by Maya Rodale
The idea that our health is connected to the food we eat isn’t really a shocking concept. It just makes sense: you are what you eat. What matters to our health just as much—if not more—is how our food is grown. When it comes to healthy food, healthy people, and a healthy planet, organic is the best and most sustainable way to go.
The way we farm and the food we eat can impact our health in such a huge way.
Organic, at it’s simplest, means grown without synthetic chemicals or pesticides or GMOs. The health benefits of this alone are enormous. Numerous studies have linked agricultural chemicals and GMOs to a vast array of maladies, like ADHD, autism, diabetes, Parkinsons, infertility and miscarriages, and cancer.
The risk comes from residues on or even inside the food and these toxins also seep into the wider environment, contaminating the water we drink and the air we breath. In 2010, the president’s panel on cancer recommended avoiding these toxic chemicals and food grown with them as a way to minimize our risk of suffering from these diseases.
Think about that for a moment: The way we farm and the food we eat can impact our health in such a huge way.
How does it work? First of all, organic is healthier because it avoids all those toxic chemicals that make us sick. We don’t need them because organic is a system that mimics nature and relies more on biology, harnessing rather than battling the natural world to create healthy food and a healthy environment.
It all starts in the soil. Those synthetic chemicals and pesticides applied to conventional farms deplete the life and nutrients in the soil. This jeopardizes our ability to grow food now and for future generations. Yet in an organic system, we build up the life and nutrients in the soil through cover crops, compost and no-till practices, which leads to healthier plants, healthier people and a healthier planet.
Organic farming can produce just as much food as chemical farming but actually results in cleaner water and improved soil quality so we can farm well now and feed future generations.
You know how the best defense against getting sick is a strong immune system? It’s the same with organic farming. We aim to prevent problems by nourishing a balanced and healthy eco-system. Health travels up the food chain whether plant, animal or human.
We can significantly reduce the chemicals in our own bodies just by switching to eating organic foods. You can find them in most supermarkets now, or at farmers markets, grow your own, or even have them delivered. To make it easy for yourself, just look for the USDA Certified Organic label.
Terms like “natural” or “beyond organic” don’t have legal definitions, so there is no way to be totally sure what you’re getting. Some smaller farms forego certification but may still be farming with organic methods—you have to ask and trust. However, the USDA Certified Organic label is strictly regulated and the farming practices are verified so you can be sure that food was grown and produced in a way that is healthy and safe for you and the environment.
The more we all make this change to organic in our diet, the more everyone wins. Supporting organic farmers who keep these chemicals out of the ecosystem is a great way to reduce the harm for everyone. Organic farming can produce just as much food as chemical farming but actually results in cleaner water and improved soil quality so we can farm well now and feed future generations.
All this talk of chemicals in our food can be scary. The good news is that we have the answers: how to farm sustainably, how to grow food that promotes health, and how to feed future generations. The answer is organic.
by Maya Rodale
Maya is Director of Communications and Outreach at Rodale Institute in Kutztown.
(Published in the 2011 edition of Sustainable Lehigh Valley)
(Essays express the ideas of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alliance.)