Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Doing the body good - are organic foods all they're cracked up to be?

A friend of mine who knows I focus on buying organic (and paying more for the luxury) gave me a 'thought for food' over his lunch hour today. The NPR article he provided suggests that organic food may not be healthier for people. Take a look and let me know what you think. Here's what I thought back to him while he was away for lunch. I've cleaned up my stream of consciousness chat to make it more readable here.

The NPR article cited some recent research with its roots in a 200 article literature review of various research outputs on organic food and health. "They found that the vast majority of conventionally grown food did not exceed allowable limits of pesticide residue set by federal regulations." Well, look what happened to the townspeople portrayed in the film Erin Brockovich. The film had something to say about contaminants and allowable limits. Without supportive, ongoing studies, one cannot be sure that what is allowed today won't have negative repercussions tomorrow. 

I'm taking a class that just completed a research unit. Longitudinal studies are likely to be needed to confirm--I'm a little impressed by the 100 year study that is being quoted. What I like is that the authors recognize the shortcomings of the research in the literature.

Where I draw the line, though, is thinking about the less than 100 years of genetic engineering and pesticide use and increases in disease and mortality. Certainly changes in longevity during the 20th Century have lead to more people living longer, and therefore having more time to exhibit chronic illness and disease. My family on my Dad's mother's side had a natural longevity, and it's likely due to reliance on natural foods. That changed in the 1960s I think. I grew up with a family garden. While we didn't have a lot of money to use on weed or insect control, I don't recall that we really thought twice about using Ortho fertilizer and bug control around our garden--until our Siamese ate grass that had been in the path of the neighbor's bug powder. After ingesting the chemical, the cat died a horrible death.

Pesticide use and Genetic Modification are relatively new technologies that impact the foods we ingest. I understand the impact they have for our farm producers on volume, and therefore ability to bring substantial food to market. I bless the farmers for helping to make it affordable to keep food on my table, and the majority of tables within our United States. However, the use of pesticides and the impact of processed foods laden with chemical substitutes have likely had a biological impact that will be difficult to understand. I have weight and reproductive problems that I still wonder at in relation to the foods I consumed as a child. Due to my health concerns and personal interest in treating the earth well, I have grown up challenging my thinking on what's for dinner.

I will continue to focus on buying organic for the 'dirty dozen'. There is a lot to be said about 'feeling good' and good health. I do wonder when it comes time to balance my checkbook if it makes a difference. For me and my house, I say it does.

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