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September is Organic Harvest Month, so there’s no better time to bone up on your organic facts. For more resources, recipes, and programs on organic foods, check out organic-center.org.
1. Organic Food Enhances Your Health
The largest studies of the health effects of eating an organic diet have been carried out in France. In one group of more than 54,000 men and women, those eating organic foods were less likely to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. This link was more pronounced among men, who ate more meat and other animal-based foods than women. Among other studies, one looked at nearly 69,000 French adults and found that eating mostly organic foods reduced cancer risk by 25 percent.
Hundreds of studies have looked at the nutritional profiles of various foods. Overall, they’ve found that organic fruits and vegetables have higher levels of protective antioxidants. And organic meat, milk, and eggs contain more beneficial fats, especially anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats.
2. Chemicals in Conventional Food Contribute to Chronic Disease
A report by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, which includes data from the FDA, estimates that more than 2,000 chemicals are allowed as additives in conventional food. Known health risks of such chemicals include hormone disruption, cancer, inflammation, brain damage, kidney stones, gout, disruption of gut bacteria, and other digestive problems. In addition, some of these chemicals are known polluters of our air and water.
Pesticides and weed killers cause additional harm. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, the world’s most popular weed killer, is considered a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization. In this country, the manufacturer of glyphosate has lost three lawsuits alleging that the chemical caused cancer, and more than 13,000 other Americans have filed similar cases. In Austria, the government has banned glyphosate as of 2020.
3. Organic Food Protects Against Antibiotic Resistance and Toxins
Antibiotics are fed to conventionally raised animals to promote growth and prevent infection in cramped quarters. The practice leads to bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics. Antibiotic residues make it to our plate, in meat and dairy products, and contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans.
At Emory University in Atlanta, scientists compared conventional and organic milk. They found residues of antibiotics, including drugs that are banned from use in lactating cows, in 60 percent of conventional milk. Organic milk contained none.
In conventional milk, Emory researchers also found extremely high levels of growth hormone and, in up to 60 percent of samples, pesticides that included chlorpyrifos, which damages the brain. Organic milk did not contain any of these.
4. Organic Farming Reduces Pollution
In addition to avoiding chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides and weed killers that pollute air and water, organic farming can help to reverse our bigger pollution problem. Organic agriculture creates healthier soil that is naturally rich in bacteria and other microorganisms. This type of soil naturally absorbs and holds a lot of carbon dioxide, the main gas that traps pollutants in the atmosphere and makes our air dangerously unhealthy. Soil on conventional farms doesn’t do this because it has been depleted of vital microorganisms.
Scientists at The Rodale Institute estimate that if all the farmland in the world were converted to organic and the natural microorganisms were restored, the soil would absorb more carbon than the world currently emits. Although not all experts agree that the impact would be as big, there’s no dispute about the ability of rich, organic soil to take in and keep significant amounts of carbon dioxide out of our air.
5. Organic Farming Creates More Jobs and Healthier Communities
Growing food and raising farm animals using organic methods is much more labor intensive than conventional farming. One farmer estimated that whereas a conventional farm might support one family, an organic farm of similar size could support five, and research points in a similar direction.
A study by scientists in Oregon and Washington State found that organic farms employ more people per acre, for longer periods of time each year. This creates more job security, more stable communities, more demand for local services, more social ties, and more involvement in civic activities. In this way, organic farming can help to revitalize and build strong communities in rural America.