. Keep chemicals off your plate. Many pesticides approved for use by the EPA were registered long before extensive research linking these chemicals to cancer and other diseases had been established. Now the EPA considers that 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides and 30 percent of all insecticides are carcinogenic. A 1987 National Academy of Sciences report estimated that pesticides might cause an extra 1.4 million cancer cases among Americans over their lifetimes. The bottom line is that pesticides are poisons designed to kill living organisms and can also be harmful to humans. In addition to cancer, pesticides are implicated in birth defects, nerve damage and genetic mutation.
6. Protect farm worker health. A National Cancer Institute study found that farmers exposed to herbicides had a six-times greater risk than non-farmers of contracting cancer. In California, reported pesticide poisonings among farm workers have risen an average of 14 percent a year since 1973 and doubled between 1975 and 1985. Field workers suffer the highest rates of occupational illness in the state. Farm worker health also is a serious problem in developing nations, where pesticide use can be poorly regulated. An estimated 1 million people are poisoned annually by pesticides.
7. Help small farmers. Although more and more large-scale farms are making the conversion to organic practices, most organic farms are small, independently owned family farms of less than 100 acres. It’s estimated that the United States has lost more than 650,000 family farms in the past decade.
8. Support a true economy. Although organic foods might seem more expensive than conventional foods, conventional food prices don’t reflect the hidden costs borne by taxpayers, including billions of dollars in federal subsidies. Other hidden costs include pesticide regulation and testing, hazardous waste disposal and cleanup and environmental damage.
9. Promote biodiversity. Monocropping is the practice of planting large plots of land with the same crop year after year. While this approach tripled farm production between 1950 and 1970, the lack of natural diversity of plant life has left the soil lacking in natural minerals and nutrients. To replace the nutrients, chemical fertilizers are used, often in increasing amounts.
Single crops are also much more susceptible to pests, making farmers more reliant on pesticides. Despite a tenfold increase in the use of pesticides between 1947 and 1974, crop losses due to insects have doubled – partly because some insects have become genetically resistant to certain pesticides.
10. Taste better flavor. There’s a good reason why many chefs use organic foods in their recipes – they taste better! Organic farming starts with the nourishment of the soil, which eventually leads to the nourishment of the plant and ultimately of our palates.
© Sylvia R. Tawse
Sylvia R. Tawse is president and founder of The Fresh Ideas Group www.freshideasgroup.com/, a specialist marketing firm filling the gap between the organic industry and the media with meaningful and compelling communications and educational events.