The Impact of Eating Organic

A sustainable dinner - organic beans and squash, bakery made bread with organic butter, organic meat raised on pasture and wild brush - all local within 100 miles.

This past Tuesday, I came across a video interview of Michael Pollan with MSNBC, talking about eating organically as an investment (you can watch the video here).  He included some great tips for getting affordable sustainable meat, keeping hormones out of your diet and reasons to eat organically/sustainably.  Additionally he talked about the difference between animal products from grass-fed or pastured animals, and ones that are fed on a feed lot, even an organic feed lot.

Then, this morning, I noticed on the side of my Organic Valley half and half a note stating that by “using a quart of organic half and half [in lieu of conventional], every week for a year, you help to keep 6.2 lbs. of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and 1.3 oz. of toxic pesticides from being used.”  They said they offered a calculator on their website so you could see the impact you are having by consuming their organic dairy products.

I don’t eat strictly from this brand, but I wanted to see what impact my dairy dollars are having on the environment each year.  In a typical week our family consumes two gallons of milk, one quart of half and half, one and a half pounds of butter and one pound of cheese.  They calculate that buying these items organically instead of conventionally saves the environment from 65.9 lbs. of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and 14.3 ounces toxic pesticides and herbicides per year. That’s just our family’s dairy purchases, let alone meat and produce!

Additionally, the Organic Valley site states that  “public health costs associated with pesticide-related acute poisonings and cancer alone add up to an estimated $1.1 billion dollars per year.*”  Below are listed some of the other impacts of pesticides on children.

“Impacts on Children

Pesticide exposure poses special concerns for children because of their high metabolisms and low body weights.

  • More than 1 million children between the ages of 1 and 5 ingest at least 15 pesticides every day from fruits and vegetables.
  • More than 600,000 of these children eat a dose of organophosphate insecticides that the federal government considers unsafe.
  • 61,000 eat doses that exceed “unsafe” levels by a factor of 10 or more.5

“Prenatal Exposure

Most babies today are born with persistent pesticides and other chemicals already in their bodies, passed from mother to child during fetal development. 21 different pesticides have been found in umbilical cord blood, suggesting tremendous potential damage at a critical developmental time. Since a baby’s organs and systems are rapidly developing, they are often more vulnerable to damage from chemical exposure.  The immature, porous blood-brain barrier allows greater chemical exposures to the developing brain.6″

Wow – that’s pretty huge motivation to eat organic foods!  But they can be a bit more expensive.  Which brings me back to the Michael Pollan interview.

Organic foods are more expensive because there is a greater demand for them than there is supply.  In America, we vote with our dollars.  The more we demand organically grown and produced foods, the more farmers and companies out there will be motivated to switch to using organic practices, adding more organic foods to the supply chain.  the more food suppliers producing organic products, the more competition.  The more competition, the lower the prices.  the way we demand products is to buy them.  So, if you want organic food at competitive prices, start buying it and watch the price drop.

There are a lot of options out there.  Buying locally will be the least expensive and have the biggest impact on protecting the environment and the local economy.  Check out http://www.localharvest.org/ for local farmers, markets and CSAs near you.  There you can find not only produce, but local meat processors and restaurants who use local and organic products (you are still effecting the supply and demand of how food is produced when you eat out).

To read more about the impacts of synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, hormones and antibiotics, check out Organic Valley’s website.

* “Promoting Sustainable Food Systems through Organic Agriculture: Past, Present and Future,” Christine McCullum-Gomez, C., and Riddle, J. HEN Post: Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association, Spring 2009. www.hendpg.org

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Categories: CSA, Food, Sustainability | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “The Impact of Eating Organic

  1. I love when we sit down to dinner and realize that all the food was raised on the same land by the same family. I would have to agree that the biggest thing we have done to stretch our food dollar is working at our CSA. The bounty is amazing and we have learned to put up so much of it for use during the cold months. Eating seasonally helps to save money too. My kids have learned that we don’t eat watermelon in February. And it’s OK to gorge on muskmelon in September because it won’t last. And nothing tastes better than that asparagus when you haven’t had a fresh green in months!

  2. Anisa

    Oh asparagus! How I miss it! Last year we picked enough to freezer for later in the year, but this year there was less. We gorged ourselves and enjoyed it! I can’t wait until it’s here again next spring!

  3. Aunt Betty in New Jersey

    Just this morning I read in the news paper about a farmers’ market in Highland Park, NJ. They sell organic products and local produce as well as meats. They are open on Fridays from June to November. I thought I might try them out. I too love to eat locally grown produce.

  4. We try to eat locally as often as possible from farmers we know to be organically minded (it is so expensive to go through the process that they cannot advertise it as so) It is so much better than what one can buy at the conventional store…taste, health, and otherwise.

  5. Anisa

    Besides all the benefits – the taste of local is SO much better! I’m sure you will love it, Aunt Betty. I’m a bit jealous of your markets being open so late into the year. Our growing season cuts ours shorter. We’ve been getting bread from a bakery that only sells at the markets and we LOVE it. Every variety we’ve tried! They do a white chocolate bread that makes amazing french toast! You can never find things like that at the regular store.

    Citysister – we too support farmers that are not ‘certified’ organic, but are organic in practice. The process for farmers to get the certification is quite daunting. :(

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