Why Organic Foods are Better

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Fred Liers PhDThere are just a few days remaining before the November 6th election that in California will decide the fate of Proposition 37, the GMO labeling act. With all the recent talk of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in foods, you might wonder where organic foods fit into the picture. GMO labeling laws will protect and enforce our right to know what is in our food in terms of GMOs only.

We should certainly be pleased about this possibility because for 18 years (since 1994) there has been no serious talk about labeling GMOs in the US. The agribusiness corporations ran amok unleashing their untested “products” and assumed labeling laws would never pass.

This is all about to change. Because whether or not Proposition 37 passes, it appears a critical mass of consumers have become well enough educated about the dangers of GMOs that they will eventually be on their way out. Consumers just don’t want GMOs.

Why Eat Organic?

Meanwhile, it makes me wonder about our organic standards that have become so weakened in recent years. That is, I wonder why there was never any talk about labeling requirements for other dangerous toxins, like pesticides. Because really, if we have a right to know what is in (or on) our foods, then shouldn’t we be told what pesticides, herbicides, etc. were used in growing foods or produce we consume?

Certainly, studies have shown that GMOs are incredibly dangerous in especially insidious ways far surpassing the dangers created by typical levels of pesticides and herbicides on fruits, vegetables, and grains.

In addition, for many individuals, the labeling of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals would matter less because they (like myself) might consume a diet of foods predominantly grown organically, locally, or homegrown. And organic foods aren’t supposed to involve any pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, and other manmade chemical-based inputs, or GMOs.

In theory, if you consume a diet that is all organic, then you need not worry too much about the effects of any of those dangerous substances on one’s personal health. However, that is just one of many reasons to support organic agriculture. Other reasons include concern for public health, environmental health, and of course the desire to avoid dangerous effects GMOs. Here are a few reasons (in no particular order) to support organic agriculture:

 Minimize toxic exposures. The use of pesticides, herbicides, and other chemical inputs  invites toxic exposures. While this starts on the farm, it ends up on your plate and in your body. Our bodies must already must deal with daily toxicity due to polluted air and water, routine chemical and heavy metal exposures, etc. Our exposures to environmental toxins are bad enough without the additional burden of agrichemicals in foods.

Organic agriculture is one of the best ways to keep the food supply clean and to minimize toxic exposure from the fields to the table. In addition, it helps keep farm workers healthier, because they are the most vulnerable to toxic exposures where chemicals are sprayed. For them, it is an occupational hazard that can be entirely avoided by sustainable, organic production methods.

GMOs represent major toxic exposures in their own right. Not only are GMO crops the most heavily sprayed (after all they intended to be sprayed), but also certain GMO crops produce their own pesticides that are harmful to humans. For example, there is evidence to show that GMO corn (which is engineered to produce the toxin Bacillus thuringiensis) transfers the pesticide manufacturing genes into humans, who then create this toxin in their digestive tracts.

 Eliminate free-radical effects. Agricultural chemicals poison us partly by exerting adverse free-radical damage in our tissues. This leads to cascades that overwhelm our free radical defenses, especially if we are not optimally nourished with extra antioxidants. This leads to premature aging, low energy, poor quality of life, and a wide range of health conditions related to our inability to quench free radicals with adequate antioxidant defenses.

As for GMO crops, high levels of chemicals on these crops make them especially dangerous to consume from the perspective of free-radical damage. However, GMOs also exert powerful inflammatory effects in humans (especially in the digestive tract) that points to high levels of free-radical activity. Consuming GMOs essentially leads to increased free-radical activity in the body. The negative consequences can manifest as allergies, premature aging, and degenerative diseases of every type, including cancer.

Because GMOs are never found in nature, our bodies cannot be expected to process them as it would natural foods. This is why GMOs are often called “Frankenfoods.” In Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, the scientist Victor Frankenstein created his monster with good intentions, but his project ultimately backfired in a tragic way. GMOs are a similar failure of science. In the case of GMOs, millions of people are adversely affected with negative health consequences.

 Protect water and air quality. When large quantities of toxic inputs are used in agriculture, as they are today in the US, the air and the water supply become tainted. This creates mass poisoning among populations, especially in farming areas and areas subject to drift. However, water and air can travel long distances resulting in toxins found miles away from original sources. This is how even city dwellers become exposed to harmful levels of agrichemicals.

GMO crops are especially problematic because they are intended to be treated heavily with chemical inputs that harm the environment. Organic agriculture poisons neither air nor water and indeed can protect the quality of those resources.

 Preserve soil integrity. Just like air and water, the soil is poisoned by chemical inputs. This destroys the soil’s delicate balance of microorganisms, kills animals, and ensures long-term toxicity of the soil and the crops grown in it. The effects can last for many generations. Supporting organic farming methods means supporting soil health.

 Protect our children. Organic farming methods do not just protect our health, but also the health of children and future generations. it is well known that children are more vulnerable to pesticides (for example) because of their smaller size, faster metabolisms, and rapid growth. Like everyone else, children deserve healthy food and a healthy environment so they can thrive and live well.

It is especially notable that one of the unintended consequences of both so-called ‘conventional’ and genetically modified crops is that they require ever greater amounts of chemical inputs in order to deal with declining yields (e.g., due to increased insect resistance and other factors). This leads to increased spraying and greater poisoning of the land and people. Typically, farmers then shift to using a different pesticide and the cycle begins again.

One example is that reduced effectiveness of glyphosate (RoundUp) on GMO crops (engineered to resist it) has led to massive quantities of it being sprayed. Now there are plans to switch to using the chemical 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) on GMO crops. 2,4-D was one of the major ingredients used in Agent Orange (a defoliant widely used in the Vietnam war) that has hugely toxic effects on humans. It has been written that these are not actually “unintended” consequences, as the agrichemical companies find this pattern of increased use very profitable.

