Wildlife, insects, frogs, birds, and soil organisms are able to play their important roles in the tapestry of ecology, and we are able to play ours, without interference or compromise. The decline of birds, bees, and other pollinators has been linked to the synthetic pesticides used by conventional farmers. Organic farms are home to around 30 percent more wildlife species than conventional farms. Researchers from the University of Oxford and from Sweden and Switzerland conducted a meta-analysis of nearly 100 studies which estimates that 75 percent of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops was lost in the past century. Leaning heavily on one or two varieties of a given food is a formula for devastation.
What’s more, conventional foods in the past 20 years are produced using genetically engineered seeds. The mixing of genes from different species is what makes GMO crops so unique, and it’s why chemical producers have been able to patent these crops. It’s impossible to create such transgenic organisms through traditional crossbreeding methods. Genetically engineered crops haven’t been thoroughly tested by independent scientists for long-term health and environmental consequences. Genetically engineered foods also contaminate non-GMO and organic crops, which can wipe out organic and heirloom seeds permanently.
5. Avoid GMOs
Often referred to as “frankenfoods,” GMOs can be found in more than 75 percent of processed foods sold in America. The United States and Canada stand alone without clear mandatory GMO labeling. There are 64 other countries in Europe and elsewhere that label GMOs and allow consumers to make an informed choice. Many other countries have outright banned GMO farming practices. Since GMOs aren’t labeled, the best guarantee in avoiding GMOs is to choose certified organic foods.
Currently, more than 90 percent of all GMO crops are engineered to survive glyphosate spraying, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s weed-killing herbicide, Roundup. These Roundup-Ready crops have made glyphosate the most heavily used pesticide in U.S. agriculture. Since GMO corn and soy were first introduced two decades ago, the amount of glyphosate used by farmers has increased 280 million pounds a year. Glyphosate was recently classified as a “probable carcinogen to humans,” by cancer experts at the World Health Organization. Because of this extreme dousing of chemicals, GMO crops have led to environmental disasters such as superweeds and superbugs. Organic food cannot be grown using genetically modified seeds, nor can any processed organic foods use GMO ingredients. Organic always means non-GMO.
Plants nurtured by healthy soil on organic farms produce crops that often contain higher levels of important antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. A team led by a Washington State University researcher also found organic milk contains significantly higher concentrations of heart-healthy fatty acids compared to milk from cows on conventionally managed dairy farms. Organic farming is viewed as regenerative agriculture and can actually increase the fertility of the soil, creating more nutritious food.
7. Good for Farmers
Reduced reliance on chemical and agri-engineering corporations is good for farmers. Certified organic food producers adhere to a strict system of government-mandated regulations, verified and certified by third-party inspectors. Farmers must make a financial commitment to growing food under the organic model. Fortunately, the market for organic food is the largest growing agricultural sector in the United States.
Farmers are businessmen and women after all and want to grow food that has a market.
Big box retailer Costco, in 2017, passed $4 billion in annual sales from organic produce, eclipsing Whole Foods. Now, organic farmers can’t grow produce fast enough to supply the warehouse retailer. To help nudge supply in the right direction, Costco is lending money to farmers, allowing them to buy land and equipment to grow more organic produce. Choosing organic food creates a positive ripple effect from farm to table, because supply always meets demand.
8. Animal Welfare
Livestock raised organically must have access to the outdoors and room enough to move, graze, and develop, in a manner that supports their natural behavior. These animals can’t be given growth hormones and animals treated with antibiotics can’t produce organic products. Conventional animal factories use genetically engineered crops to fatten up livestock ahead of slaughter, whereas organically produced animals cannot ingest genetically engineered feed.
Organically raised livestock have access to graze on grass and aren’t fed a diet of GMO corn, cottonseed, canola, and soy. Unhealthy and mistreated animals make unhealthy food that accounts for a significant percentage of all food-borne illnesses. To avoid illnesses, and to put a stop to inhumane treatment, purchase certified organic animal products.
9. Hormones and Antibiotic Usage
Organic dairy cows aren’t injected with milk-boosting hormones such as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBST), which has shown to increase insulin levels in humans. Studies also show more than 90 percent of the pesticides Americans consume are found in the fat and tissue of meat and dairy products. According to the Consumers Union, approximately 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used in meat and poultry production. Many scientists and experts warn that rampant use of antibiotics in animal feed, such as penicillin and tetracycline, will breed an epidemic that medicine has no defense against. Karim Ahmed, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, states that it “is perhaps one of the most serious public health problems the country faces. We’re talking about rendering many of the most important antibiotics ineffective.” Organic meat and dairy cannot be produced with antibiotics and growth hormones.
10. Food Security
A true food future requires us to treat our precious land, water, air, animals, and ecosystem with more deliberate care. More than 600 active chemicals are registered for agricultural use in America, to the tune of billions of pounds annually. The average application equates to about 16 pounds of chemical pesticides per person, every year. This isn’t a sustainable system for any of us.
The loss of our pollinators to poor industrial practices is rapidly threatening the planet’s food supply. Recent reports from the United Nations warn that without immediate action to protect pollinators, the global food supply could be decimated. We must get off the pesticide treadmill and assert our buying power as consumers, so we can reduce the damage and regenerate our environment. The $1 trillion dollar food industry market in America is predominately chemically dependent. We are paying the price with our declining health and the health of Earth. Spending dollars in the organic sector is a direct vote for a sustainable future for the many generations to come.
So you can see that choosing organic is truly a down payment on our food future. From the bees to the seas, we can’t afford to not eat organic food. At the grocery store, look for the green and white circular USDA Organic label. Organic produce often times has a 9 at the start of the PLU numbers on the sticker or simply look for signs and labels that say “organic.” The cheapest way to adopt this lifestyle is to grow your own organic food, buy direct from a farmer at a farm stand, farmers market, or opt for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program in your community. If you demand it, growers will supply it and the price for organic will decrease as it becomes available in every community.
Zuri Star is a citizen activist and vocal advocate for environmental health, human rights, animal rights, and the good food movement. She leads the I Am Zuri Tribe. Zuri is also a singer-songwriter, entrepreneur, mother, and a travel and culinary enthusiast. This article was originally published in NaturallySavvy.com