The Problems With Modern Conventional Farming
Modern food growing techniques have led to great reductions in production costs, and have made our current system of efficient mega-farms possible. But the large-scale yields are accompanied by less obvious costs.
First, chemical pesticides are poisons, and too many of them will have a serious impact on your health. Pesticides can compromise your liver's ability to clean toxins from your body; limit each cell's ability to produce energy and do its job in your body; compromise your nervous system and its ability to send necessary messages throughout the body; damage your immune system; decrease fertility; and wreak all other kinds of havoc. In a nutshell, too much poison in your system can lead to weakness, deadly diseases, and premature death.
No one truly knows whether the level of chemicals used by conventional farming is safe or not. For example, most pesticide-residue levels are set for individual pesticides, but conventionally grown fruits and vegetables typically contain the residue of multiple pesticides. Emerging research indicates the collective power of such toxins can be dramatically more destructive than a solitary pesticide. Considering you’re probably consuming dozens of types of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides designed to kill all manner of life, who can say what effect this chemical “cocktail” will have as it impacts your body, year after year?
Of course, food advice can be confusing. It used to be hamburgers and hot dogs were considered the most American of foods; now many caution against a diet too rich in beef. We used to treat kids with cookies; now even the Cookie Monster is on a fruit diet. It’s hard to know what to believe.
Equally confusing is that, so far, there haven’t been definitive scientific studies proving organic food is safer than conventionally grown food.
That said, it took centuries for scientists to definitively conclude smoking is one of the most dangerous things you can do to your body. But savvy consumers threw away their cigarettes long before then.
Further, you’re unlikely to encounter any respected scientist who’d advise you to consume more pesticides than you already do.
You may believe conventionally grown produce is harmless as long as you wash it. Pesticides go deeper than the skin of a fruit or vegetable, though. They’re woven into the fabric of the produce, having been used in every step of its development from the seed onwards.
And given the US is currently experiencing an epidemic of catastrophic diseases such as cancer, heart attacks, and strokes, do you really think it’s wise to spend each day putting more chemicals designed to kill into your body?
That said, reasons to eat organic go beyond avoiding toxins. For example, there’s growing evidence organic food is more nutritious than what’s produced by mainstream methods. (See, for example, the 2001 study Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains at ioia.net/images/pdf/orgvalue.pdf.) Organic fruits and vegetables are grown from richer soil, so their mineral content is higher; and because they must develop their own strong defenses against pests and disease, they contain more vitamins, phytonutrients, and antioxidants which, when ingested, help your body do the same. Also, artificial fertilization increases the water content of produce so, in terms of dry weight alone, organic produce is more nutrient-dense.
And along the same lines, organic food tends to be more flavorful and delicious. So if you take your taste buds seriously, or want to be applauded for your cooking, organic is your best choice.
Further, in addition to doing yourself and your family immediate good, buying organic products is a vitally positive action you can take for our planet.
Pesticides deplete the soil of valuable micro-nutrients and macro-nutrients. As a result, the produce that comes from this soil contains fewer nutrients. But in addition—as pointed out by such experts as David R. Montgomery in his 2007 book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations—long-term damage is being done to the soil. The earth’s supply of nutrient-rich topsoil is being depleted at least 10 times faster than it takes for the lost soil to be replaced. This kind of damage obviously cannot go on indefinitely.
Pesticides also kill beneficial microbes. Many of these fragile soil-borne microorganisms are helpful and necessary for human health, specifically in building healthy immune systems in children. In fact, these organisms are now sold in health food stores in supplement form to help treat immune system ailments. Yes, you read that right—conventional produce has become so impoverished that some of us now have to buy pills filled with bugs normally found in dirt.
Conventional farmers use millions of pounds of pesticides and other toxic chemicals every year, much of which ends up in our oceans and drinking water. Again, pesticides are poisons designed to kill living things; and while they’re targeted at parasites, bugs, and animals that may eat crops, they create a kind of chemical “friendly fire” that also destroys beneficial insects and animals, thus doing further damage to the environment.
At the same time, the overuse of pesticides is causing new super-resistant bugs—and combating these uber-bugs will require even more powerful and toxic chemicals.
Another problem is that many pesticides and other chemicals used in conventional farming are based on fossil fuels—a decidedly finite resource. Further, these chemicals kill friendly microorganisms that would otherwise hold carbon, thus releasing carbons into the atmosphere that increase global warming. Organic farming uses up to 60% less fossil fuel per unit of food and avoids the global warming problem.
Bottom line: Modern farming methods are in many ways disastrous for the environment.
And they might be slowly tearing away at your personal health as well.
Even our nation’s First Family, the Obamas, have championed organic food—they’ve planted an organic vegetable garden by the White House! (To learn more, please visit organicconsumers.org/articles/article_17317.cfm.)
So the real question isn’t “Why organic?” Given all the negatives and potential dangers of conventional farming, the more sensible question is “Why not organic?”
Source: Going Organic Without Going Broke by Rose Lewinson