Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Low-Down On Organic Veggies for Yer Family

Feeding Your Family: Organic Veggies on a Budget

"Anybody who's shopped for organically-grown produce has probably experienced the sticker-shock that goes along with it. It's a fact that in most cases organically-grown supermarket produce is more expensive than its non-organic counterpart, but I think a larger number of parents would likely grab the organic stuff if the two were closer in price..."Read More...

I'm really lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest, where we have superb access to organic, locally grown foods without expending much effort. But, with the current trend of 'going green' being set by places of such ill-repute as Fred Myer and Wal_Mart hopefully everyone will soon be informed as to the benefits, politics, pitfalls and corporate scams revolving around the food we eat.

I would add to this nice little snippet from Strollerderby a few things: Food Co-Ops are a great way to save money, support local agriculture and dine on organic foods without signing on to a yearly CSA plan, which some family incomes cannot logically support (directory of food cooperatives); I would also recommend growing your own food! Check out the book Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon, or, if you live in an urban area, research rooftop gardens to see if your building can support one or start a kitchen garden. Think you have no room? Ha!

Think again. In a hundred square feet with twenty minutes a day one can grow enough fruit and vegetables to heavily supplement their family's food needs. And, if you live in a tiny apartment you'd still be shocked at the amount of plants you could cram in there and the money you'll save growing your own food. Also, I'd like to throw a few reasons why Organic Foods are awesome (this is from Wikipedia):

For the environment

In several surveys that have looked at smaller studies to build an overall comparison between conventional and organic systems of farming a general agreement on benefits has been built. In these surveys it has been found that:

  • Organic farms do not release synthetic pesticides into the environment—some of which have the potential to harm local wildlife.
  • Organic farms are better than conventional farms at sustaining diverse ecosystems, i.e., populations of plants and insects, as well as animals.
  • When calculated either per unit area or per unit of yield, organic farms use less energy and produce less waste, e.g., waste such as packaging materials for chemicals.

See "Organic FAQs" in the journal Nature for more details.

One study found a 20% smaller yield from organic farms using 50% less fertilizer and 97% less pesticide. Studies comparing yields have had mixed results. Supporters claim that organically managed soil has a higher quality and higher water retention. This may help increase yields for organic farms in drought years. One study of two organic farming systems and one conventional found that, in one year's severe crop season drought, organic soybean yields were 52% and 96% higher than the conventional system and organic maize yields were 37% higher in one system, but 62% lower in the other. Studies are also consistent in showing that organic farms are more energy efficient.

For producers

For those who work on farms, there have been many studies on the health effects of pesticide exposure. Even when pesticides are used correctly, they still end up in the air and bodies of farm workers. Through these studies, organophosphate pesticides have become associated with acute health problems such as abdominal pain, dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, as well as skin and eye problems. In addition, there have been many other studies that have found pesticide exposure is associated with more severe health problems such as respiratory problems, memory disorders, dermatologic conditions, cancer, depression, neurologic deficits, miscarriages, and birth defects. Summaries of peer-reviewed research have examined the link between pesticide exposure and neurological outcomes and cancer in organophosphate-exposed workers.

For consumers

A study published by the National Research Council in 1993 determined that for infants and children, the major source of exposure to pesticides is through diet.A recent study in 2006 measured the levels of organophosphorus pesticide exposure in 23 schoolchildren before and after replacing their diet with organic food. In this study it was found that levels of organophosphorus pesticide exposure dropped dramatically and immediately when the children switched to an organic diet.

Most conventionally grown foods contain pesticides and herbicide residues. There is controversial data on the health implications of certain pesticides. The herbicide Atrazine, for example, has been shown in some experiments to be a teratogen, even at concentrations as low as 0.1 part per billion, to emasculate male frogs by causing their gonads to produce eggs – effectively turning males into hermaphrodites.

The US Environmental Protection Agency and state agencies periodically review the licensing of suspect pesticides, but the process of de-listing is slow. One example of this slow process is exemplified by the pesticide Dichlorvos, or DDVP, which as recently as the year 2006 the EPA proposed its continued sale. The EPA has almost banned this pesticide on several occasions since the 1970s, but it never did so despite considerable evidence that suggests DDVP is not only carcinogenic but dangerous to the human nervous system – especially in children.


Honky-Tonk Dragon said...

Great post, though it's gonna take me awhile to go through all the links and absorb it all.
I try and buy Organic as much as fiscally possible, and I know I should shop at the Co-op more... but the yuppie PC smug factor does deter me a bit...

Crunchy Hippie Mom said...

I've actually noticed in some communities that have lots of agriculture around them, it's actually harder to find organic produce. I lived in DE for most of my life and it labels itself as a farming state. Yet either from lack of interest or lack of availability I don't know of a single store in the town I lived in that sold organic food. I also think there is this perception that organic food is more expensive, therefore people don't even look at the prices. At one of our local stores, organic food costs the same, if not just slightly higher in price. We try to buy some organic food, but mostly what we run into is actually lack of variety in organic food and lack of quality. Anyways, thats why were starting a garden in our backyard. I would add to the other persons list you mentioned that families can ask their friends and neighbors if they know anyone who grows a garden and has extra food they want to trade or sell. I can't tell you how many people I have met who are giving away awesome homegrown tomatoes because their yield vastly surpassed their need.