news item: organic food and you

A couple of months ago the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report offering their perspectives on organic foods as it relates to children. The news agencies at first proclaimed that the AAP was recommending organic diets for all children and women of child-bearing years. But in actuality the report is pretty unclear. The AAP does state very firmly that “nutritionally” there is no difference in vitamins of organic versus conventional (not-organic) foods.

But. It does state that,

“In terms of health advantages, organic diets have been convincingly demonstrated to expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease.”

And in regards to antibiotic use in meat production,

“Nontherapeutic use of antibiotic agents in livestock contributes to the emergence of resistant bacteria; thus, organic animal husbandry may reduce the risk of human disease attributable to resistant organisms.”

And what struck me the most was this statement:

“Although chronic pesticide exposure and measurable pesticide metabolite concentrations seem undesirable and potentially unhealthy, no studies to date have experimentally examined the causal relationship between exposure to pesticides directly from conventionally grown foods and adverse neurodevelopmental health outcomes.”

There have been NO studies proving that the level of pesticide exposure we get from eating non-organic foods is safe. Yet they admit that this exposure seems “undesirable and potentially unhealthy.” What is further upsetting, to me at least, is that they have studied the workers who harvest this food and apply the pesticides to the crops. These workers, often migrant workers, have experienced negative side effects and their children, who were exposed in the womb as their pregnant mothers worked, showed intelligence and attention issues later in life. Further in this same paragraph, (which I could just quote the whole thing but won’t), is the fact that when they were looking at the concentration of pesticides in the urine of these farm workers, the levels were in the SAME RANGE of the urine tested of non-farm worker children participating in a conventional vs. organic food intake study.

This news item is the actual study released by the AAP, it is dense and it is at points hard to read because of the technical terminology. But had I not read it, and just read the write-ups about it, I would have totally missed what I feel is critical information. There are studies linking pesticide exposure to neurological disorders and chronic long-term exposure has been associated with cancer, depression, Parkinson’s and a host of other issues.

That all being said, there is also reality. Organic food and free-range meats are expensive. We recently moved to a rather rural area where our local grocery store caries about 5 items total that are organic. And the organic milk at this store is $5 per half-gallon. It is very hard for us to eat all organic, and we simply cannot afford it. This is the case for a lot of families I imagine. We do use a guide called the “Dirty Dozen” that list the top twelve produce items that have the highest level of pesticide residue. We have committed to buying those items organic only.

My husband and I are committed to giving Stella as much organic food as possible, and the same for ourselves. This means that our weekly grocery bill has increased by about $20 a week. That’s not pocket change for us. We have had to cut back on other things. But for us we would rather spend more on organic and less in other areas of our life. It’s all about choice.

Please read Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages. It’s long and dense, but I’d urge you to especially read the section titled “Pesticides.” And then tell us what you think.

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Do you eat organic foods? What are your reasons for or not?

What are your thoughts on the AAP study?

Do you feel organic food should be a “right” or a personal choice?

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Comments

  1. This news piece is nothing new, unfortunately. No one wants to study the negative affects of pesticides because doing so would kill the farming industry as we know it today.

    We feed our son organic fruits and veggies off the dirty dozen list as a rule in this house, and when we cook meat at home, we always, ALWAYS, use organic meats and prefer grass-fed everything. We have a great farm in the northeast part of our state who delivers organic, grass-fed beef throughout the state and also supplies organic fish, chicken, lamb, etc. from other farms. You can’t beat that! Organic milk is the only way we go in this house for everyone, and that goes for all dairy products (even sour cream!). When it comes to what we’re putting in our bodies, we are very aware of what we’re buying at the grocery store. Going out to eat does not afford you this luxury, unfortunately, and we try to ignore the fact that what we’re eating isn’t the cleanest food in the world. But even with milk, Matthew does not get milk when we’re out unless it’s organic. No question about it.

    • oh how lucky to have that farm. Finding grass fed organic anything is a pain in the butt here. I may have to find myself a butcher who works directly with this kind of farm….

    • Just think if the government switched all their farm subsidies into subsisdies for organic farming, we’d have a farming revolution.

  2. I switched to mostly organic when I started seeing my TCM guy before my IVF cycle. There are some things I haven’t always been able to find. Raegan gets organic pretty much everything. I has been an eye opening experience and an expensive one. My husband doesn’t agree 100% but he has gone along with it for the most part. And really the only reason I switched is because of the chemicals used. Hell, even my dogs get grass fed bison based food. I might be paranoid, but oh well.

