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What About our Health? Eating organic food is not a fad. As people become more informed and aware, they are taking steps to ensure their health. US sales of organic food totaled 5.4 billion dollars in 1998, but was up to 7.8 billion dollars in year 2000. The 2004 Whole Foods Market Organic Foods Trend Tracker survey found that 27% of Americans are eating more organic foods than they did a year ago.
A study conducted by California Department of Pesticide Regulation reports that number of people poisoned by drifting pesticides increased by 20% during 2000.
A rise in interest and concern for use of pesticides in food resulted in passage of 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, directing US EPA to reassess usage and impact of pesticides for food use.
Particular attention was paid to impact on children and infants, whose lower body weights and higher consumption of food per body weight present higher exposure to any risks associated with pesticide residues.
Publishing an update to its 1999 report on food safety, Consumers Union in May 2000 reiterated that pesticide residues in foods children eat every day often exceed safe levels. The update found high levels of pesticide residues on winter squash, peaches, apples, grapes, pears, green beans, spinach, strawberries, and cantaloupe. The Consumers Union urged consumers to consider buying organically grown varieties, particularly of these fruits and vegetables.
The most common class of pesticide in US is organophosphates (OP's). These are known as neurotoxins.
An article published in 2002 examined urine concentration of OP residues in 2-5 year olds. Researchers found, on average, that children eating conventionally grown food showed an 8.5 times higher amount of OP residue in their urine than those eating organic food. Studies have also shown harmful effects on fetal growth, as well.
Pesticides are not only threat, however. 70% of all antibiotics in US are used to fatten up livestock, today. Farm animals receive 24.6 million pounds of antibiotics per year!
Public health authorities now link low-level antibiotic use in livestock to greater numbers of people contracting infections that resist treatment with same drugs. The American Medical Association adopted a resolution in June of 2001, opposing use of sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics in agriculture and World Health Organization, in its 2001 report, urged farmers to stop using antibiotics for growth promotion. Studies are finding same antibiotic resistant bacteria in intestines of consumers that develop in commercial meats and poultry.
Is it More Nutritious? Until recently, there had been little evidence that organically grown produce was higher in nutrients. It's long been held that healthier soils would produce a product higher in nutritional quality, but there was never science to support this belief. Everyone agrees that organic foods taste better.
In 2001, nutrition specialist Virginia Worthington published her review of 41 published studies comparing nutritional values of organic and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables and grains. What she found was that organically grown crops provided 17% more vitamin C, 21% more iron, 29% more magnesium, and 13.6% more phosphorus than conventionally grown products. She noted that five servings of organic vegetables provided recommended daily intake of vitamin C for men and women, while their conventional counterparts did not. Today there are more studies that show same results that Ms. Worthington concluded.
Considering health benefits of eating organic foods, along with knowledge of how conventionally grown and raised food is impacting planet should be enough to consider paying greater attention to eating organic, today. Since most people buy their food in local supermarkets, it's good news that more and more markets are providing natural and organic foods in their stores. Findings from a survey by Supermarket News showed that 61% of consumers now buy their organic foods in supermarkets. More communities and health agencies also are working to set up more farmer's markets for their communities, also, which brings more organic, locally grown foods to consumer. The next time you go shopping, consider investigating organic choices to see if it's indeed worth change!
Marjorie Geiser is a nutritionist, registered dietitian, certified personal trainer and life coach.