An occasion of frustration occurred recently from a friend (not close). I think it's the 'sort of friends who think I'm so flaky leftist hippie' derision that strikes such a chord with my sensitive-meter. Like when they send me 'interesting links' about recent 'research' they have read, thinking that they are helping me wake up to the supposed mass delusion.
Yoga encourages us to let go of these emotional reactions. I really believe there are options to simply 'turning the other cheek' or breathing through the anger and quietly letting go. Our planet is a bit too important and I firmly believe that change will happen if our society no longer accepts this kind of backlash.
This means an answer. And not an angry vatta-pitta response, but a calm and rational answer. Here's the latest 'interesting article': Organic Food Myths.
Yogic answers to Skeptics 'Myths' on Organic Food:
1. Buying organic food benefits small farmers and represents a blow to the big food corporations. Myth reply: Trader Joe's makes a lot of money, Organic food industry is a million dollar industry, anti-corporation has nothing to do with organic food, and starving children in Africa need Big Ag.
Reality: I take issue with the entire premise of this 'myth'. My first response would be: 'that's not why I buy organic'. But if they really want to talk about Big Org (haha) there are some realities to keep in mind:
- Yes, there are some pretty large 'Organic' companies out there that make a lot of money. There are also quite a few smaller companies that are certified organic, and many farmers that practice organic farming but can't afford the pricey certification. I know the difference.
- Although buying organic from big companies might not be subverting the consumer culture, it IS sending a message about what consumers want in their food. Big Org may make money, but they use little to no pesticides...
2. Organic foods are healthier to eat.Myth reply: There is a lot of E.Coli in organic food, changing how you grow a plant doesn't change it's genetic makeup, basically there is no evidence to support this claim.
Sigh. It depends on what you see as 'healthier'. The E.Coli silliness is just that- skewed interpretations, e.coli occurs in lots of foods and unless I'm mistaken, Organic foods also have to pass through rigorous health inspections for food safety, which doesn't make them more dangerous (if we're using that as a point).
Although opinions are varied about the differences in genetic makeup of foods grown organically (having more vitamin B12 for example), there really hasn't been enough longitudinal studies on how long term exposure to pesticides will affect human health.
According to parliamentary report, about 66% of pesticides used (by weight) are hormone disruptors, and according to the David Suzuki Foundation 58 pesticides used in Canada are banned in other countries because of their ties to cancer, reproductive disorders and acute toxicity (Ecoholic, A.Vasil 2006). The World Health Organization estimates that 200,000 people die every year from pesticide poisioning, which doesn't include all the animals in our eco-system.
But he says they've all been tested to be safe... except many pesticides were 'grandfathered' into being approved because they were already being used worldwide and in 2006 union leaders representing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists claimed that they were being pressured to gloss over testing and skip steps. Great. Although the Canadian Food Inspection Agency indicates that only 20% of residue is detected on washed produce, the World Wildlife Fund report that these methods are money saving and crude, and besides that's 20% too much (Ecoholic, A. Vasil 2006).
And yes, pesticide levels are extremely small, PER pesticide... but the standards were set (in Canada) in the 1970's and research on the dynamic interaction between multiple ingestion of pesticides (on average 12 per meal) is difficult to accomplish. The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment state that 90 to 100% of us have pesticides in our tissue (CAPE). I think I'll trust the research interpretations of medical professionals when it comes to my health thank you.
3. Organic growing methods are better for the environment.Skeptic's answer: organic methods require 2x the acreage for the same crop and directly resulting in the destruction of undeveloped land. (and a bunch of irrational name calling ensues).
Lol, ok this is a bit ridiculous. Although Big Org. is by far a 'small farmer' industry, it's also still a drop in the bucket compared to Big Ag, so who's really destroying our 'rainforests'. Here's where knowing the difference between monocrop and polycrop farming matters. Monocrops (fields and fields of ONE produce) destroy and erode soil nutrients, resulting in the need for more pesticides and fertilizers per crop.
Since most direct farmers don't make a lot of money, they are indebted to the FDA for loans and equipment specialized for one of two types of crops. Which means they can't switch to keep soil healthy. As a result, a vicious cycle begins where soil loses it's ability to grow, they add more synthetic fertilizers and pesticides or eat up more undeveloped land.
Many organic farmers use a rotating crop method to help keep productivity as high as possible (since they can't rely on synthetic fertilizers) and put less harmful chemicals into the soil. Also, many smaller organic farmers don't use monocrops, but treat their farms as a holistic entity, improving soil fertility and ultimately productivity of their crops.
This does not, of course, provide a solution for our ultimate global food crisis. How are we going to be able to feed 9 billion people by 2050?
According to Jay Ingram (Daily Planet), perhaps we should rethink how much food waste we actually produce. North Americans throw away approximately half of all their food...
(picture from Science Focus)
Finally, I would encourage many people to check out our Atlantic Ocean's wonderful dead zone. One of many around the world, miles of ocean are starved of oxygen due to nitrogen run-off from agricultural fertilizer practices. Sea creatures cannot live here... and it's not like water has some sort of invisible wall containing the chemical contamination.
Exhale. How was that for a calm, well thought out response? :)
I have a pretty firm list on how I prioritize my food choices:
- Local and Organic (or organic practices)
- Organic and not local
Choosing our foods using a holistic approach will better serve our planets and our bodies :)
article copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com