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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