Organic Foods: Overrated or Underappreciated?
Part I of a trilogy by guest blogger Ana Arena
“Why buy organic? Is the extra 20 cents per pound really worth it?” Those are two hot button questions on the mind of consumers everywhere, including many health-conscious athletes who eat a lot of food and depend on their healthy bodies to reach their goals. They see their bodies as their sports car, and want to treat them accordingly.
This blog will be the first in a trilogy that investigates those questions. The second blog will explore the pros and cons of organics using the information that is available to us, and the third blog will discuss the role the food industry plays in all of this.
Lately the U.S. government and scientists worldwide have spent a good deal of resources looking into why organics hold a place in our food habits. There is admittedly a very small amount of research on the toxicity of the chemicals that are found in commonplace pesticides, and ultimately in conventional produce. The USDA states that more research is needed to provide an understanding of the fate and effects of agrochemicals, beginning at the molecular level and extending to global health.
Basically, we need to understand the relationship between pesticides and life-long health. The use of pesticides and human, animal, and pest illnesses appear to follow the same lines on a graph—both have increased over the past two decades. The bigger issue, perhaps, is that pesticides are no longer the only puzzle to solve. With the advent of Monsanto, it is now possible to purchase the seeds of “transgenic pesticidal plants.” Translation: genetically modified seeds that develop into inherently pest-fighting plants. These plants are also able to resist any damage incurred when they come in contact with herbicides that are sprayed to kill invading weeds (like using Roundup to rid your yard of poison ivy). The trouble is that current research suggests that these very plants may also prove resistant to common antibiotics. When humans eat these plants, will we be at higher risk for antibiotic resistance? Does that mean you, the consumer, will potentially be at a greater risk for an illness that cannot be treated?
You may be thinking that it is just as likely that pesticides are benign substances that have contributed greatly to an increased food supply over the past several decades. In all honesty, this could be the case. The greater issue is to spark the conversation and curiosity that will lead to legislative pressure and, ultimately, quantitative research.
A closing thought to leave you with: As the consumer, you drive the market. You are part of a collective society that is supplied only with the quality of commodities that it demands. If you can cause Wal-Mart to stop carrying hormone treated milk (which it did), and Mars to stop putting blue dye in their M&Ms (which they will be doing), imagine what other battles you are capable of winning. Vote with your dollars and settle for nothing short of high quality, nutrient rich food sources that support local farmers. We don’t want them to have to sell their farms for house lots!
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Guest blogger and Simmons College student Ana Arena is majoring in nutrition with double-minors in biology and chemistry.