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The Benefits of Organics
Buying Organic Helps Farm Workers
Most people who buy organic food do so to protect their health and the environment. However, another important beneficiary of organic food is the farm worker, especially in lower income countries. For example, over 200 million pounds of pesticides were applied to the $3 billion worth of produce exported from Mexico to Canada and the United States last year. Some crops, like tomatoes are sprayed 25 times before they are picked. To make matters worse, such pesticides are often applied by plane so that they land directly on the workers. Labels on the pesticide packages warn that special gloves and masks should be worn when handling them but the labels are written in English, which few of the workers can understand. Buyers in Canada and the US literally wash their hands of these problems by drawing up contracts that stipulate that they are not responsible for the way produce company owners manage their workers. However, these buyers also stipulate that the produce items must be perfect in size, color and shape and be delivered with very precise timing (thereby compelling the importing growers to use agro-chemicals to control crop growth). Some steps have been taken to address this issue but to date they have been ineffective. Regulatory agencies have been set up in a number of countries to regulate pesticide use and establish worker safety standards but there is rarely any enforcement so the practices continue. As a result, the best strategy to protect workers is to buy only fruits and vegetables that are certified organic.
Making the Business Case for Organic Food
A five-year scientific study from Washington State University has received international attention: The researchers conclude that organic food is not just tastier and better for the environment, but is also more financially profitable for farmers than industrial farming. A team of scientists, led by Dr John Reganold, compared systems of growing apples in experimental plots. The study measured the "sustainability indicators of soil quality, horticultural performance, orchard profitability, environmental quality and energy efficiency". They reported: "Escalating production costs, heavy reliance on non-renewable resources, reduced biodiversity, water contamination, chemical residues in food, soil degradation and health risks to farm workers handling pesticides all bring into question the sustainability of conventional farming systems." While the impact on the environment was 6.2 times greater with industrial than organic methods, scientists were surprised to find that the organic orchard was more energy efficient requiring less labour and less water per apple produced as wellódirect savings to the cost of production. Finally, using an independent amateur tasting panel, they found that the organic apples were firmer and sweeter, allowing them to command a higher price. Purely profitable! (For more information, see Nature Magazine)
Six Great Reasons to buy Organic Food
  1. Protect your children's health Children are 4 times more exposed to pesticides in food than adults.
  2. Protect your own health A recent US National Academy of Sciences study estimated that pesticides in food might cause an 1.4 million cancer cases in the US. Several pesticides banned in Canada and the US are applied to crops in Mexico and then exported here.
  3. Protect farm workers health A Natural Cancer Institute study showed that non-organic farmers have 6 times greater risk of contracting cancer than non-farmers. Over 1 million people are poisoned by pesticides annually in North America.
  4. Protect soil and water Over 3 billion tons of topsoil are lost annually due to non-organic farming methods in Canada and the US. Pesticide contamination in groundwater has affected the drinking water supply in most states and provinces.
  5. Save energy Industrial farming uses more oil than any other industry. By comparison, organic farming relies on labour-intensive practices (hand-weeding).
  6. Get better nutrient value A recent US study compared the nutrient quantities of organic and non-organic foods and found that organic foods consistently had two to twenty times more nutrients!
Ten Foods to buy organic when feeding kids
  1. Baby Foods: A 1995 U.S. study found more than 16 pesticides in about half the samples of non-organic baby food tested.

  2. Rice: Pesticide use has been so heavy in California rice fields that it has seriously contaminated the groundwater.

  3. Strawberries: Non-organic strawberries receive doses of up to 500 lbs. of pesticide per acre.

  4. Cereal grains: A 1994 U.S. Food and Drug study found pesticide residues in over 90% of the wheat cereals tested.

  5. Corn products: Processed foods containing corn (e.g. popcorn and corn chips) were among the top 15 foods most likely to expose children to unsafe doses of organophosphate pesticides.

  6. Bananas: Non-organic bananas from Central and South America are produced using benomyl (linked to birth defects) and chloropyrifos (neurotoxin).

  7. Green Beans: A 1993 study found that over 7% of beans imported from Mexico contained residues of illegal pesticides.

  8. Peaches: About 5% of the peach crop was too contaminated for consumption by children in a recent US study.

  9. Apple juice: Non-apple juice ranks second highest for organophosphate residues.

  10. Grapes and raisons: Children love them but they are possibly the single most pesticide contaminated fruit in North America.
The Higher Price of Organic Costs You Less in the Long Run
While organic foods are generally higher priced than conventional foods, the extra money spent can be viewed as an investment, not as an expenditure. This is especially true for children, for whom eating conventional foods that are high in refined starch, oil and sugar can lead to health risks later in life. For example, a 1998 study by the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation found that only 20% of children aged 6 to 12 ate enough fruits and vegetables (never mind organic fruits and vegetables). The study also found that only a quarter of kids this age ate high fiber grains and concluded that such children would be prime targets for diabetes and heart disease in later life. Investing in organic produce and whole grains ensure that we and our children donít become a medical statistic. Another benefit of buying organic shows up at the dentistís office. Studies show that the coarse grind and low sugar content of organically processed cereals and breads results in less tooth decay. Eating whole foods has also been shown to help children do better in school. Diets that are high in refined starch and sugar wreak havoc on blood-sugar and energy levels and generally create a deprived mental environment. When a child (or adult) eats a high sugar food item, the pancreas produces too much insulin, causing blood-sugar levels to drop. This short changes the brain of glucose, which results in mood swings and an inability to concentrate. In contrast, the complex carbohydrates of organically processed grains burn slowly and steadily, keeping the brain on an even keel. These are but a few of the long term savings of eating organic and whole foods. You can probably identify many more if you think about it and these represent an investment with an excellent, long term return.

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