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Issue 91: The Great Organic Debate

To eat organic or not to eat organic? That’s the question. So let’s take a closer look.

First off, organic food is produced by farmers who use renewable resources and conserve soil and water to sustain a quality environment for future generations. Even though it’s future-minded, going organic serves us in the present, too. For example, organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is also produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering or ionizing radiation.

Before a product can be labeled organic, a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.

The USDA has identified for three categories of labeling organic products:

  • 100% Organic: Made with 100% organic ingredients
  • Organic: Made with at least 95% organic ingredients
  • Made With Organic Ingredients: Made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30%, including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms)

And know this: Natural foods are NOT organic. They don’t contain additives or preservatives, but they can be grown with pesticides or GMOs. Additionally, natural foods are not regulated.

Craig Minowa, Environmental Scientist of the Organic Consumers Association says, “There is an abundance of studies showing that organic food is healthier and safer for consumers than nonorganic products.” He continues, “Synthetic pesticides are designed to kill and have been in use for about half a century. Applying hundreds of millions of gallons of such chemicals to the human food supply [through conventional farming] is clearly having its impacts on the populace, from increased cancer rates, to neurological disorders to endocrine disruption.” 

Speaking of pesticides…

In 1998, Chensheng Lu, a researcher at the Department of Health at the University of Washington, began testing children in the Seattle area to try to detect pesticide residues in their urine.” Lu was looking for organophosphates, the family of pesticides spawned by the creation of nerve gas agents in World War II. Organophosphates can create mild anxiety, respiratory paralysis, neurobehavioral damage, cancer and reproductive disorders.

The 110 two-to-five-year-olds Lu studied had higher levels of pesticide metabolites (the markers produced when the body metabolizes the chemicals), but one child had no signs of any pesticide metabolites. The difference? That child’s family ate mostly organic. Fascinating, huh? Lu thought so, too, and received funding from the EPA to conduct more research. Here's what they found.

When Lu's research team substituted organic foods for a conventional diet in children for five days, they could find no evidence of pesticide metabolites in the children's urine. When Lu's team reintroduced conventional foods to the kids, however, the metabolites returned.

"The transformation is extremely rapid. Within eight to 36 hours of the children switching to organic food, the pesticides were no longer detected," Lu said. He added, “The level returns immediately when you go back to the conventional diets."

Now that’s pretty convincing evidence.


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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