  3. Nooooooooooooooooo! WordPress just ate up my big ol’ wonderfully thought-out comment! So instead, you get the summarized version: We eat almost entirely organic. It’s too damn expensive. I stood in the pasta aisle and cried last weekend as I picked up the $4.79 box of organic whole-wheat mac & cheese instead of the $1.99 “blue box” stuff. Beyond pesticide exposure, I hate GMO’s and hormones used in food production, and I think people vastly underestimate the negative environmental impact of conventional food production. I don’t trust any kind of study. And I want to make the world a better place for my kids (and all kids). So while I couldn’t hang with cloth diapers, I’m totally compensating by shrinking my carbon footprint via organic, locally grown purchases, composting, recycling, etc. I wish everyone at least had the choice to buy organic, understand why most people can’t because it’s too expensive, and respect those who just choose not to for whatever reason.

    Dangit. My original comment was so much better. 😉

    • Boo on WP eating comments. This one’s pretty awesome too! Yeah, the cost is so crazy especially when the costs to produce organic are getting cheaper but marketing keeps the prices high.

  4. Jman has just started solids and I’m really conscious of the pesticide burden on that little body. I used to be pretty strictly organic, but since we moved we are further from the big farmers market…however our little farmers market is very close and I buy pesticide free for us and certified organic for him. We tend to buy meat from the markets too, all grass fed free range stuff where possible, which isn’t always. But once jman is on the meat, I’m going back to being more strict. I’m already researching which yoghurt etc. we grow our own herbs usually, even in an apartment now. I was lucky pregnant & on bed rest, my sister brought over organic fruit and veg every week.

    We are lucky in Australia that the farming tends not to be as feed lot intensive as in the US, but I prefer to buy straight from the farmer at markets when possible. I started organic when I suffered depression and I read about the links to pesticides, I’m very interested to know what the dirty dozen is. I was really surprised when I asked my mums group very few other mums, even seemingly environmentally conscious ones, are not going organic for their bubs!?!

  5. We just started to feed C more food and definitely always choose organic for him. I try my hardest, although it is expensive to buy organic and preferably local organic, for us as well. I was so spoiled in Vermont, there was an abundance of good local, organic food, Eastern MA, not so much.
    IMO, there is so much more to eating organic than the personal benefits, we cannot deny that the planet is for the most part a closed system. Pesticides and hormones most certainly leach into ground water, soil, etc. Besides, supporting small scale farms is good for the economy. We don’t have a lot of money but we choose to prioritize food, it is one of the few places that we can afford to be conscious consumers.

    • We buy organic for the “other” reasons too, environment, stewardship of the Earth, supporting local, etc. We used to live in Eastern MA,Newton and Marshfield, I miss Whole Foods SO much! If you think there is nothing in East MA you should see what it’s like here in Indiana, soooo depressing.

  6. We’re perpetually teetering on the edge of broke, so we don’t do organic. We try to eat locally though because it’s better for everyone to eat local stuff. I am also not convinced that just knowing something is “organic” tells me a thing about pesticides that were used on it because sometimes the organic pesticides are worse for us (heavy metals rather than strange chemicals). Hopefully this year we can afford to join a CSA and get food straight from a farm. Previously we’ve been lucky to live in a farming town and trade for fresh, friendly-raised meat. I try harder to get antibiotic-free, grass-fed, sustainably raised meat than other things because the atrocities we commit to get cheap meat are far worse IMO than the veggie pesticide problems, but in reality, we eat whatever it is we can afford.

    • This is where we are at too. In an ideal world, I would only buy locally grown/raised organic foods, but the realities of living in central Alberta is that 8 months a year there isn’t much choice for organic foods, and what is available is ridiculously expensive. Our farmer’s market only runs from the end of May until the beginning of October. I do try to keep us eating seasonally as well, but again, I can’t cook turnips and parsnips for 8 months a year. I need to learn to can…

      • We started canning and it is GREAT. I highly reccomend it. Yeah, we spend the extra 20 a week on organic, but that doesn’t allow us to be all organic, that would probably add an extra $40-60 a week and we can’t do that.

    • Yeah, we joined a CSA and it is awesome and when we looked at the cost in the long run it was doable. We cut our meat comsumption down to compensate for cost, but lowering meat consumption is something that’s good for you too so we didn’t mind it.

  7. I have some close friends who run a ranch raising grass fed, pesticide free, etc. animals, though they are NOT designated “organic” because it’s really just a label you pay big bucks to use…without a whole lot of regulation of what constitutes as organic. Because of my experiences with them, I have tried harder to buy local and less hard to buy organic, since what does the label really mean anyway?

    Also, I am WAY better about spending $$ on buying quality local foods for Stells than us. It’s just so damn expensive. *sigh*

Trackbacks

  1. […] release of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ study on organic foods. Read our write-up, organic foods and you, for a link to the study and tell us what you […]

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