Protein Quality, Fewer Toxins, & Better for the Environment
Are Organic Foods Worth the Extra Cost?
Organic food and farming methods are gaining appreciation, not just in the United States, but around the world. Since the early 1990s, people have begun appreciating the concept of organic farming. In fact, most people are aware on some level that eating conventionally grown food may expose them to a number of harmful synthetic chemicals, antibiotics and hormones. However, there’s not a lot of data on the true impact a lot of these chemicals, by themselves or in combination, have on human health, especially low exposures over long periods of time. In fact, organic farming is increasing rapidly in many industrialized countries because consumers are becoming more aware of potential dangers associated with conventional methods and realizing there are options; there are foods available that aren’t loaded with poison pesticides. Some people feel that eating organic is too expensive, but when you look at the long-term cost of choosing foods with residues of potentially harmful pesticides to eat and feed to your family, the often higher price tag may seem less so. If I asked you if organic food is really worth the extra cost. What would your answer be? My answer would be a definite yes and I hope that the information I share will encourage others to see this slight increase in price is easily worth it.
The Haughly Experiment
The quality of the protein we consume is of utmost importance. As shown by one of the largest studies on organic food, The Haughley Experiment.1,2 This study found that cows fed organic produce ate less but consistently produced more milk. Some feel this is due to the quality of protein, in the grass the cows consumed, and I would be inclined to agree. Protein is dependent on the broad range of amino acids that make up its composition. Plant proteins may or may not contain certain amino acids that are essential for human and animal nutrition, this is why they are considered incomplete proteins.
Protein Quality Dependent Upon Soil Micro-Organisms
But what also largely affects whether they do contain many of these essential amino acids or the amount of each individual amino acid is the soil conditions in which the plant is grown. Plants are immensely dependent upon minerals, trace minerals and trace elements. The availability of these minerals and elements is dependent upon micro-organisms in the soil.3 In conventionally farmed soils, these essential micro-organisms are depleted by as much as 85%.4 This is usually as a result from the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. On the other hand, organically farmed soils have been shown have a more diverse soil microbiome than soils of conventional farming methods.5 Therefore, plants grown in depleted soils will be inferior in protein composition and nutrients.
An Indisputable Fact
Many may disagree with me about the nutrient value of organically grown plants since there are studies showing no significant difference between organic crops and non-organic. But there is one thing that is indisputable, even under scientific scrutiny, organically grown foods should be free of nearly all chemical residues that are present on commercial farms. I say “nearly all” because we are now at a point when even truly organic foods come into contact with chemicals from irrigated water and the air, so it’s almost impossible to say that they’re 100% free of chemicals.6 But, the fact that organic foods contain only at most trace amounts of chemicals, alone makes them worth the extra time and money.
Organic Food Critics
Yet, there are many critics of organic foods that say they are not worth the extra money. What’s more shocking is when these statements come from individuals with industry credentials, whom we (the public) tend to trust. Manfred Kroger, Ph.D the Professor of Food Services at Pennsylvania State University, yep PSU, has stated:6
“Scientific agriculture has provided Americans with the safest and most abundant food supply in the world. Agricultural chemicals are needed to maintain this supply. The risk from pesticide residue, if any, is minuscule, is not worth worrying about, and does not warrant paying higher prices.”
First off, if it was true that scientific agriculture provides the safest food supply and that there is no risk from pesticide residue, why is there so much research proving otherwise? And there is a lot of research, take for example the detrimental health affects of just one pesticide, glyphosate.
Glyphosate Is Not Safe
Glyphosate is the a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide, found in the popular weed/grass killer round-up, and is most widely used herbicide in the world. It has been implicated with numerous chronic diseases like lymphohematopoietic cancers, which include Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and leukemia.7 Due to these associations and many others the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) re-classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”8 There are numerous other chronic diseases that Glyphosate has been associated with that I’m not going to cover here but have in a previous article. Although it is the number one pesticide applied over the world it is just one of the nearly countless number of pesticides used today.
Other Pesticides are Not Better
All of which have been found to have negative health consequences or at the very least no beneficial health affects for humans. For example, research has revealed that Vinclozolin could have the following potential effects: carcinogenic, genetic, endocrine and reproductive disruptor, and dermatitis.9,10,11 If you’re are interested in even more proof that our modern agriculture model needs to be rethought and remodeled you can check out a review article, published in July 2016 by the journal Frontiers in Public Health, titled “Chemical Pesticides and Human Health: The Urgent Need for a New Concept of Agriculture.”12
Better For the Environment
Organic Farming Increases Soil Richness
Lastly, from the soil up organic farming methods are better for our environment. Organic farming as pointed out earlier in this article increases the diversity in the soil microbiota, let’s call this increased richness. This increased richness is important, here’s why and some soil fun facts:13
- Scientists have identified approximately 1 percent of the microorganism species living in the soil and the soil is home to over 25 percent of all species living on earth.
- Over the area of a football field, microorganisms in the soil produce organic matter equivalent to the weight of 25 cars every year.
- Organisms found in the soils microbiota aerate the soil, allow water to permeate, provide nutrients to plants and store carbon, which affects the global climate system.
- Rich soil biodiversity is better able to withstand and control pests as it contains a range of predator species and nutrients; the greater the diversity the better the capacity to obstruct pest development.
- A meta-analysis (review of studies) of over 250 studies found that organic farming increased species richness in the soil by 30 percent, and this number has been consistent over the past 30 years of study.14
“Organic” Foods Have Been Around much Longer Than “Modern” Foods Have
All this research is great to consider, but isn’t it odd that we survived thousands of years on organically grown foods? Not that they were even classified as such since there was no need for the term before “modern” advances (chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides). These are and have been destroying our soils, which results in degradation of plants, animals, and ultimately you and me.
Fact of the Week
DDT, is a pesticide and its uncontrolled use has raised many environmental and human health issues.15
DDT or Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane is the most widely known Organochlorine pesticide. This general class of organochlorine pesticides has been associated with undesirable health effects, such as endocrine disorders, effects on embryonic development, lipid metabolism, and hematological and hepatic alterations. There are few countries that still use DDT or plan to reintroduce it for public health purposes.15