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Why Buy Organic Foods?

Avoid Growth Hormones, Antibiotics and Toxic Pesticides

Whether you are a foodie or simply spending a little more these days on investment #1 (your family), you simply couldn't have missed all the recent headlines surrounding organics: "Organic food is not healthier" "Little evidence of health benefits from organics" "Scientists question advantages of organic meat and produce." It's enough to make people wonder whether there is any benefit to buying organic. But before you make the switch, let's take a closer look at what the - now gone viral - Stanford study really found and what other scientists say are the benefits of organic meat and produce.

Most people who buy organic are probably not making the choice based on what they are getting more of (ie vitamins and minerals) compared to what they would in non-organic fruits and vegetables. Indeed today’s savvy shopper wants less ‘stuff’ in their produce, far less. What organic shoppers are looking for is that produce contains less toxic pesticides. They want meat and dairy for their children that are not pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics. The Stanford study in fact also addresses those issues but most mainstream media has missed this most important underscoring message. Instead, they chose to focus on the less important finding: that conventionally grown or raised may be equally as nutritious as organics. However, the researcher didn't examine in any appreciable way, the difference in levels of many of the phytonutrients that we know have tremendous health benefits. (They did look at vitamins, minerals and phenols, but many antioxidants that are indeed measurable, weren't compared between conventionally-grown and organic produce.)

The study which is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine,  features a research collaborative done at Stanford University reviewing 17 human studies and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in unprocessed foods including fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, chicken, pork, red meat and grains. What they found was that conventional produce has a 30 percent higher risk for pesticide contamination than organic produce, and conventionally raised chicken and pork have a 33 percent higher risk for contamination with bacteria that is resistant to three or more antibiotics, than organic products. Organic farming excludes or strictly limits the use of manufactured fertilizers, pesticides (which include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides), plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibiotics, food additives, and genetically modified organisms

Organic farming excludes or strictly limits the use of manufactured fertilizers, pesticides (which include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides), plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibiotics, food additives, and genetically modified organisms. For example, when it comes to most non-organic dairy products, cows are often treated with the synthetic hormone rBGH (also known as recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST). The World Health Organization, the US Food and Drug Administration, and numerous medical associations say that milk and meat from rBGH-treated cows is safe for human consumption, but not everyone agrees. Sale of the hormone rBGH has been blocked in Canada, Europe and other countries. And many doctors, scientists and natural-food advocates believe cows injected with the hormone are not as healthy as untreated cows and consumption might lead to health problems including early-onset puberty and several forms of cancer.

Chensheng Lu, who studies environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health, says it's "premature" to conclude organic meat and produce isn't any healthier than non-organic versions. He says people should consider pesticide exposure in their grocery-shopping decisions. "If I was a smart consumer, I would choose food that has no pesticides. I think that's the best way to protect your health." I offer up www.organicitsworthit.com as a great consumer website where you can find more information.

Researchers say while there are probable links between adult exposure to pesticides and diabetes, cancer and age-related neurological disease like Alzheimer’s, the evidence isn't strong enough yet to make a solid connection. They also say what is known is that for pregnant women, fathers-to-be and children under the age of 12, there is stronger evidence of a connection between pesticide exposure and babies not being carried to full term, underweight babies, and a higher risk of birth defects. A 2008 scientific report by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment concludes that reduced exposure to pesticides would reduce the rates for mental retardation and ADHD and suggests the positive impact for millions of children could be significant by addressing the issue and "surely will be well worth the effort." 

Organic Trade Association CEO Christine Bushway says what the Stanford study says to her, is that “consumers seeking to minimize their exposure to pesticide residues will find that foods bearing the USDA Organic label are the gold standard. This is because organic foods have the least chemicals applied in their production and the least residues in the final products. And, because organic livestock practices forbid the use of antibiotics, including the routine use of low level antibiotics for growth, organic meat contains less antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” Other than looking for the USDA label, you are also buying trustworthy certified organic if your product bears the Canada Organic Regime seal.

To make your shopping experience even easier, the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit health advocacy organization, has put together a list called “The Dirty Dozen” that lists the 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residues. It also lists “The Clean 15”, the fruits and vegetables with the lowest levels. If you’re on a tight budget, at the very least make sure you purchase the “dirty dozen” as organic. And, if you’re wondering how you’ll afford organic milk, meat, and eggs, frankly the amount you’ll cut back in overall consumption probably reflects the amount that you should be eating for good health in the first place.



Dr. Bryce Wylde is one of Canada's leading experts on natural medicine. He is the author of The Antioxidant Prescription and host of Wylde On Health on CP24. wyldeabouthealth.com