Why Eat Organic?
Government figures suggest that up to a quarter of the foods we eat may contain detectable pesticide residues, and that around one in 100 foods contain more than the legally allowable level. Pesticides are contributed by many other foods in the daily diet, and the potential effects of repeated exposure even to small amounts of a wide variety of chemicals are not known. One report in the U.S journal nature showed that combinations of two or three common pesticides at the low levels that we commonly find in the environment and on our foods are up to 1,600 times as powerful as the individual chemical on their own.
What does organic mean?
Organic farmers believe that healthy food comes from a healthy soil. They work to build up long-term fertility in their soils in several ways: by recycling plant and animal wastes onto their land, by carefully monitoring and balancing soil minerals, applying seaweed or rock powders as necessary, by crop rotation and by increasing microbial life in the soil through minimal ploughing and using ground cover crops.
Organic farmers also create more wildlife habitats as a control for crop pests by planting, rather than removing trees and hedges, and digging, rather than draining, ponds and water meadows. Artificial fertilisers, pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics and feed additives are prohibited.
What are the benefits for me?
Safety – when you eat organic food you avoid a great deal of residues that may come from chemical fertilisers commonly used to promote growth and appearance of crops, and chemical pesticides used to protect them. No food produced in Britain can be guaranteed completely chemical-free as ground water and the atmosphere are heavily polluted.
You do avoid eating chemical additives that are commonly used in the processing and storage of our food. You also avoid any potential threat posed by genetically engineered foods and irradiated produce. Pesticides are designed to kill living organisms. They kill useful insects such as ladybirds and bees. Many of them work by poisoning the nervous system; this can affect humans too. Although all pesticides are tested by MAFF, many used today were approved when standards were comparatively lax. Current testing does not adequately investigate the long-term effect of low doses or the cocktail effect of mixtures of agrochernicals.
Organically grown foods are higher in nutrients, and usually taste nicer especially meat, vegetables and dried fruit. Environmentally eating organic food:
Is better for our water supply – agrochemicals from farmland are building up in our rivers and underground water reserves. Organic farming protects our health through avoiding this pollution.
Is better for the land – many farmers change to organic methods because they find that intensive farming methods are destroying their land. The soil becomes sterile and vulnerable to erosion.
Is better for the future – organic farming by maintaining, rather than depleting soil fertility, will ensure that our children inherit healthy, fertile farmland to provide them with healthy food.
Why does organic food cost more? Or does it?
On average organically grown food does cost about 20% more to buy. This is for several reasons. Firstly, organic farms tend to be smaller, and rely on crop diversity as well as crop rotation to maintain fertility. It is not economic to use large, specialised machinery for harvesting and packing. More labour and less machinery means increased cost. After harvesting, conventional farmers tend to rely on chemicals to control pests and moulds. Organic farmers put their produce into cold store, which is less reliable and costs more. Organic food distribution, because of the small volumes involved, fails to benefit from the economy of scale of conventional food distribution.
However, these are just the short-term costs. The overproduction by conventional farming is heavily subsidised Taking into account all the hidden costs of producing conventional food, including the massive cost of cleaning up environmental pollution, and the cost to future health, organic food viewed over the long term, can be seen as a cheaper option.
‘If we want to safeguard our health and that of our children, then we need to eat organic food.’
How can I be sure it is organic?
Organic food is protected by law, it is an offence to market a food as organic that has not passed a rigorous series of inspections from the farm to the shop, and received full certification from a recognised organisation. Look for the Soil Association symbol.
PLASTICS AND PESTICIDES AND THE THREAT TO HEALTH AND FERTILITY
Organochlorines (DDT, PCBs, Dioxins, Pthalates, etc.) and other man made chemicals concentrate in the food chain and are deposited in our bodies. They cannot be broken down and appear to act in a similar way to our own sex hormones. This has implications to normal human physiology. Fertility in both men and women may be particularly sensitive to this hormonal pollution. We cannot avoid these chemicals but we can lower our exposure to some degree. This is probably of greater importance in people who have not yet had children.
The best way is to avoid eating fat, even from organically raised animals. Although low-fat diets are in vogue, food is meant to be eaten whole and we need good quality fats. However, the safest advice appears to be very lean meat, low fat dairy products and the avoidance of farmed fish. Fish oils, fish liver oils, kelp and spirulina / chlorella / algae products should be avoided unless the manufacturer can give a declaration of no detectable toxins.
