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The whole idea of organic food benefits can be really confusing, and many people wonder if vegans always eat organic. The two somehow become jumbled.
I can remember a time before I knew what "organic" food meant, so I understand the confusion. I would buy any fruits or vegetables, pesticides or not, and would wonder why I should pay more for the ones without chemicals.
I had a boss once who ate very well and told me she didn't really understand the "organic fruit" thing, so she didn't shop for them.
One day, not understanding wasn't enough for me, and I decided to just learn what it meant. I wanted a definition, and I wanted to know why I should buy it.
Let me save you the research... Here's why now I try to shop for organic produce as often as it's possible, as well as a link to the dirty dozen... the ones that I never buy conventional.
Organic foods are those that are made without syntethic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemicals, antibiotics, or hormones. They are also not allowed to be genetically modified organisms, irradiated, or bio-engineered. I know these are foreign terms, so let me try to explain further...
What we consider "organic" nowadays is the way farmers always farmed- up until about the 1950s. They only used chemicals if there was a serious problem, and those people mostly worked on small, local farms.
Right after WWII, pesticides became more popular in the US and they were used on everything.
I can remember being a kid eating a summer lunch outside on the patio and hearing planes above us dropping pesticides on the trees to kill the caterpillars. We were supposed to stay inside during the spraying. So, if we are supposed to stay inside when the spray goes off, why in the world would be eat the foods that these chemicals land on?
The idea behind the "conventional" non- organic farming practice of spraying chemicals is that the chemicals kill bugs that might have killed the crops. That does work- the bugs are killed.
But, in the process, all the helpful bugs that eat those bad bugs and keep the plants thriving are killed. And, everything else is killed: "weeds," bugs, animals that eat them, parasites, microorganisms, and the earth is damaged as well. Because the earth is damaged, more fertilizers are needed to keep the plants alive.
It's a highly unnatural process, and as with most things unnatural, you aren't getting organic food benefits in this situation.
In addition to losing the organic food benefits, a lot of scary diseases can come from ingesting this many chemicals. Now, people who eat animal products actually eat far more chemicals than vegans. The animals are given food that has been doused with fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals, as well as hormones and antibiotics to prevent disease.
These drugs go into human bodies and attach themselves to the cells. They aren't processed quickly like other foods and can remain for years.
Eating chemicals is especially harmful during pregnancy, breast-feeding, and during childhood. Also, some fruits and vegetables are affected by more pesticides, and they have been called the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables.
We don't know yet the extent of damage that will be done to consumers from this chemical age because they have not been used for a full generation yet. We do know that the liver is poisoned by pesticides and is unable to help burn body fat, that the nervous system is affected, and that our cells have a harder time producing energy.
Some chemicals are completely unstudied for their affects on health, and others are just not well understood.
A lot of people assume they can get the same organic food benefits by just giving the fruits a quick rinse or scrub with soap. Most fruits andvegetables cannot be cleaned of the pesticides, even with soap, since they were actually absorbed by the root of the plant. Our fruits andvegetables are essentially made from pesticides. You can't just peel them away since they are in the actual fruit.
Of course, all those pesticides rinse from the plants into the soil and into the waterways, which damages our environment in ways that we don't yet fully understand. Chemicals are in our drinking water, in the soil around our trees that provide us with oxygen, and in everything that we breathe.
A great example of this pesticide damage comes from corn production, and from the refinement of high fructose corn syrup.
Sometimes I hear people talk about how organic fruits and vegetables are more expensive than conventional. I hear this same argument about buying vegan food.
What these people haven't stopped to consider is how expensive it is for us to deal with the after-affects of "conventional" farming-- the damage to the environment, the health bills we will pay later in life for the diseases from chemicals, and the expense of living in a world where we don't have the bugs we need to grow healthy plants.
Have you heard about all the bees that have been mysteriously disappearing?! Bees don't just make honey. They pollinate hundreds of plants, and without them we are in serious trouble.
The expense to the small farmer is incredible. To grow plants organically is only considered more expensive by some because it is no longer the norm. Farmers don't want to take the chance of having a fungus attack their plants and kill off their potential attack their plants and kill off their potential profit.
The chemical farmers also tend to grow one crop consistently, which increases pests and makes them have to use more pesticides.
Many of the organic food benefits comes from the planting process. Organic farmers use bugs to their benefit, and the bugs help preventplanting problems. When you farm with chemicals, you destroy all the good, along with the potential for bad. Also, the more we spray plants, the more bugs learn to resist the chemicals and superbugs develop that need even larger and scarier chemicals. It's a vicious cycle!
In addition, the fossil fuels that are generated by "conventional" farmingis immense. Trees are cut down to create space for the farms, which is terrible for the environment and for the animals that lived there. Developing chemicals burns fossil fuels, just like transporting them to farms does. The bugs that are killed by the chemicals add carbon to the air.
What organic farmers do is take advantage of nature. They plant many types of plants and rotate them around the field so bugs don't start to learn where their favorite dinner grows. They also encourage good bugs to live in their fields and eat the bad bugs by growing the good bugs's favorite plants.
The reason that we get organic food benefits is because the whole growing process is based on healthy soil, healthy bugs, and the natural lifecycle of all involved. The foods are not genetically modified and thus organic plants are healthier and give more nutritional benefits to those who eat them.
I read a study once that said that if you offer a piece of the same fruit to an animal, one organic and one conventional, 80% of the time the animal will select the one made without chemicals. I also read that orangutans have been seen peeling their conventional bananas to eat the inside, and also eating the entire non-chemical banana, peel and all.
Those animals haven't read any literature on "conventional foods" and haven't been to a store to see that they are more expensive. All they know is that the conventional fruit doesn't smell or taste right and that there must be more organic food benefits.
To summarize, although not all foods become saturated with chemicals when grown conventionally, our society has moved to an acceptance of chemicals and there is a distinct danger in doing so. The organic movement is gaining in popularity, and although there are now some flaws in its classification system, it is certainly better than what has happened with "conventional" farming.
The best possible way to get the most organic food benefits is when you buy through a local, sustainable farmer who minimizes his or her use of chemicals in production. If you cannot find one in your area, opt for foods that haven't traveled all over the world. You can usually figure this out by looking at the sticker or packaging.