Oprah and organics

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Oprah does it again!

I've said it before, and I’ll say it again: Oprah has the power of the magic springboard- to wax poetic about whatever she (or her team of highly-qualified minions) feels is important, and spread the message to the masses. For the sake of this blog post, I’m saying “she” though I’m quite conscious of the fact that it’s indeed that qualified team of experts that is providing the information. This week, her focus is on the documentary Food Inc., and on how to eat responsibly, organically, locally, and healthily.

In one particular article on her website entitled “Should you buy organic food”, she mentions a recent study that claims no nutrient benefit held by organic over non-organic produce. There is some debate as to the validity of that argument. For instance,

"…[o]rganics advocates called the UK review flawed and incomplete, and its authors biased. They contended that the study didn't include recent data showing that organic food delivers many advantages (less exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, for example), and that the concluding statement buried any pro-organic news the researchers did find (like the fact that organic produce contains more of certain beneficial minerals). They claimed that some of the studies included in the review were poorly designed, others seriously outdated. "These findings are wrong," Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, Britain's leading organic organization, says flatly. "Organic food is better for the planet, and it's better for you."

More arguments can be found here.

Regardless, the article goes on to point out that for most organic produce buyers, it’s not about what’s IN organic produce that makes them commit those extra dollars to the cause, but rather what is NOT in it. Libba Letton, the spokesperson for Whole Foods Market, goes on to say the following:

"What's not in organic food, … are the synthetic pesticides and herbicides used in the process of growing conventional produce. Organic farming relies on crop rotation, green-friendly manure and biological pest control. Rosenthal says the Food Standards Agency study that claims there's no nutritional benefit says nothing about how many potential toxic chemicals are in nonorganic food.

Letton points out that Whole Foods customers are not only buying organics to avoid ingesting toxic chemicals, but are also touting the benefits to the environment that come from supporting organic farming. "With organic food production, there isn't anything that goes into the soil or contaminates water supply during the growing process," she says. "Organic farming also is better for the workers by not exposing them to chemicals in the fields."

Another article entitled “Is Organic Worth the Price”, talks about the actual standards of organic foods. What does it mean to be deemed “organic” by the USDA? Let’s see…

"Crops bearing the USDA organic seal of approval are raised without synthetic pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge (semisolid leftovers from wastewater plants used as fertilizer). Organic animals consume organic feed and must have access to the outdoors. They are not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones. The organic label also means your food was not genetically engineered or treated with radiation to prolong shelf life."

MMMMmmmm sewage sludge. I’d like a big helping of THAT please!!!

So what about the cost? How can you stomach the extra money you’ll need to make the switch?

When it comes to produce, some foods more readily absorb toxic chemicals than others. Here is a handy chart that compares the toxicity, and may help you decide where to spend your precious dollars. Certain foods like peaches- right at the top of the list- are the most pesticide-ridden and would be the ideal item to spend the few extra dollars on. In contrast, you may choose to skip organic onions, as they are much less likely to be contaminated by common farming practices.

Something else to keep in mind is that all produce (organic or non-organic) is much less expensive when it is in season. There will be a lot of local farmers growing organic produce that you can buy for much less money than if you try and buy imported organic food that is not in season. Have you SEEN the price of gas lately? Shipping 'aint cheap. So try new foods that are in season - even if you're not sure what to do with them. When we order a basket from our local organic delivery service, it often comes with weird things I'd never buy at the store. So I do what I always do- I go to http://www.allrecipes.com/ and figure out what the heck to do with it!

I would like to reiterate, that small concessions add up to a big change in your health. Can’t afford (or stomach!) going organic all at once? That’s totally fine, and totally normal. Pick the things that are the most contaminated like peaches, apples and strawberries. Once you have a weee peek at Food Inc., you’ll likely choose to spend a few extra bucks on your meat too. Personally, if I know a chicken has been raised with access to outside (free run), on a FARM (a real one…I know, what a concept) and without the use of antibiotics, I’m a happy lady. The organic label is a bonus.

So there you have it. I hope you’ve found some of this helpful, and thanks again Oprah for being the big voice for us modest folks. What do YOU think? Do you have anything to add?


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