How important is organic?

by on 09/01/2013

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In this world full of chemicals and pollutants, no-one can say ‘I always avoid chemicals’. It just isn’t possible always to be 100% organic. Even plastic containers leak a few molecules into the food contents. Store them for weeks or months – and it’s more than a few molecules.

You could go and live on a desert island with no manufactured food at all! But even then you’d get the airborne pollution from the outside world.

In the circumstances, all you can do is ‘the best you can’. Eat organic fresh fruit and vegetables – as much as you can. Avoid chemical additives – as much as you can. Get in some exercise and some relaxation every day – as often as you can.

What kills you?

What kills most people off (remember, most people die of cancer and heart disease) is NOT what you inherit; it’s what your habits are 90% of the time! Your genes are involved, of course; but for most people, bad habits are what lead to cancer and heart disease. And ‘organic’ is one good habit to get into.

A day or two without exercise won’t kill you. The week with no fresh fruit won’t drag you under. The month when you are under extra stress won’t do it either.

There are exceptions to the general health rules, of course – the occasional centenarian who has smoked for 50 years, and has never looked a vegetable in the face, for example. But you cannot rely on being one of these!

Having poor health habits 90% of the time probably WILL kill you! It may take a long time – but it is very, very likely to catch up with you sooner or later. So – do get into the organic habit if you can. It WILL help.

Organic helps

This is the backdrop against which you must view ‘organic’ food. It won’t guarantee you will live longer – or healthier; but it’s definitely one step in the right direction.

Go for it!

Why? In the short term; you will avoid eating some of the residues contained in foods grown with chemical fertilizers. In general, fewer chemicals found in organic food means less chance of cancer.

In the long term; you are reducing the chemicals which run off farmers’ land and into the water table. This runs into rivers and the sea, and comes back to us in drinking water and in fish we may eat. Again, fewer chemicals means less cancer – for ourselves and our children’s children.

Is all organic food good?

Of course, manufacturers and producers have caught on to the trend towards organic – and are trying to bend the rules. For example, they can go to the places in the world where the organic standards are lowest, and produce food there! Tut tut!

That is life – that is manufacturing! After all, there are over 700 bodies in the world certifying organic standards; some of them must set easier standards than others.

In the UK, the Soil Association and Demeter are two examples of organisations setting stringent standards.

Practically, standards are bound to improve generally. For now, just accept that most organically labelled food is better than most non-organic food.

How much is the organic market growing?

In the UK, 70 new organic products were launched on the market in the last half of 1999 (Marketing Week). Sales of organic food now exceed £1.2bn in the UK; hence the supermarkets and others are jumping on this one food area where growth is rapid, and price resistance is low.

The success of organic manufacturing depends on being able to find enough ingredients of the right quality. Then, prices reduce as economies of scale kick in.

Organic boxes

In the UK, ‘organic boxes’ are becoming more and more popular. Under these schemes, you buy either your choice of organic produce, or take ‘pot luck’ and get a box of whatever is in season. The downside – do you really want four swedes?

Seriously though – many people benefit from these schemes. (And I like swede – just not 4 in a week…)

Some of the box systems in the UK can be found at:

Able & Cole

Riverford organic farms

Government subsidies for organic

Governments are starting to subsidise organic farming more as they accept the health benefits – and the fact that so many people really want organic food. This has the advantage of bringing down the price of organic food. However, it also means that it will attract suppliers whose efforts to maximise profits will reduce the quality of the organic food on offer. This is inevitable.

Are there dangers to organic food?

There have been some scares about organic food – especially, it seems, as the non-organic movement fight back against what they see as a growing threat.

For example, a scientist from the Scottish Crop Institute claimed that organic foods were riskier because their reliance on manure meant that E Coli and other infections were more likely.

The Soil Association, who certify organic crops, said the claims were ‘ridiculous’, and that they had ‘anticipated a backlash’ against organic foods. Rigorous standards are applied to organic crops which dictate when manure is allowed to be applied to the land, so that it is perfectly safe by harvest time.

In fact, there is probably more chance of a problem from the slurry permitted to be sprayed onto non-organic crops, which is less regulated.

Summary

So – is it good to ‘go for organic’? YES

Will organic food make you healthy if the rest of your diet is chips and steak? NO!

Is organic food one more thing which, used consistently, will help you to get healthy and stay healthy? DEFINITELY.

Use organic food wherever you can. Where there is a huge price premium – you may choose to go for non-organic. But wherever you can – choose organic for health.

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