If you’re 40-something or older like I am, you no doubt bore witness to a time when organic foods were considered “health food” and were relegated to the shelves of “health food stores”. To my recollection, the health food stores of my youth (the 1970s and ’80s) were mostly mom-and-pop outfits tucked into small strip malls, and were kind of a cross between Whole Foods Market and GNC.
In the minds of the general public, health food stores and hippies were sort of joined at the hip (no pun intended). I remember going a time or two with my mom, who was by no means a hippie. She used to buy carob there, at which we kids turned up our noses. What kid wants carob when there’s chocolate to be had?
These stores didn’t carry lots of produce. Anything “organic” vegetables or fruits we got came from roadside stands — I remember the sweet corn we would get in Maryland was superb. Everything else was supermarket (military commissary for us) produce, all conventionally grown.
So what’s all the fuss about organic food nowadays? I mean, factory farming had its origins in the 1940s and the chemical compound DDT (now no longer used, but there are so many others!) found its calling as a pesticide around 1948, so we’ve been eating “poisoned” food all along, right? Maybe so, but here’s the difference. Now we know better. Here’s another. Now it’s available.
Add to this the fact that today fast food “restaurants” dot every street corner, chemical-laden convenience foods line grocery store shelves, and physical fitness is at an all-time low while obesity and diseases like diabetes are at an all-time high.
Given this set of circumstances, which sounds better:
A. Eating a wax- and preservative-clothed apple sprayed with pesticides from a tree whose roots sip on chemical fertilizer cocktails while nearby weeds are choked with herbicides
B. Eating a naked apple from a tree nourished with compost and protected from choking weeds by loving orchard-keepers who pull them to add to the compost pile (which will then feed the tree!)
If you chose option B, you win the prize (which just so happens to be an organic apple)!
As illustrated in the example above all farmers, conventional or organic, large or small, face the same challenges: pests, weeds, and ensuring the growth of robust, healthy crops. So, what are the benefits of organic food?
Conventional — Synthetically produced fertilizers contain inorganic compounds such as nitrogen, phosphate and other minerals. Because these compounds are not organic they may not break down and can lead to pollution of soil and water sources. Contamination of water sources in turn causes harm to plants and animals which utilize or inhabit those waters. Chemical fertilizers can also change soil pH balance, which can negatively impact existing plants.
Organic — Composted (decomposed) plant materials and/or animal manure enrich the soil in which crops are grown and provide essential plant nutrients. Many organic fertilizer sources are naturally slow-releasing, providing modest amounts of nutrients over an extended period. If you are a vegan farmer, there are plenty of non-animal byproduct options like compost and liquid seaweed for you to use.
*For more about organic versus conventional fertilizers, please read Here’s the Scoop on Chemical and Organic Fertilizer. .
Conventional — The way chemical pesticides kill bugs is by impairing or destroying nervous system functioning, causing death. The method of operation is as simple as that: Treatment-Control-Removal. Unfortunately, most of these chemicals have the same effect on humans and animals as well. Using these poisons on and around food being grown for human consumption results in human exposure to them, whether or not fruits and vegetables are “washed” before distribution and again before consumption.
Organic — Organic pest control techniques involve the use of beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, or birds to control insects that are problematic to crops. Ladybugs love to eat aphids, which can be a huge problem for tomatoes and other plants. Other organic techniques include isolation (planting pest-prone crops separately from others so if there is an infestation it does not spread), using insect traps, and applying techniques to disrupt mating patterns. Pest control Seattle is a real expert in this field.
Conventional — Exposure of humans to chemical herbicides can result in everything from skin rash to respiratory problems to death. As with other chemicals used in agriculture, exposure may occur via many avenues: inhalation and direct skin contact (by field workers), ingestion of residue on foods by consumers, and as a result of chemical runoff into water sources are a few.
Organic — Most of the science of organic weed control is no “science” at all. Instead, good old-fashioned work is involved in keeping unwanted plants out of gardens and fields. Crop rotation, mulching, and pulling weeds by hand seem to work just as well now as they have throughout the ages to keep nasty weeds in check.
Reference: Las Vegas Pest Control.