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Nutrition Articles  ›  Healthy Habits

Why Go Organic?

Healthy Body, Healthy Planet

-- By Leanne Beattie, Health & Fitness Writer
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The Importance of Healthy Soil
Farmers began using chemical fertilizers and pesticides around 50 years ago in order to boost crop yields. Over time, insects, weeds and plant diseases have developed resistance to these pesticides, which has prompted the development of stronger pesticides and the need for multiple applications during the growing cycle. Despite the tremendous increase in the use of pesticides since 1950, the percentage of crop volume lost to pests has remained about the same.

A study conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute shows that 40 percent of the world’s agricultural soil is seriously depleted due to erosion (a result of planting the same crop over and over again), nutrient depletion (due to the use of chemical fertilizers) and salinization (the build-up of salt in the soil due to excessive irrigation).

The good news is that organic farming methods, such as rotating crops, using compost or manure instead of chemical fertilizers, and careful water use can reverse this damage and rebuild healthy soil.

7 Reasons to buy Organic
When it comes to your health—and the planet's—here are the top seven reasons why you might want to purchase organic foods whenever possible:
  1. Protect the health of children. Children are exposed to four times the level of pesticides in food than adults. Pesticides affect children more profoundly due to their higher metabolisms and smaller body mass.
     
  2. Look after your own health. Several pesticides that are banned in the U.S. and Canada are used on foreign crops and shipped here for consumers to buy.
     
  3. Safeguard the health of farm workers. Studies have shown that conventional farmers have six times the cancer risk of non-farmers. Because fertilizers and chemicals are often distributed by air, farm workers can be exposed to large quantities of chemicals without protection.
     
  4. Preserve the soil. Over three billion tons of topsoil are lost each year in the United States and Canada due to erosion caused by conventional farming methods.
     
  5. Protect the water. Pesticides are known to contaminate groundwater, which affects the drinking water supply in most of the United States and Canada. If pesticide-contaminated water reaches lakes, rivers and other bodies of water, it allows the rapid growth of algae and suffocates the natural aquatic plants and animals.
     
  6. Conserve resources. Conventional farming uses a vast amount of petroleum-based herbicides to kill weeds, while organic farming uses labor-intensive practices such as weeding by hand.
     
  7. Fight global warming. Petroleum-based fertilizers give plants the nitrogen they need for rapid growth, but these nitrogen compounds can enter the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.
Thoroughly washing conventional produce and trimming away edible peels will help minimize any chemical residue while still retaining a high level of nutrients.  If organic foods don't fit into your budget or lifestyle, try not to worry. Most health authorities report that the health benefits that come from eating fruits and vegetables outweigh the concerns of pesticide use. Whether you select organic or conventionally grown produce, eating five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables each day is still the healthiest way to get the vitamins, minerals and fiber you need as a preventive health measure.
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • Certain pesticides, like Sevin Dust, are more hazardous to the environment than the CO2 or Nitrogen, which is already abundant in our environment. Also, some fertilizer companies are already reducing the amount of Nitrogen in their composition because it evaporates very quickly. Are you aware that the earth's atmosphere is 78% Nitrogen making it the most abundant gas on our planet? Are you aware that CO2 is used by plants for photosynthesis!? Regardless, the best source to get the Nitrogen into the soil is by plant decomposition and tilling decaying plant material back into the earth. Additives and pesticides are very expensive and hurts the farmer's bottom line, so they actually use less than you think.

    Also, the actual volume usage of pesticides on organic farms is not recorded by the government? Yes, they do use pesticides! Rotenone is a common pesticide used in organic farms which attacks the mitochondria of cells and it has been linked to Parkinson Disease!

    Sevin Dust, as many other pesticides, is far more dangerous to our environment because it kills pollinating insects such as bees, and yet it is widely used by home owners. The bee population is quickly diminishing and in many cases, it is the home owners' fault!

    Rather than writing my own article in this comment section... let me just say that I prefer purchasing local produce. As for my garden, I prefer natural methods of gardening, making my own compost (adding things like egg shells are great for adding calcium to tomato plants), and using beneficial insects such as lady bugs.

    Always do your own research. I learned a lot from Virginia Tech Master Gardeners. Here is another place that you may want to start...

