Thursday, August 30, 2007

You Are What You Eat - Organic Food Statistics Worth Chewing On

--body + mind + spirit--

On my way home today I stopped off at a local farmers market today to replenish our fruits supplies. While there I came across some very illuminating literature published by NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) with some interesting statistics that I thought I would share.

-An estimated 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides are used in the U.S every year. More than 16,000 pesticide products are made from roughly 1,200 registered active ingredients.

-An estimated 24.6 million lbs of antimicrobials such as penicillin and erythromycin are used in the U.S every year as feed additives for poultry, pigs, and cattle. Only 3 million lbs of antimicrobials are used annually in human medicine to treat disease.

-Antibiotics in livestock production is contributing to reduced efficacy of important antibiotics used to treat people, due to the growing antibiotic resistance of disease organisms. The American Medical Association has gone on record seeking a ban on use of antibiotics for nontherapeutic use in farm animals for this reason.

-The Center for Disease Control show that children are exposed to the highest level of organophosphate family of pesticides, which damage the nervous system. Women had the highest measured body burden levels of three to six organochlorine pesticides evaluated, particularly problematic because they are known to have multiple harmful effects when crossing the placenta during fetal development.

-Eating organic foods means lower pesticide exposure. The University of Washington's School of Public Health found that 2 to 5 year olds eating conventional food had 8.5 times higher average levels of organophosphate insecticide metabolites in their urine than children fed solely on organic foods.

In addition I dug up the following stats when exploring the nutritional value in organic -vs- non-organic foods (a long standing debate).

-In an analysis of USDA nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 it was found that the average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables declined 27 percent, iron levels dropped 37 percent, vitamin A levels dropped 21 percent, and Vitamin C levels dropped 30 percent. Another study(1930-1980) of British nutrient data, headed by the British Food Journal,found that in 20 vegetables the average calcium content had declined 19 percent, iron 22 percent, and potassium 14 percent.

Apparently USDA official were unable to explain the decline in nutrients, but said that "many factors could be involved." One obvious possibility is how the soil is being deprived year to year. It is being soaked by chemicals and used solely to hold plants in place. This approach quickly uses up all the nutrients. Unless you replace them using sustainable methods, where are those nutrients going to come from?

Organic Gardening Magazine has been pressuring the USDA to study the nutrient levels in produce, to assess weather chemical farming is the cause of the decline. As more sources profile this concern and more activists take on this issue, the USDA might be forced to look at the reasons behind the weakened nutrition in vegetable crops.

Next time you are shopping and considering buying non-organic ask yourself about the choices you are making. That simple $2.50 purchase of corn or hamburger meat. might not only be utterly useless from a nutritional standpoint, but can also be harmful. Keep it mindful - how you shop not only impacts your economy, but your health, and your environment.

For More Information - go to the Northeast Organic Farming Association

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