Probably by now, you can guess that I am a bit neurotic. Ever since I discovered all these facts about GMO foods, I went on this journey of discovering what the heck is in my food research. Naturally, I ended up diving into the topic of organic vs non-organic foods. Yes, I must get this learning out of my system because I am neurotic but also because I think it is very important to know what has been going on in our food chain and how those changes are impacting our body and health.
Let’s start with the first question that got me (the healthy foods newbie) curios: aren’t all foods organic?
After reading many blogs, Wikipedia pages and books after books, I am now more informed about the topic of organic foods. Just as when I thought I am quite informed about organic foods, I came across an article talking about the concept of irradiated foods and the impact to human body. Let just say that it scared me and I promptly dumped all my non-organic spies in the garbage bag and replace them with organic spices.
Never stop learning! Organic, GMO, irradiated food! These terms can be confusing for anyone. I was clueless when I first came across these terms, but with lot of patience and research, I am now more informed and I can make better choice for my health in regard to food consumption. So let’s talk about organic food. What is organic food? Well, organic farming refers to how the foods are grew and processed. Organic farming eliminates:
- The use of man-made fertilisers (aka: chemical fertilisers)
- Hormones and livestock feed additives
- Irradiation – this is a serious and very scary thing for your body and health
- Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) products
Some of the farming techniques that an average organic farmer may use to differentiate from modern farming techniques are:
- Rotating the crops to balance nutrients in the soil, as well as discourage pests
- Composting and using “green” manures to add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil, keep weeds down and prevent drought and soil erosion
- Using beneficial insects or mechanical and manual methods to control pests and weeds
- Ensuring their animals has access to the outdoors: fresh air, sun and access to pasture are essential for animals’ health, and it’s the right thing to do!”
Each country has their certification process and requirements. In Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA, a government agency) administers the organic certification system by setting standard and regulations that applied to both domestic and imported food. In order to be certified organic farmers or food producers, one must list of requirements. I read the list. I did and it did not make my must reading list because it is downright boring. It is an important document which I believe everyone should be aware of but why do they have to make important information so boring and difficult to read. Do they purposely don’t want us to read the important finding/information. Yes, I digress again.
So, why does this matter?
Well, conventional produces are generally sprayed with pesticides. It is important to make note that the same pesticide also use to kill pests. Now, do you see why I freaked out a little? These foods were sprayed with the same chemical used to kill animals? If these chemicals can kill living animals, what will they do to my body? Wait a minute! Don’t CFIA inspect this? Won’t government food watch dog stop food producers selling harmful food on the markets? Isn’t that their jobs? It turned out, CFIA will allow some level of chemical in foods if they deem it is at ‘safe” level. Ah huh!
What is the safe level and who decide what is safe and unsafe?
Even it is at the “safe” level, what are the consequences to human body of eating the “safe” level of pesticide for 10, 20 or even 30 years? Would it still be safe level then? Just because it is safe for 1 time consumption, it doesn’t mean that it will still be safe for 100 consumption’s and for many years. And that is the information that CFIA and no other food watch dog agencies talk about.
I confess, I am nut about strawberries. There is something about the sweet and slightly tang juicy strawberry that always got me every time. Well, until I learn that non-organic strawberries are sprayed with as much as 20 pesticides because insects love strawberry. The insect are not dumb and have great taste bud. Say what? 20 pesticides. So I am putting 20 different insect killing chemicals into my body every time I bit into a strawberry. Well, this thought stopped me from reaching for the tempting box of strawberry.
Should I only eat organic foods?
Well, there is no right or wrong answer. It is an individual choice and it depends largely on the personal’s affordability and believes. Let’s face it! Organic foods are more expensive compared to non-organic foods because the organic produces cost more to produce due to the exclusion of chemical spray. Chemical spray is harmful but it kills insects that destroy the crops. Secondly, organic farmers are at the mercy of Mother Nature. If she feels generous and gives us good weather, the farmers will have good organic harvest. If Mother Nature is pissed off (well, we are destroying her with pollution) and has bad weather, the farmers will not make much. Lastly, the cost of turning a piece of land into organic land is very expensive.
