Thursday, March 4, 2010

Organic Matters


Spring is the perfect time for us to begin thinking of introducing more organic foods to our table. There are many reasons why choosing organic has value. If you want to protect the earth's resources it just makes sense to purchase organic, whenever possible. This is often a decision that stems from our deepest values. Organic produce is pesticide-free. This is noteworthy because pesticides have a negative impact on the quality of our soil and water. This also naturally affects wildlife.

Factory farming is heavily reliant on the production of genetically modified crops. There has been little research conducted in the area of GMO's. We aren't clear about what the long-term health implications may be of consuming these man-altered foods. We largely remain in the dark when it comes to GMO's. Until we see the impact these foods are going to have on our health and the environment, many in the fields of science and nutrition feel it may be in our best interest to not jump on the genetically modified bandwagon. In fact, since the induction of GMO's into our food supply there has been an escalating rise in incidence of food allergy. The issue doesn't become any clearer with the so-called 'experts' completely divided on this topic. While some believe that GMO's are playing a part in the increase in food allergies, others claim this statement has no basis in fact. The great debate rages on and meanwhile, the American public are ingesting foods on a regular basis that in truth, we know little about.

Purchasing organic is a show of financial support for farmers who are more fairly compensated by growing organic crops. The pittance farmers earn producing government subsidized crops like corn is disgraceful. By supporting organic farmers we ensure that we will have a wider variety of foods to choose from when going to the grocery store. In fact, there has been a revival of heirloom crops within the organic farming community. It is important that we preserve the availability of these foods for the sake of biodiversity.

The verdict is still out on whether or not organic foods are actually healthier for us. With the current information available the decision to buy organic has more to do with how you feel about certain social and environmental issues than it does with building a healthier body. However, tests conducted by the USDA have confirmed washing commercial produce does little to remove pesticides. The residues linger behind on the fruits and veggies that you and your family eat. Considering that pesticides are another murky area and we aren't sure what the long-term impact of ingesting these chemical agents will be, it makes sense to be mindful of which commercially grown fruits and vegetables you are willing to put in your shopping cart.

This information is being presented for your personal knowledge and awareness. I think it is unrealistic to expect that an individual is going to be able to switch to all organic food choices overnight. We tend to approach changes in such an all or nothing manner in our culture. It makes sense to integrate changes slowly so you can look to your internal compass and feel out what is a fit for you in your life. The message at, "The Big Fat Lie" is one of personal empowerment. We want you to start questioning advertisements. We want you to begin to lift the veil on the pretty package that 'Big Food' is peddling. What does the content really look like when you get behind the slick advertising campaigns and media hype? No one knows what is better for your body than you. Our mission is merely to share information. It is up to you how you choose to apply what you learn.

Since we don't believe in diving headfirst into making life changes, we are going to kick off our spring focus by dipping our toes into the organic pool. We'll start simply by addressing which fruits and vegetables are important to purchase organic in order to reduce your exposure to pesticides. We are sharing the biggest pesticide offenders out of respect for those of you who may be on tighter budgets. After all, it costs more to produce organic crops. The production cost hikes are passed on to you when you head to the supermarket. It makes sense to share which conventional produce selections you can get away with purchasing in order to save you some cash.

I do want to share a little insight though on how our consumer dollars can have an impact and subsequently drive down the prices of organic foods so they can be affordable for everyone, indiscriminate of economic bracket. I live in the San Francisco North Bay Area in the heart of the Wine Country. People are passionate about whole foods and organics in these parts. In fact, the SLOW food movement is pressing forward full-steam ahead in my corner of the world. It is common for people in this area to purchase local whenever possible and to put money back into the hands of community farmers. In Sonoma County there is a major chain grocery store, Oliver's Market. They feature a wide variety of foods, both factory and organically produced. Since the consumers in this area largely favor organic produce, it has lowered the profit margin between organic and conventionally produced fruits and vegetables. In essence, the price of organics has been driven down to the extent that there is little cost variance between organic and factory farmed produce. The margin has become so slim in fact, that Oliver's Market is considering going all organic with their produce section. Now that is consumer power in action!

While I recognize that not everyone may currently be able to afford organic foods, if those of us who can shell out the cash did our part, we could help lower the cost of these wholesome foods for everyone. We can collectively change the world by pitching in and doing what we can. It sounds idealistic, but it's true. Small changes lead to major results. I share this story to illustrate that we do have the power to create a shift in our current food climate. If we each had a sense of personal responsibility to do our part, lasting change would become our new reality. Our dollars are the vote that counts the most in this consumer-driven society. Keep that in mind the next time you are at the grocery store. Even if you can only pick up one or two organic items, you are doing your part to make a difference. We can take our power back from the media and 'Big Food' corporations... one bite at a time.

Fruits and Vegetables Containing the Highest Level of Pesticides
*Buy organic whenever possible.
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Strawberries
  • Imported grapes
  • Red raspberries
Want a side of ethylene oxide with your fresh strawberries and whipped cream? How about a generous dollop of para-dichlorobenzyne on that baked potato? Or would you rather enjoy a ripe juicy peach as nature intended? Pure and simple. No added fillers needed. The choice is yours.

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