    http://blogs.sc
    ientificameri
    can.com/scien
    ce-sushi/2011
    /07/18/mythbu
    sting-101-org
    anic-farming-
    conventional-agriculture/
    - 5/27/2014 7:34:03 AM
  • We here in north Queensland have the wonderful access to the Farmers Market where there is a lot of locally grown foods, we, here at home grow a lot of our own veggies, our family combined share what we grow so a lot of what I consume is fresh. - 8/31/2013 1:37:54 AM
  • Great article. I am just goibg for health food to help me. - 8/11/2013 4:26:05 PM
  • ETHELMERZ
    If everyone ate only organic, there would not be enough land in the world to supply the food for them, think about the reality of that, people. Quit living a fantasy dream life. You are lucky many are eating fresh vegetables and fruits just the way they are. To supply all the people on earth with Organic food is ridiculous, stop the nagging about it. - 6/21/2013 9:53:57 PM
  • Great article!!! I have three grandchildren and I have been told they have the opportunity to live well into their nineties and my littlest could hit 110 years old. I only hope that somehow miraculously there will be clean water, wholesome food and an environment to exercise in without face masks or oxygen hits. Eating organic is one great way to support reversal of our food systems and encourage moving in these directions. Keep healthy, eat well and always be grate-full!!!! - 2/18/2013 4:26:20 AM
  • AMANDA_YVONNE
    I think the biggest reason to buy organic is to avoid genetically modified food, but that's just my 2 cents... - 1/17/2013 11:50:31 AM
  • I can't go to do grocery; but sometime my children brings organic foods and they don't know if organic foods. The best things is growing our own food. - 10/26/2012 4:55:23 PM
  • FLOWERSFORIRIS
    P.S. Check out the history of DDT if you want to get a good idea of our track record on "safety" in our food supply. There are old commercials for DDT that show children being sprayed to demonstrate how harmless it is, and now we know that it is extremely harmful to the environment. Just use common sense! If it stinks and gives you a migraine, don't spray it on something you are going to eat (and for God sakes, don't spray the kids!). - 8/1/2012 5:10:14 AM
  • FLOWERSFORIRIS
    This is a response to NWORKENTINE (see below). Your comment left me uneasy for many reasons, one of them being that this website is viewed by so many people looking for good information on what they should be eating. I have a degree in environmental science and I have been growing my own produce in my garden since I was about ten or so. Knowing my background, of course you will say, "Well, she's just a treehugger supporting expensive farming methods that benefit no one!" The truth is that if you take a supermarket tomato that has been flown from who knows which country and compare it to a sun-ripened tomato that has just been picked from your organic vegetable garden, you will undoubtedly find that the organic one tastes 100% better than the supermarket tomato. Scientists have studied lycopene and other phytochemicals and most reputable ones have come to the conclusion that we don't know as much about whole foods as we thought we knew. There are so many other important phytochemicals that we have not even touched, and you are basically saying that the soil our food grows in does not matter??? I say it does. Organic farming is good for everyone; I really don't see how you can possibly support your argument. I am not trying to start a fight; I am just curious to see where you get your information. - 8/1/2012 5:04:52 AM
  • It's all about petro chemicals versus a healthy, organic, natural soil. It's your choice. Choose cancer or live cancer-free. Looks to me like cancer rates have shot sky-high since farmers started using chemical fertilizers. We were far better off in the 1950s when small farmers grew their own crops for their neighbors, when their chickens ran free in the yard, and without all those chemicals leeching all the nutrients out of the soil. The taste of organic beef is highly superior to that of antibiotic-laced meat. - 7/31/2012 9:31:26 AM
  • We need to fight for our right to buy healthy foods!!! Keep buying organic, think of the benefits and how America's processed foods have taken over our children's diets. These companies reap ALL the benefits, while hurting us. The more we buy and demand, these Monetary Monsters will have to label our products correctly and give in to a healthier way!!! - 7/10/2012 8:52:54 AM
  • NWORKENTINE
    This article really discredits this website. I tell people that eating organic is a personal choice. There is insufficient evidence to say either way that organic foods are better for you, better tasting or better for the environment. There is plenty of research to say it does none of those and there is some research that says it does do those. It's unfortunate the the author uses a study that is nearly 20 years old - that is significantly outdated.
    Current research shows that all non-organic fruits and vegetables fall within the FDA's safe levels of pesticide and other chemical residue. In fact, with the current washing techniques, the chemical residue is well below the upper safe limit. Organic produce only improves this slightly, but it still contains chemical residue. Taste is purely suggestive, and most people even prefer the taste of non-organic food.
    Coming from the corn-belt and knowing very well the processes that are required to be able to sustain the soil after decades of use, you cannot rely on mother earth alone to be able to maintain the soil's fertility levels. Even then, current farming techniques have been shown to have minimal, if any, effect on the environment.

    Like I said, it is unfortunate that this article taints the credibility of SparkPeople. I constantly check articles that are written against current published research, and so far this website has been great. I felt comfortable recommending people to this website until now. - 6/26/2012 9:26:15 AM
  • The organic movement should be about sustainability. They way big ag is going now, we will be out of functional/health
    y farm land. Watch or read Food Inc. - 5/2/2012 7:22:58 PM
  • I personally am not entirely into the organic movement but I do believe that the pesticides have harmful side-effects of which we are not completely aware. I do however spend a little extra each month to buy some organic produce and grass-fed meats. My children can taste the difference in the produce and my oldest does not get intestinal distress when she she eats grass-fed beef as opposed to grain-fed beef. I have even noticed that one of my recipes seems less acidic when I use organic items when making it.

    As for depleting soil nutrients, crop rotation is the key to making sure that soil isn't entirely depleted of its nutrients. Some farmers even plant specific crops that are then tilled back into the soil to increase the nutrients in the soil. Most GOOD farmers practice crop rotation whether they are conventional or organic. - 12/5/2011 1:04:07 PM
  • From what I have read the benefits of organic are relatively minor from a health and nutritional standpoint. A one or two percent difference is hardly worth the price and there are no acknowledged studies I have ever read that says "conventional" farming has ill health effects. Any intensive land use; organic or conventional; will deplete the soil over time without supplimental fertilizing
    Organic farming does have the benefits of helping keep the soils the crops are grown in healthier from the return of available (composted) nutrients to the soil. That may be for some a sufficient reason to focus on organic products. - 9/27/2011 1:51:28 PM