Monday, November 22, 2010


I used to be one of those people. Probably the same as some of you. I thought organic was codeword for sucker. I thought the people who bought organic were paying for the privilege of being ripped off. Dummies, I thought. I remember when I worked in the daycare nursery, a mom got mad at me for giving her son store-bought conventional green grapes (he was 18 months old) on St. Patrick's Day. She told me most grapes were grown in foreign countries where it was legal to spray arsenic to kill bugs. I told her I'd washed the grapes and was secretly rolling my eyes because - for real, lady, freak out over nothing, ever heard of the FDA? We have REGULATIONS in this Country. I couldn't have been more stupid, and I wish I could apologize to her today.

I think I first started eating organic stuff before Gray was born, but mostly because it tasted better and, hey, I'll pay for that! Becoming Gray's mommy, though, put things into a whole new perspective. So, without further ado, here's my list of why we eat mostly organic.

1. I'm a wildlife biologist and so I'll start with the birds and the bees. Ever heard of DDT? yup, it was a pesticide. One that killed untold numbers of animals before people realized - Hey! When bugs die, something eats them and when lots of bugs die from pesticides, something bigger eats lots of them and then has lots of poison in it! I'm not saying any current pesticide is as bad as DDT - but no one is saying they aren't, either. It doesn't take long for pesticides to get approved and really we have no idea what the long term repercussions could be for a particular pesticide. It's not like they are waiting 20 years to find out, either. If you haven't heard of Colony Collapse Disorder, you should Google it, and if you are thinking SO WHAT, I don't like bees anyway! then you are stupid because bees pollinate almost everything that needs to be pollinated - the stuff we eat, the pretty plants we like to look at, THE STUFF WE EAT. Without bees, we are screwed. Our food will have to be made in labs and hand pollinated and if you think that will be cheap, think again! Plus, I REALLY like honey. Please don't kill my bees. (My son, about 3 hours ago, was stung by a bee for the first time, so that tells you just how much I like bees as a whole because at that moment, I would've been happy to kill all of them.)
2. Thin-skinned fruits and veggies: Ever heard of the dirty dozen list? You should check it out. I was shocked and disgusted by the number of pesticides used on products but more importantly, the number of pesticides that foods tested positive for containing - not the outsides, not the skin - the actual part that you eat. If you do anything at all, start eating these foods organic.
3. Genetic Modification (GM): It sounds like something out of a Sci-Fi movie, but some foods have been genetically altered to allow them to be resistant to herbicides. The biggest of these is soy, but there are many others. In and of itself, it sounds pretty harmless and Hey! says 22 year old me That is the joy of living in 2010! We can screw around with stuff to make it better! But 31 year old me knows better. Genetic modification, like pesticides, hasn't been tested for long term repercussions and some people have pretty good reason to think it could be responsible for the rising rates of food allergies - especially those to peanuts, which are very closely related to soy. (Peanuts are actually more closely related to soy than to any nut). Not to even mention that soy is a "food" that people shouldn't really eat and potentially causes long-term reproductive problems because soy acts as an estrogen-mimicker. Soy may be partially to blame for the rising rates of male infertility and the lowered age of female menstruation. (I say partially to blame because I think the hormones present in conventional cow's milk is also responsible for these population-wide changes in US health). All of this, and soy is present in just about every conventional processed food imaginable.
4. Hormones in cow's milk. Antibiotics in cow's milk. Ick in cow's milk. Cows are given hormones in order to make more milk faster, which means more money for dairies, but it also means more mastitus and infections for cows, so they are also given antibiotics and sometimes the infections aren't really caught in time (or are now resistant to antibiotics) and so there is yucky cow pus coming out with the milk. But Hey! Don' worry about it! We totally pasteurize that stuff so we're all OK! The fact is, the hormones are probably responsible for rising male infertility and reproductive cancers as well as declining ages of female menstruation (which can be as early as 6 years old now!) Not even to mention issues like in the Potomac and Alberta Rivers where male fish are turning into female fish because of the exceptionally high levels of hormones like estrogen in the water.
5. Food Dyes: In some countries, like Britain, companies like M&M Mars, Coco-Cola, Kraft and Willy Wonka voluntarily removed artificial food dyes from their food products. Yup, that's right, no Federal mandates made them do it, they voluntarily took those food dyes out of their products and started using other, natural food dyes. Why? because the general public in these other countries started to realize that artificial food dyes weren't just unnecessary, they were unsafe and these companies realized that the best way to avoid federal mandates and make the public happy was to just go ahead and make the change. So why haven't they done it here? because there is no public outcry and it is cheaper. What are the consequences of food dyes? Hyperactivity & inability to control behavior (sound a lot like ADHD which has only in recent years become a diagnosis and has been steadily on the rise ever since?) are the worst offenders, but some parents have seen links to allergies and autism as well. In fact, one of the first rules to an autistic child's diet is to remove artificial food dyes. I try to avoid food dyes with Gray, but his Daddy swears other mac&cheeses don't taste the same and only eats Kraft. I don't make Kraft mac&cheese for Gray, but sometimes Daddy gives him some of his and seriously, it would make a believer out of anyone. An out-of-control 16 month old is totally for the birds.
6. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS): I hate this product. It isn't really food, but it is in almost every conventional processed food product on the shelves, not even to mention every bottled drink. I was happy to notice in the last couple of months Gatorade has switched to sugar in their drinks! HFCS first off probably comes from genetically-modified corn crops, though there's no way to know for sure because manufacturers aren't required to tell you AT ALL if they use GM crops. HFCS tastes like sugar and has calories like sugar, but it doesn't act like sugar in your body and it is oh-so-much-cheaper than sugar, that the manufacturing companies love it. HFCS, although it tastes sweet, sends a signal to your brain that you are still hungry. Sugar, by contrast, signals your brain that you are getting some very sweet food. This is why you can eat more food with HFCS, because your brain doesn't realize you are full. You eat until you explode. I don't like this trait of HFCS, or that it may contain mercury, a known neurotoxin, but the thing I really hate about HFCS is that it isn't a real food. I can't grow some HFCS in my backyard. I can't go down to the Farmer's Market and pick some up when I run out. I can't even buy the right products and make some HFCS in my kitchen, like a cake. This worries me. Just like
7. Artificial sweeteners: I'm not going into too much detail, but for real, these things taste like chemicals, they are chemicals, your body treats them like chemicals and they probably cause cancer. Not for me! Thanks anyway! I'd rather eat stuff that isn't sweetened!
8. Organic tastes better. You may think this is a myth, but it really does. Go to your grocery store (or better yet, Farmer's Market) and buy an organic something and a conventional something. The only thing I've ever had organic that was awful was a peach from Whole Foods and I'm pretty sure that is because I live in peach country so I can get some mouth-watering running-down-your-chin juicy peaches just up the road a ways and I'm thinking Whole Foods' organic peaches were probably shipped in and maybe not harvested at their peak.

In Summary, I like organic because:
It tastes better! No cancer in my food! It is real! It wasn't produced in a lab! My kid isn't hyper, allergic to food or autistic because of it! It doesn't make my kids' junk broken! It doesn't ruin the environment, kill bees and other insects or make songbirds have 6 eyeballs! and lastly, it is the Color of Food, exactly what color my food should be, not neon orange cheese or blue drinks or rainbow candy!