Doctor I’m Having a Chemical Reaction! In part #05 of our World Environment Day 2013 ‘Think.Eat.Save’ theme we look at the people and planet benefits of organic foods.
Our mass-produced foods are grown using an increasing amount of herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers. Weeds and bugs are breeding resistance to whatever we throw at them and we’re literally locked in an arms race. All of these chemicals have high environmental footprints and health risks for us.
In the past I’ve always found organic fruit and veg to have two problems; price and appearance. Now that I’m a father the price thing isn’t as much of an issue [although it still rates], and I quickly forget the appearance thing [organic food doesn’t use cosmetics either ; > ] when the taste hits.
Here’s a quick selection of the benefits of choosing organic foods;
- Better soils; organic farming improves soil health and structure, increases water infiltration and develops a better soil ecosystem. Soil erosion is also reduced.
- Cleaner water; no chemicals on the food means no chemicals being leached into the water table or being washed into our waterways.
- Smaller greenhouse footprint; avoiding the high embodied energy of agrichemicals, and improved carbon-fixing capability of the soil due to the absence of chemicals
- Greater biodiversity; organic farming also creates more diverse plantings, where different plants support each other through the way they cycle nutrients and minerals in the soil [e.g. nitrogen fixing]
- Better health; the amount of chemicals pumped into our food, including fruit and veg, meat and dairy, is scary. The compelling evidence I found whilst researching was so worrying that I’ve opted not to repeat it here [I bit like not wanting to look under the bed at night…] – this blog is about positive actions rather than negative reactions.
There’s a good overview of why it’s good to go organic at the Australian Organic site. One of the most popular rules of thumb I came across was the ‘Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen‘. Buy organic for the Dirty Dozen to avoid the worst of the typical pesticides used in the food production. This one has a US origin so as usual please conduct your own research for your own area. The concept of this one is cool though and wouldn’t be difficult to replicate. This image shows the Dirty Dozen;
This one is definitely worth doing some of your own market research – the organics industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry and is still growing, so our perceptions can easiliy become outdated.
And on the price issue? Prices are coming down as production scales up. And when you start to synthesise some of the other ideas in this week’s posts, e.g. local farmers markets, you’ll start to find local organic produce closer to home than you think.