Avoid wood preservatives, fly sprays, mosquito repellents, flea collars, flame-retardants and stain repellants, especially if contemplating having children.
Our Stolen Future by Theo Colbom
Pesticides Posing Hazards to Reproduction published by WWF
LIST OF ORGANIC PRODUCE SUPPLIERS
Organics Direct tel. 0171 729 2828
Choice Organics tel. 0171 942 1744
Planet Organic tel. 0171 221 7171
The Village Bakery tel. 01768 381515
A comprehensive list of country-wide suppliers can be obtained from the Soil Association, tel. 0117 929 0661
Protecting Against Pollution
Your profile shows a risk from toxic substances in the environment. Toxins mostly minerals (lead, mercury, cadmium etc) – are in the air, the soil and food. Over the past 100 years, their levels have risen sharply, and could well be overloading the body’s capacity to eliminate them.
Action to Avoid
- Wash all fruit and vegetables (with a tablespoon of vinegar added to water)
- Remove outer leaves of vegetables.
- Wrap food with grease-proof paper instead of aluminium foil
- Avoid tinned goods, which may be contaminated with aluminium or lead.
- Avoid copper or aluminium cookware.
- Avoid refined foods, which lack toxin-fighting nutrients
- Avoid copper or aluminium cookware.
- Check if water pipes are made of lead or copper. In pre-1940 houses, they usually are! If so… don’t use water softener (soft water dissolves lead more easily)
- Do not drink or cook with hot tap water
- Use a water filter or drink spring water
- Wash hands before eating.
- Cut down alcohol which increases lead absorption
- Avoid antacids, which contain aluminium salts.
- Make sure small children don’t chew on paintwork
- Avoid busy roads where possible (exhaust fumes contain lead)
CHEMICALS IN THE HOME
It is the job of your immune system and liver to deal with all foreign, abnormal or toxic substances in the body. In order to reduce stress on your immune system and liver, it is important to reduce the number of chemicals you are exposed to, as much as possible.
The majority of strong-smelling or highly perfumed products listed below fall into this category:
- Dry cleaning fumes
- Harsh soap powders and detergents (try Ecover or Surcare)
- Air fresheners
- “Shake and Vac” type products
- Fabric conditioners (try Surcare or Ecover)
- Household sprays
- Cosmetic aerosols e.g. deodorants, hairspray
- Nail varnish remover
- Strong smelling polishes, toilet cleaners, carpet cleaners, etc.
- Aerosols for cleaning shoes
- Perfume and after-shave
- Perfumed soap (try Simple)
- Shampoo (try Haar Sana)
Also try to limit exposure to fumes (exhaust, gas, paint, etc.), tobacco smoke, mouldy
surroundings and clouds of dust, etc
Nutrition against Pollution
It isn’t possible to avoid the full extent of pollution. Luckily, research is showing that there are ways of ‘detoxifying‘ the body. Drugs are effective, but cause side effects. A safer and equally effective way is carefully balanced nutrition.
The Detoxifying Diet
Calcium and phosphorus are antagonistic to lead. They are found in seeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables and milk produce.
Alginic acid is also a lead antagonist. It is found in seaweed (provided it comes from unpolluted waters). If seaweed sounds unappetising, try Nori. This comes in dried sheets which are crisped by heating them without oil in a very hot pan for less than 10 seconds, and then used as a crunchy garnish for soups and salads
Pectin helps remove lead too. It is found in apple pips, bananas, citrus fruit and carrots.
Sulphur containing amino acids, which are found in garlic, onions and eggs help protect against mercury, cadmium and lead.
Supplements against Pollution
Where body levels of pollutants are too high, diet alone will struggle to supply nutritional antagonists and aid in doses high enough to be effective. Several research projects have shown, however, that certain nutrients are very effective in supplement form.
Vitamin C is an ‘all rounder’ which escorts lead, cadmium and arsenic out of the body.
Calcium is effective against lead, cadmium and aluminium
Zinc acts against lead and cadmium selenium is antagonistic to mercury and, to a lesser extent, arsenic and cadmium
Pectin, alginic acid and phosphorus are also useful as supplements.
Magnesium and B6 are useful for eliminating aluminium
Hair mineral analysis is the most accurate way to measure body levels of these toxins.
Many of these substances work better in combinations.