• Lizzie Shutt

Organic Insights

Food labeling in today’s modern supermarkets is overwhelming with so many promising health-benefiting words that the product claims. “All Natural,” “Boost Your Energy,” “Low Sugar” and “Free-Range” slogans are typically purely for advertising purposes they aren’t backed by scientific evidence or product research. However, one benefit to packaged “health” foods is that the nutrition label that includes an ingredient list. Consumers are better able to determine if the product’s claims are true or if there are filler ingredients and preservatives. But, you don’t see any labeling on your produce!

The big debate on buying organic vs. conventional produce can prove to be even more of a struggle for consumers who care about their planet, health, and wallet. Lack of labeling and education for consumers on the production differences between crops results in confusion. Here are definitions for both farming practices:

  • USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) definition, April 1995: "Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony...without the use of GMOs, synthetic fertilizers, no animals receive antibiotics or growth hormones.”

  • USDA explains conventional farms share these characteristics: “rapid technological innovation; large capital investments in order to apply production and management technology; large-scale farms; single crops/row crops grown continuously over many seasons; uniform high-yield hybrid crops; extensive use of pesticides, fertilizers, and external energy inputs; high labor efficiency; and dependency on agribusiness. In the case of livestock, most production comes from confined, concentrated systems.”

Conventional farming has provided the world with abundant food, but at the cost of our health, as well as the planet’s. Due to the overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on conventional farms, the majority ends up flowing off the farm as runoff into nearby watersheds. This disrupts aquatic ecosystems, infiltrates our drinking water, and causes algal blooms that kill off fish and release toxins in the water. The chemicals that do remain on the crops pose a lifelong threat to human health. Consumption, inhalation, and skin contact are all ways humans interact with these chemicals on food. Although the EPA sets “safety limits,” these may be underestimated, especially when thinking about long-term side effects of such chemicals. Like plastics, chemical bioaccumulation is a factor to be aware of. Research has even found pesticide residues in breast milk! Let’s rethink how we feed ourselves and the next generation!

Last Fall semester for a class project the students were divided into groups and given a plot of land to care for. These are some of the organic produce we harvested!! That was a giant zucchini!

Regenerative agriculture is the future of the farming industry, organic farms are making a step in the right direction when it comes to the holistic approach these farmers use. Minimizing pollution to the air, water, and soil is crucial for our future because without a healthy environment for plants, humans will soon wilt too.

Cost of organic crops tends to be the major factor in preventing people from buying organic products.

Personally, I have struggled with deciding what to buy organic, namely weighing in factors such as the type of produce, cost, packaging or plastic-free. I recently visited a naturopathic doctor where I received a Bio-scan that analyzed all types of biomarkers in my body. At the top of the list was “Herbicides.” I was surprised at first, but it makes sense since being plant-based, I am always eating crops! Ever since seeing my results I’ve been sticking to buying organics for all the crops listed on the Dirty Dozen (list of produce with the highest pesticide residue). In addition, I strive to buy all fruits, bell peppers, lettuce and broccoli organic because they don’t have a protective outer layer. I truly believe that investing in your health through the quality of food you eat is a building block to living a consciously connected life! When you really need to save the cash consider buying conventional produce you don’t eat the skin of, like pineapples. Here is a produce list of the Clean Fifteen (least amount of pesticide residue).

Every purchase, no matter how small, is a vote with your dollar for the kind of world you want to live in.

"Live Dirty, Eat Clean and Green"

Lizzie Shutt


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