 Protect wildlife, domestic animals, and native plant species. Animals share our environment. If our environment is poisoned, then so is theirs. Wild animals usually have enough problems trying to stay alive (and off the endangered species list). Domesticated animals also share our environment. The more toxic they become, the more we must deal with it in our lives. If they are sick, susceptible to disease, and overloaded with poisons, then those quickly become our problems, too. Organic agriculture not only produces a healthier environment, but it also encourages more humane ways of treating people, animals, and the planet.

GMO crops present a new problem: genetic contamination of non-GMO plant species. This is not only GMO “pollution” of the environment, but its effects are irreversible. GMO contamination of natural crops reduces biodiversity, which is important for the health of ecosystems, and possibly critical when monoculture crops fail. Such contamination is also problematic when it introduces toxin-producing genes into plant populations.

 Avoid adverse hormonal (xenoestrogenic/androgenic) effects. Exposure to agricultural chemicals produces negative hormonal effects in humans and animals. Wherever these chemicals travel, whether into the air, soil, water, oceans, they enter the bodies of living organisms where they cause havoc with hormones, and create conditions of disease.

 Consume tastier foods. Organic foods just taste better. This is partly due to the fact that they contain more nutrients (vitamins, minerals) than conventional foods. Herbicides such as glyphosate actually inhibit uptake of minerals into plants, thereby making them less nutritious. (Depriving plants of minerals is actually how this herbicide works, and GMO crops “resistant” to it remain vulnerable to inhibited mineral uptake, making them less healthy to consume.)

 Consume high-quality foods (more minerals and other nutrients). Beyond the issue of taste is the fact that organic foods not only contain more nutrients, but lack the chemical residues (both inside and outside their tissues) that make them poisonous to consume. So, if you eat organic foods, you gain greater nutrition and avoid the chemicals that poison you, reduce your health, contribute to disease, and slowly kill your body.

GMO crops are dangerous because they either resist heavy applications of chemicals, or actually produce their own ‘internal’ pesticides. GMO crops therefore encourage the overuse of chemicals, which increases residues in foods.

As noted, certain GMO crops  produce internal pesticides. There is evidence that these GMOs implant genetic material in the human digestive tract, where they produce the toxins (e.g., Bt-toxin) that poison us from the inside-out. This is the ultimate poison because toxins are manufactured inside your body and create adverse health effects. When this happens (and it’s probably occurring in many people), it is important to detoxify on a regular basis, as well as be sure to consume high levels of antioxidants in order to counteract all the negative effects of GMOs on your body.

– Conserve energy. Chemical inputs used in conventional agriculture are expensive, especially in terms of energy usage. For example, it takes a lot of energy to fuel planes and other machinery to spray pesticides and herbicides. Organic farming uses less energy thereby leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

 Support small business. Conventional agriculture favors agribusiness and large-scale corporate farms. Organic agriculture is good for everyone and also supports smaller scale family farms.

– Support a caring network. Corporate agriculture and corporate-style farms are mostly about profits. That wouldn’t be so bad if they cared enough not to grow GMOs, spray far too many chemicals, and basically poison the food supply. On the other hand, organic farmers tend to care about the people and the land, and love what they do. Organic farming is good business because it is sustainable. It supports healthy living and a high quality of life now and for future generations. In fact, it is the way of the future.

 ‘Vote’ for chemical-free (and non-GMO) agriculture. Organic farming is all about creating greater health for ourselves and our families. However, at this time, support for organic agriculture also represents for a vote for sustainability. That is, it represents a ‘no’ vote against toxic chemicals, polluted air, water, and soil, as well as GMO contamination of natural crops.

These are just a few reasons to support organic agriculture. There are many other reasons, and all considered together, organic farming is the only way to extricate ourselves from the current system that poisons us and the earth, and creates disease.

Meanwhile, you can expect the agribusiness corporations to go down fighting. Their attempts to smear organic farming show up in fake studies, such as the recent review article from Stanford University. The actual data do not support the study’s conclusion that organics are no better than conventional foods. Moreover, the study was funded by industry groups.

The best way to support organic farming on a daily basis is to consume organic foods, as well as foods not produced by the industrial-chemical-agriculture complex. That is, foods grown organically, locally, and homegrown.

My Experience

I have been eating organic foods since 1985. Shortly after starting to eat these foods, I noticed I felt healthier. Then over the course of a decade, I steadily increased my consumption until it was nearly 100% organic. I now consume a diet primarily of organic, local (non-sprayed, non-GMO), and homegrown foods (often from the garden).

My mother played a major role in my ‘conversion’ to organic foods. During the early 1980s, she became chemically sensitive, as well as highly sensitive to many foods. It was at this time that our family began searching for foods that would heal her rather than leave her sick.

In addition to avoiding chemicals, it was her strict adherence to a diet of organic foods (mostly vegetarian) that had a major impact on her state of health. She became well. Moreover, she stayed well as long as she ate organic foods. She continues to consume an extremely pure diet of organic and garden-fresh foods.

When I saw how much her health improved, I realized that all of us (whether or not we are sick or display symptoms of toxicity) must process chemical toxins in our foods. Some of us do better than others at detoxifying such poisons. However, we cannot be at our best if our bodies are under constant assault.

Moreover, as we age, or when our immune systems are compromised, or when we have a health issue, we have less energy and fewer resources to devote to dealing with toxins. They continue to take their toll on us. It is only by consuming poison-free foods that we can give our bodies a permanent break and allow them to become truly healthy.

Consuming foods grown organically without the use of toxic chemicals remains one of our best choices for creating and maintaining health for ourselves and our loved ones.

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