Ten reasons to grow, buy and eat organic food

When you grow or buy certified organic food and products, your actions and dollars cast a vote for a healthier planet because:

1) Organic food protects the health of future generations

The average child receives four times more exposure than an adult to at least eight widely used cancer-causing pesticides in food. The food choices parents make today will impact their children’s health tomorrow.

2) Organic food protects water quality

Water makes up two-thirds of our body mass and covers three-quarters of the planet. Despite its importance, the EPA estimates that pesticides contaminate groundwater in 38 states, polluting the primary source of drinking water for more than half the country’s population.

Organic growers and processors use practices that eliminate polluting chemicals and nitrogen leaching, and thus protect and conserve precious water resources.

3) Organic practices build and protect topsoil

The Soil Conservation Service estimates that over 30 billion tons of topsoil are eroded from U.S. croplands annually.

The cause? Intensive mono-cropping (the planting of vast areas with the same crop year after year) and environmentally insensitive farming practices. The results? The worst topsoil erosion in history.

Soil is the organic farmer’s most revered resource. Rather than relying on synthetic fertilizers, they build their soil through natural practices like composting, reducing tillage, developing a healthy soil biome, and increasing biodiversity.

Organic farmers respect the soil and view it as the foundation of the food chain.

4) Organic must meet standards

“USDA Organic” standards are the public’s only indicator that food and products they buy have been grown and handled according to standards and grown without persistent toxic inputs.┬áConsumers can find a diverse spectrum of certified organic products on supermarket and department store shelves, from snack foods to outdoor clothing.

However, the term may no longer mean what it used to thanks to many years of lobbying for diminished standards by giant farming conglomerates who desired the extra price they can get for organic but didn’t want to pay the costs.

When you grow food yourself, you can grow to your own standards, which will likely be much higher than industrial organic.

5) Organic growing reduces potential health risk

Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Now, the EPA considers 60% of all herbicides, 90% of all fungicides, and 30% of all insecticides as potentially cancer-causing.

Organic farmers use only natural methods of pest control.

6) Organic practices preserve biodiversity

The loss of biodiversity is one of our most pressing environmental concerns. Many conventional farms still grow hybridized vegetables and fruits, bred for uniformity, ease of shipping, and cosmetic appearance. Rarely will they be bred for flavor or nutrition.

Such “modern” concerns have ignored the value of preserving a diversity of seed varieties, and therefore a more balanced ecosystem.

Many organic growers have been collecting and using heirloom seed varieties for decades. These cherished varieties often have surprising and delicious flavors, colors, and growing habits; over time they often naturalize to where they’re being grown.

Biodiversity offers plants resilience to pests and a better chance to adapt to pressures from changing weather and climate.

7) Organic food keeps communities resilient

The USDA studies indicate that in the year 2000, half of the U.S. farm production came from only 1% of farms.

Organic farming may be one of the few survival tactics left for the family farm and rural communities. Many organic farms are independently owned and operated and have less than 100 acres.

San Diego County has more small farms — ten acres or fewer — than any county in the United States. We also have more organic farms and women-owned farms in the country as well.

8) Organic practices protect the health of farmworkers

While pesticides may pose a health risk to consumers, the risks are far greater for field workers. A National Cancer Institute study found that farmers exposed to herbicides had a six-times greater risk than non-farmers of contracting one type of cancer. Field workers on conventional farms, due to their direct exposure, are the most vulnerable to illness as a result of pesticide use.

Organic farms eliminate that risk by eliminating harmful pesticides and other chemical inputs from their practices.

9) Organic food represents a truer economy

Organic products may seem more expensive, but retail prices are deceptive because conventionally raised and priced agricultural products represent only a fraction of the true cost.

The price paid for conventionally grown foods does not reflect hidden costs, such as federal subsidies to conventional agriculture, the cost of contaminated drinking water, loss of wildlife habitat and soil erosion, or the cost of the disposal and clean-up of hazardous wastes generated by the manufacturing of pesticides.

Now add in healthcare costs from eating conventionally grown food: Most death-causing long-term diseases are dietary, and many illnesses are food-borne. These costs are reflected in increased insurance premiums and out-of-pocket payments, and bankruptcies caused by medical costs.

Consumers can pay now or pay later. When you buy or grow organically grown food you’re paying now for a healthier and more sustainable future.

10) Organic food tastes great

Top restaurant chefs across the country will tell you “organically grown foods taste better.” Why? It’s common sense — well-balanced soils grow strong healthy plants that taste great. Plus, many conventional growers are still raising hybridized vegetables and fruits that are bred for uniformity, ease of shipping, and cosmetic appearance – concerns that ignore the importance of flavor.

Many organic growers collect and use seeds from heirloom varieties that, because of their superior flavor, have been passed down through generations of farmers.

True flavors, like those from an organic, vine-ripened Brandywine Pink tomato or a crisp, organic, Gravenstein apple, are not just for chefs and fancy restaurants — they are for everyone who cares about food.