It takes years to clean the soil of the chemical and the process is intensive. During this time, the organic farmer’s crops cannot be labeled as organic (which can be sold at higher price) but they can’t spray the crops to produce higher yield to make up for the loss of their margin, so they typically have to absorb the loss of revenue for those years in waiting. So, I have a lot of respect for organic farmers because they truly believe and love what they do.
After learning these facts about organic and non-organic as well the GMO foods, I have made drastic changes in my food choices and so have Karen. She was in panic for weeks after learning the facts about non-organic strawberry. The little monster (my niece) is crazy about the berries and Karen used to feed her a lot non-organic strawberry. Karen is an obsessive and overbearing mother who insists in having a balance diet for the love of her life, my little monster. So, she meticulously ensures the little monster has 3 servings of fruit per day not knowing that the berries could be harmful if consume too much.
Now, about 75% of our family foods are non-GMO and organics. We do cut corner with foods that are not on the “Dirty Dozen” list and on “Clean 15”. Dirty Dozen is a list of produces that have the highest amount of pesticides and other chemicals residuals. Conversely, there is a list of Clean 15, which is a list of least sprayed foods. So, we buy all foods on “Dirty Dozen” in organics and buy non-organics “Clean 15” foods. Get it? Below is the 2018 Dirty Dozen and Clean 15.
|Dirt dozen (2018)||Clean 15 (2018)|
|Peaches||Sweet peas frozen|
|Sweet Bell Pepper||Kiwi|
Just a side note, a small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid genetically modified produce. Now, I will shamelessly promote organic foods because I love the organic food’s taste. Yes, once you go organic, you won’t go back. I was converted to organic food by a peach. Yes, it is a true story and yes, I am not ashamed to admit it.
A while back, Karen dragged me to this farmer market in the heart of Toronto because she heard that it was a great place to kids to play. It is called Evergreen Brick farmer market, a former a brick factory that later converted into a farmer market and event venue. A gorgeous and fun place for people to enjoy nature and foods with your family. We stopped by this farmer stall and she offered me a piece of peach. She told me it was a golden peach. I took a bite and I was a goner. Man! I never tasted something so juicy, plum, sweet, soft, insanely aromatic and just plain delicious and ended up buying a whole tray of peaches and ate them as desert of the week. This was in peach heaven, I tell ya. They got me at peach!
Now, I don’t buy into this concept that all organic foods are healthy. I believe that there are same amount of nutrients and minerals in both organic and non-organic, but I do believe there are negative impact to human body when one consistently consumer foods that have high level of chemical residual over a long period of time. There is research to show how much and what type of damage to human body after consuming non-organic foods with high content of chemical sprays after a long period of time. There is a really graphic video on YouTube showing the effect of non-organic foods do to lab rats after long exposure. I can’t bring myself to include the video link because it is really gross and graphic.
How can you tell organic vs non organic foods? Easy, there are labels to let you know:
Does this mean I should eat only organic foods because they will have no pesticides? Sadly, the answer is no. Similar to the issue that non GMO farmers face, the organic farmers have no way to control and purified the water seeping into their farms or stop the process of pollination when their next door neighbors grow non-organic produces. Thus, there is no food is 100% organic in North America, unless all farmers become organic farmers and decide not to use chemical pesticides. But I do believe that by eating more organic foods I effectively reduce the amount of potentially harmful that body consumer. This will in turn lowering my risk of having health issues.
Just to be fair, non-organic foods are not always bad. There are reasons for farmers to use spray:
- Increase crop yield
- Increase shell life so produces can last longer
All these help to lower the cost of food and ensure that less people will go hungry to affordability. Sadly, we live in a world that trade-off is a constant and sometime the cost of trade can be high. Recently there is a trend to labeled foods as “natural”. I have found no conclusive research to indicate that there is no such thing can be called “natural” foods. There is no regulation on what is natural and what is not, it is just marketing.
So, my final word on this subject is: do your research. It is your body so you should invest time and effort into research and make the right choice for you and your family. If you want to avoid or limit potentially dangerous chemicals, non-GMO, irradiated foods from going into your body, then you have some tough choices to make. Can’t wait to hear about your food choice, please write to me.