What are organic foods? and why should we grow them?, buy them?, and eat them?
That we even have the word in our modern day vocabulary is a commentary on our times. Like it's cousins, "natural foods" and "health foods" it's a totally modern idea. Isn't food supposed to be healthy?!!!! Isn't most of the food we eat organic?
The idea that we need these terms points out the fact that what most people in America (and increasingly more in the rest of the world) are eating is not really healthy, or natural, and not even fully organic.
Michael Pollen says "Eat (Real) Food ... mostly plants."
Maybe real food is a better term. Let's consider that because fast food, junk food, and processed food are really bad for you, we need new terms for real food. (I hope you saw "Super Size Me," a film by Morgan Spurlock. Also read any of Michael Pollan's books -- see below.)
So what are organic foods? And what are the many benefits of them? Let's start at the beginning --
Nutrition comes from the soil. Mess up the soil and you mess up the plants that grow on it. For the last 50 years or so, farmers world wide have been dumping toxic chemicals on the soils in the form of both pesticides and fertilizer.
They do this to control insects and plant diseases, and to add nutrients to the soil.
Organic farmers on the other hand rotate crops and use fertilizers and control pests by using methods that do not inject dangerous chemicals into the soil. This results in better quality food, but it is a more expensive and intensive way to farm because it requires more work.
So what's the problem?
THE MIDDLEMAN -- the food processing corporations
To be competitive, modern farmers must grow crops that they can sell. And who are the big buyers? Not people, but food processing plants. The big food processing corporations intercept the flow of food to humans by taking stuff out of it, adding more stuff to it and charging the buyer more money.
To make their big profits, the processors must buy raw foods as cheaply as possible and add more cheap stuff to them (like lots of high fructose corn syrup and other carbohydrates) that taste good but aren't necessarily nutritious for humans to eat. Buying for low price rather than for high quality:
keeps the farmers competing for low prices
makes them produce as much as they can possibly grow regardless of the quality
makes it hard for farmers to make a decent income from their farms.
The food processors benefit from overproduction, because it keeps their costs low.
It's vicious circle resulting in:
poor quality foods
uses way too much energy to produce
adds toxic chemicals into soil and rivers
makes small farms lose profits
forces farmers to move to cities to compete for jobs
This is a major problem worldwide.
THE BOTTOM LINE - the benefit of eating organic food is far reaching
So, the answer to the question, what are organic foods? is this: Growing, buying, and eating foods that are grown without chemical pesticides, without chemical fertilizers helps our bodies, our farmers, and our environment. And that's good for all of us.
What it doesn't help is the big food processing corporations -- and they have a lot of clout!!!
Thus we should really do all we can to support organic farming. We can do that by consuming ONLY organic foods -- that means food grown with organic methods and animal products from animals that eat organically grown plants.
Food Inc. This feature length documentary film might just be the most important films of all time. It goes behind the grim picture of how our modern food supply gets to our supermarkets. It shows what the huge feeder operations, the slaughterhouses, the processors, the factories, and the factory farms don’t want us to know. see Links below for more info.
Super Size Me, a film by Morgan Spurlock. Another feature length reality film. Morgan spends a month eating only foods from McDonalds with a rule that whenever the server says "Would you like a super size?" he must say yes. He is monitored by a doctor. In the month he gains so much weight and his body is so toxic that his doctor fears for his life.
Read these books:
Weber, Karl, ed., Reforming Fast Food Nation, a conversation with Eric Schlosser, from Food, Inc., How Industrial Food is Making us Sicker, Fatter and Poorer - And What You Can Do About It., p. 15, New York: Public Affairs, 2009.
Michael Pollan, The Omnivores Dilemma,
Johnathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals,
John Robbins, Diet for a New America
For more in depth information on how we can take back our health and the health of our planets by eating greener foods, check out the following resources!