Do you eat organic? I’m pretty health conscious so I try to buy organic food as much as I can. Although it can be hard to justify spending up to four times the amount of money for the ‘same’ product when you have a mortgage and other financial commitments. And even if you were 100% committed to spending the extra money on organic, it isn’t always very accessible.
So is buying organic worth the extra cost and effort? Or is this just another marketing ploy to sell the same things at a higher price? Technology like ph360 and the new ShaeTM are making it easy to get personalized health advice, but the choice to act on it is down to the individual. I, for one, am more likely to act if I know all the facts in the equation.
If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what ‘organic’ even means. I knew that, generally speaking, it’s food without any added chemicals but, passed that, I wasn’t clear on what the whole ‘organic’ thing is about. After all, water is a chemical. Pretty much everything is made up of chemicals. So what makes some chemicals so bad? I figured if I was going to continue to spend more on organic, I’d better educate myself about what exactly that means.
The Naughty Kind of Chemicals
When talking about organic food, the problematic chemicals in this equation are pesticides. Of course you need water to grow crops, but organic food is grown without the use of any kind of pesticides. Water = good chemicals. Pesticides = bad chemicals.
Pesticides used in the agricultural industry are intended to kill, repel or sterilize a pest so that the product being cultivated can grow to maturity unharmed or undamaged. Toxicological and epidemiological research has found numerous exposures to these chemicals to be extremely harmful to human (and animal) health. Therefore, reducing exposure to pesticides can prevent many health problems.
Sales of organic food and beverages have been growing exponentially in recent years as people are becoming more aware of their benefits. Although there are numerous studies that claim that organic produce contains a greater number of beneficial vitamins and minerals, important antioxidant phytochemicals, and ultimately greater health benefits than their non-organic counterparts, one of the most important components is the absence of harmful chemicals in organic food products.
Pesticides and Health
Despite the fact that there are rigorous tests that need to be done before a pesticide is considered legal and safe for consumer use, a European assessment on toxicity found that of the 276 legally marketed active substances in Europe, 32 out of the 76 fungicides, 25 out of the 87 herbicides and 24 out of the 66 insecticides are related to at least one health effect. So that’s 81 out of 229 pesticides that have been proven to be related to health issues, including cancer causing, endocrine disrupting, reproductive and developmental toxicity and acute toxicity!
Europe has since imposed harsher cut-off criteria resulting in the removal of many pesticides proven to be harmful, but the long-term effects of consumption of these pesticides before they were removed from the market is unknown. Similarly, we are unsure of the long-term effects of pesticides currently approved that may not have yet been properly investigated. And although Europe has imposed stricter regulations, there are many countries where harmful pesticides are still in use or products cultivated with such chemicals are imported into countries that have stricter regulations. Furthermore, people are often exposed to residues found on food made from non-organic foods and even drinking water and the true extent to which the cumulative effects of exposure affects human and environmental health is not yet known.
Are We All Doomed?
This sounds like a pretty scary situation. If you think about it, unless you grew it yourself, you really have no way of knowing exactly where your food has come from and how it was made. Do I think we’re doomed though? No I don’t.
There has already been a rise in demand for organic produce and the public are getting more and more vocal about greater transparency about what is in our food and where it has come from. As a people we may have veered a little off track when it comes to food and health but programs like ph360 make it easier to know what’s right for you as an individual, and new tech like ShaeTM puts the power to do something about it in the palm of your hand.
My concerns about what kind of food I’m eating are personal to me and my health. But there is a much bigger picture here also. The state of world health can be changed and the way to do it is to empower the individual. People are already starting to stand up and take a more considered approach to what they put into their bodies. We are educating ourselves. We are speaking up. We are demanding better health – not just for us, but for the whole world.