As our cost of living increases it sometimes becomes harder to afford to eat healthy and live cleanly. Often it is challenging to navigate through our food industry…should we only eat organic, plant based, sustainable and local food in order to provide the most nutrients for our body? I think the answer is yes, however, this is not always easily obtained within the current food system found in North America. Big companies such as Monsanto, Bayer, Dow and Dupont have made it their mission to bombard the food system around the world with GMO crops and toxic synthetic chemicals all in the name of making a massive profit; not to feed the hungry. What we as consumers need to be educated about is the prolific effects these gene altering, hormone interrupting chemicals have on our health and the health of the planet. The negative effects are already appearing within our health and food system. Cancers are on the rise and lately there never seems to be a conversation about if you get cancer but when. Food is our essence, it nourishes, energizes, builds and supports everything about us – without it we wouldn’t live. So I think it’s fair to say that if the food we eat is genetically altered and grown in chemicals it must have an influence on how our body will process and function every day?
Its great having big box stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and even Loblaws selling organic food items, especially if there isn’t the access to local farmers, but the cost of shopping there all of the time can be hard on the bank account. So how can we navigate our way through all of the information, eat healthier and support our body and the earth? Here’s some educating information below and ideas to help you make better consumer choices.
Aren’t there pesticides found on Organic produce? Why eat Organic food instead of Conventional?
CBC did a report about this in 2014 that found pesticides in organic produce. So why should you still make the investment in organic?
Although there are pesticides found on organic produce, many of them are biological not synthetic. Of the synthetic pesticides that were found, they were in a much lower ratio than found in conventional. There is no guarantee that organic produce can ever be pesticide free (unless you grow it in your own localized garden or live on a deserted island) because of spray drift and cross contamination from conventional farms that often surround organic farmland.
After attending the Canadian Organic Growers convention, I learnt some interesting scientific facts about the food industry from professionals working hard to keep organic farming alive. It’s a bit overwhelming but allows you to make an informed choice and provides a good incentive to eat healthier.
Screenshot taken from COG convention in Toronto 2016 – note the pesticide use on strawberries
- Conventional produce is 4 1/2 times more likely to have synthetic pesticides found on it
- Conventional produce has 120x’s more synthetic pesticide residue on it than the biological pesticides found on organic produce
- Many of the synthetic pesticides used for conventional farming have been shown to be toxic to the nervous, reproduction and muscular systems (check out ewg.org)
- Glyphosate, found in the weed/pest control product Roundup is the number 1 used chemical around the world – it has been termed a “probable human carcinogen” by the WHO and has been found in products such as honey sold in the US (carried by the bees – no wonder their numbers are plummeting)
- No North American government agency currently test for glyphosate residue on crops, but more than 70 different crops in the US use it for pest control – it is expected to earn around $80B in the coming year
- GMO crops still require pesticides such as Roundup to help keep them pest free
- Organic farmers must abide by very strict rules in order to gain and keep their certification – they work hard to design a system to keep pests away through crop rotation & maintaining good soil health and only biological pesticides are used as a last resort
- Organic crops, milk and meat have scientifically been shown to have an increase in antioxidants (at least 20% more), a decrease in cadmium (which can be 10-100x’s more in conventional), an increase in Omega 3 fatty acids (need these guys for our brain, tissues and heart) and a decrease in saturated fats.
- Synthetic pesticide residue has been found on 73% of our fruit/veg, 94% of our blueberries and 90% of our potatoes here in Canada (according to the CFIA)
- 1 million HA of Canadas agricultural lands are now organic, but that’s still less than 2% of all agricultural land used in Canada
- 31% of organic produce found to contain pesticide residue were exposed to it during the processing/packaging not the farming of it
- It has been seen that our gut microflora can uptake DNA proteins from GMO produce we eat which can then be expressed in our bacteria
- Conventional agriculture requires alot more energy, fuel, limited resources (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) and increases our carbon footprint
- Chemical run off into our urban water systems is costly for municipalities and has been shown to have an impact on our health and wellness. (to read more https://www.ec.gc.ca/inre-nwri/235D11EB-1442-4531-871F-A7BA6EC8C541/threats-eprint.pdf )
What conventional crops are heavily sprayed with synthetic pesticides?
Luckily the Environmental Workers Group has created this great list https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php
What conventional GMO crops are currently grown in Canada for our consumption?
Visit the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network http://www.cban.ca/Resources/Topics/GE-Crops-and-Foods-On-the-Market
How can we make a change and still stay on budget?
Seasonal, locally grown organic fruits and vegetables are usually cheaper at their peak of freshness and can provide the most abundance of nutrients. Organic strawberries from California can be very expensive this time of year, so maybe wait until you can get them locally?
In the cold climate of the winter season our body doesn’t easily digest cold, watery produce. It requires more energy for the stomach to heat things up before it can be broken down for absorption and assimilation. There is nothing wrong with eating our summer fruits and vegetables just in the summer. To help here is Ontario’s seasonal food availability guide https://www.ontario.ca/foodland/page/availability-guide.
Now when I shop I focus on local and sustainable foods as often as I can. We invest in a small quantity of good meat and fish, organic dairy & eggs, eat seasonal fruit and focus on eating whole foods – limiting/avoiding packaging and processing. Here’s some more tips to help:
- Prioritize where you are going to spend your money. Will you focus on the clean 15 fruits & veg or just work on avoiding the dirty dozen? https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php
Shop around at different locations that offer organic produce/ingredients and compare prices (I often shop at 3 or 4 different store locations).
- Planning ahead means you will focus on buying what you can afford and potentially won’t buy what you don’t need (such as cookies and chips).
- Frozen produce reduces the amount of food waste you may normally incur and is a great addition to meals – especially when you don’t have a lot of time to cook.
- Try to avoid the dirty dozen conventional produce and focus on the clean 15 https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean_fifteen_list.php
- Support local farmers markets. Its not cheap or easy to get an organic certification label – buying directly from our farmers, supports a more efficient farming system and puts the money back into their pockets which will help support them and the local farming system (its all a big cycle).
- Support local butchers – have a conversation with the people that provide healthier meat options. As the saying goes, “less is more”, so invest in a smaller piece of good quality meat – better for the body and the environment. It isn’t easy or inexpensive for a farm to get an organic certification; however there are many non certified farmers that are following an organic model – this is why a conversation with your local butcher is important. Many small local farmers will invest in better, healthier ways of growing their livestock that don’t use artificial chemicals in their feed, support grazing in the fields and treat their animals humanely. Here’s a shout out to the MEAT DEPARTMENT – thanks for your hard work!