Why Buy Organic?

My mother would be shocked if she saw me cooking up a storm with my organic veggies.

When she and Dad were married during World War II, cooking was the last thing on her radar. Her lack of interest in anything culinary came to a crisis when my Rochester Police Detective Grandfather (gruff and tough) appeared at the cottage she and another military wife were sharing in Ann Arbor, Michigan. During his visit, he announced he wanted a big slice of a home made apple pie. Mom panicked and turned to her roommate who shrugged and said, “He’s your father-in-law, not mine,” as she fled from baking duty. (I gather women of Mom’s generation were more interested in convenience than cooking.) It all ended well, according to Mom. “I found a recipe and rolled the dough on newspaper that I spread out on the table. All the newsprint disappeared by the time the pie was cooked.”

Her idea of adding a vegetable to the dinner menu was deciding which can to open. When I asked her if she would teach me to cook — by then her meals were tasty indeed — she laughed. “Cook? If you can read, you can cook. Let’s shop.”

So I have no idea what stray gene made an organic farmer out of my son. (He’s the farmer in the middle in the picture above.) His wife, an amazing lady we dubbed “Medicine Woman” because her research into all things natural managed so far to greatly reduce my son’s asthma symptoms and cure herself from rheumatoid arthritis by avoiding inflammatory food triggers. Consequently, she made me a believer in eating non-genetically modified organism (non-GMOs) vegetables and organic if possible.

All my research has convinced me herbicides, such as Roundup, are deadly hazards to our health and the planet. Just this year, a grounds-keeper who routinely sprayed Roundup in his work, won a huge settlement from Monsanto (now Bayer). He proved that the independent research was correct in identifying Roundup’s ingredient, glyphosate, as a carcinogen. That exposure resulted in his terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. (If you wonder how it is possible that a product accepted for use in America, produced by an American corporation, can kill people, you really, really, must read Whitewash by Carey Gillam.)

That is why I buy organic only. Yet there are voices, even in the medical community, that say it does not matter. Perhaps that’s because if you compare the damage done by eating a donut to eating non-organic veggies, it is still better to eat the veggies. That begs the question. Why should I pay extra for organic?  Does it really matter?  Even organic produce can be sprayed with some pesticides (NOT Roundup). What are the facts? What, exactly does “organic” mean anyway?

According to my son, “Organic is the production of the plant by a producer enrolled in the National Organic Program (NOP) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). (The plant) is grown in compliance with their regulations.”

He told me it costs money to get that organic certification, so there is another option. He doesn’t use even the few sprays that are allowed under USDA organic regulations. Because it is expensive to get that organic seal, he grows Certified Naturally Grown plants instead. The difference?  Another farmer who also uses natural growing methods inspects his crop. In other words, he is subject to peer review. The USDA certification can use an outside company to audit the farmer, and the inspector does not have to know as much about farming as the farmer.

Some organic, or certified naturally grown, farms may not wish to use sprays at all — like my son. In that case, the key to healthy pest control is soil health. Plants are no healthier than the soil in which they are grown. Healthy plants can resist disease and pests, just as healthy people are less vulnerable to disease. Plants have sophisticated natural chemical defenses. Besides, spraying is costly. The most important thing is to have healthy soil. Here is a site tells you a bit more about certified naturally grown produce: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/naturally-grown-alternative-label-organic-160020483.html

With industry and the government’s long history of co-operation (some would say collusion), I wonder if I can trust the USDA label in the future. Will the government maintain standards or give a little here and there to cater to big agri-business that is eyeing the growing organic market? The Trump administration is already snipping away at the few regulations we have. https://www.foxnews.com/health/can-you-still-trust-the-usda-certified-organic-label.

“Healthy produce is almost a side effect of good soil,” my son concluded.

Here’s a link put out by the government that hits the highlights about organic farming, not only of plants, but animals as well — https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Organic%20Practices%20Factsheet.pdf

The Environmental Working Group, which tests everything from make-up to veggies, (www.ewg.org) lists the annual “dirty dozen” (foods that have the most exposure to herbicides) and the “clean 15” that have the least. (Click FOOD on website.) It’s a handy reference  I use when shopping. Foods can be genetically modified (GMO) and NOT organic, but organic CANNOT be genetically modified, so your safest choice is to buy organic.

What is your biggest barrier to eating organic?

If you do eat mostly organic foods, what is your motivation?