5 Reasons To Buy Organic That Have Nothing To Do With YOUR Health

While there are many reasons why purchasing organic is a good idea, what usually comes to mind first is that organic foods are better for our bodies and our health. What comes to mind second is that purchasing organic produced food is really expensive. 

Unfortunately, what usually gets left out of the organic discussion are the many many non personal health related reasons that make supporting organic companies and local organic producing farms so very important -- and guess what the reason really doesn't have much to do with most of our personal health at all.


5 reasons to buy organic and support local organic producing farms that have nothing to do with your personal health


health of farmers and farming communities

Depending on where you live in the United States you may or may not be living in our nations farm country. But with most American's living in cities and suburbs, most people never come in contact with farmers, let alone commercial farm land. This has caused such a disconnect between our food and where it comes from that we rarely think about the people behind the food we feed ourselves with everyday.

This is a serious problem, because while pesticides may not be good for our bodies, they are dangerous and poisonous to farmers and farming communities. Every year more than 25 million agriculture workers are unintentionally poisoned by pesticides. This is especially common in developing countries, where many of our non-organic produce comes from. [1] Note that "big-organic" does also use naturally derived pesticides that in significant quantities can also be harmful to workers and the environment, which is why you are always better off choosing to support a company the sources its organically grown products from smaller local farms, or if you can directly from the farm itself. 

agriculture sustainability

positive for the environment (water, air, soil)

While we may think about pesticides as a substance that coats our food, what we don't typically think about is how much it affects our water, air, and soil quality. 

For example, results from the annual surveys of USA pollution trends have found pesticide residues like DDT, and Chlordane in coastal sediments and shellfish, many years after the substances were banned. Additionally, the use of pesticides in mono-culture crops pollutes the top-soil and leeches into the ground water, which eventually makes it's way into our drinking water supply. [2]


Biodiversity

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that during the 20th century more than 75% of our plant genetic diversity has been lost. Where have all our heirloom tomatoes gone?!

This lack of biodiversity amongst our produce mostly has to do with commercialized agriculture that is grown in mono-crops. These mono-crops are basically are just giant farms that only farm one type of crop. They due this for efficiency, and monetary profit, with the most common mono-culture "cash" crops here in the USA being soy, wheat, and corn. The issue with these mono-cultures is that because there is no bio-diversity in the farm land they are more susceptible to disease. So in order to thrive they must rely on the use of heavy pesticides, and herbicides.

So what is one of the best ways to support agro-biodiversity? Support local organic farms who are using traditional farming practices to grow a wide variety of plants. Not only will this reduce our exposure to pesticides, it also will result in more varieties of plants, and healthier farm land.  [3,4]

sustainable food system

reduced carbon footprint

Do you know that your produce is typically shipped 10,000 miles or more just to reach you. Shipping both organic and non-organic produce, and meat long-distances requires an excessive amount of carbon, all just so you can eat your strawberry when you want it...in the middle of December. 

This is one place where the organic industry is just as bad as conventional agriculture. The best way to reduce your foods carbon footprint is by purchasing local food that has been grown organically. This way you are supporting your local community, consuming a more nutritious/fresher food, and making a choice that is good for the environment. 

So the next time you go to buy a pint of blueberries in the middle of December, think about how much oil it took to get those blueberries into your basket, and maybe choose a different option that is equally delicious and in-season. 


support for sustainable food systems

We already talked about this a little bit, but the most sustainable food systems are those which are bio-diverse, and we just aren't going to find that on a conventional agriculture that produced one or two crops and uses a whole lot of pesticides. 

By choosing a local organically producing farm to buy your meat and produce from, you are most likely going to be choosing a farm that has implemented traditional agriculture practices that use rain water, composting, and crop rotations to maintain the health of the produce, and the health of land. 

sustainable food system

but organic and locally sourced food is expensive!

We really cant have a conversation about organic food without talking about cost, because organic and local foods ARE more expensive, but they are more expensive for the very same reasons that we already addressed. More ethical, safe, environmentally friendly, health conscious practices have a higher price tag. Whether you believe that the price tag is warranted is entirely a matter of personal prioritization. 

We also have to keep in perspective that here in America we have become so good at producing cheap, poor quality food that we have forgotten how much $$$ we are supposed to prioritize for our food in our household budgets. We also in many ways are entirely disconnected by how much this quality, nutritious food should cost. 

Here in the United States we live in a country whose citizens spend less on food than any other developed nation, and over the past 25 years the USDA has projected that as incomes rise, people are actually willing to spend less on food, and more on other consumer goods like cars, clothing, etc. 

While the higher cost for organically produced food is a big deterrent for a lot of people, studies like this show that more people could afford spending more on their food then they may think. [6]


sustainability

so where do we begin?

We have to start thinking about the food we choose to purchase as a kind of voting. A small choice that when made repeatedly, and copied by others, can and will create a movement of change.

We begin by choosing to look at our food as part of the greater system it is a part of. We choose to spend a little more on our food, and a little less on clothes to help support a healthier environment, reduced pesticide use, and a reduced carbon footprint. We start by making small choices, and honestly just doing the very best we can right now.

Some of the best ways you could prioritize purchasing organically produced foods is:

  • Choose your local farmer first: Check out what days your local farmers markets are open and check them out. Supporting a local farmer who uses organic practices is always going to be one of the best, most sustainable options.
  • Support Companies That Support Small Local Organic Farms: Like I mentioned the organic industry is BIG with some big-agriculture players. Look for companies that source from small local organic farms, which will be better for our environment, and those farming communities.
  • Start Small: You do not need to overhaul your entire grocery list overnight. Start by looking at what foods you consume all the time, and think about which ones may be easy to switch to organic. For instance, coffee is an easy and cost affective one, with companies like Trader Joes selling organic, and fair-trade certified coffee at affordable prices. 

[1] Alavanja, M. C. R. 2009. Pesticides use and exposure extensive worldwide. Rev. Environ. Health 24:303–309.

[2] Schwarzenbach, R. P., Egli, T., Hofstetter, T. B., von Gunten, U., & Wehrli, B. (2010). Global water pollution and human health. Annual Review of Environment and Resources35, 109-136.

[3] FAO. What is Agrobiodiversity. http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/y5609e/y5609e02.htm

[4] http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/suistainability/pdf/11_11_28_OA_biodiversity_Rahmann.pdf

[5] Food Price Outlook , by Annemarie Kuhns and David Levin, USDA, Economic Research Service, July 2017

[6] https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/ag-and-food-statistics-charting-the-essentials/food-prices-and-spending/

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