Sunday, September 9, 2012

Food for thought: Organic vs. non-organic farm products battle for bucks and buzz.

The radio blared the morning’s headlines. The CBS network news on the hour is part of my daily wake up routine. This week I heard a story that stunned me.  “Study shows organic food no more nutritional than standard products. Little evidence it makes a significant impact on health.” Many newspapers and TV networks reported it, as well.

I couldn’t believe it. “How did that get past the editor?” I thought. Of course not, people don’t eat organic foods to increase nutrition, they pay more for it because it’s not chemically enhanced. Fewer pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or other “better- living-through-chemistry” additives. That’s why I eat them.

When you dig deeper into the recent Stanford University study, indeed the results are revealing. Organic food is 30 percent less likely to contain detectable pesticide levels. Also, when bacteria appear in poultry or pork, non-organic meats are riskier. They’re 33 percent more likely to be resistant to a variety of antibiotics. Organic foods not more nutritious?  Maybe not, but do you like more robust bacteria in your food?

Despite the details, for some reason, the headline said organic foods weren’t healthier. 
Was that the food lobby and marketers pushing the spin? Can’t say, but the real devil is in the details. Organic foods make up less than five percent of the retail market. Have you ever bought organic dairy products and wondered why the expiration date for them is several weeks away, while the abundant, standard dairy products usually expire in a week or ten days? It’s true. Could it have something to do with the hormones that cause cows to produce 15 percent more non-organic milk? I don’t know, but it’s a question I’d like to hear a journalist ask.

A PBS-TV special program, “The Blood Sugar Solution” reveals a theory that toxins in our environment, including foods, are contributing to childhood obesity, diabetes and adult obesity. Best-selling author, Mark Hyman, MD, has testified that these contaminants prevent the body from functioning and metabolizing foods properly. Hyman reports unborn children have more than 200 toxins in their umbilical cord blood. He believes these are playing a role in unhealthy, overweight infants as they grow bigger and fatter.

With so much attention on the cost of healthcare, this topic deserves more exploration. But we’re not likely to get it from media or medicine. There are too many ad dollars at stake and no profitable prescription drug or procedure to cure the problem. It’s simply about making good choices and preventative medicine. There are also major players in the chemical industry with a lot on the line. It’s up to us to read more than the headlines. Analyzing food-packaging labels in detail is important, too.

A Dow chemist once told me most people have such a high level of food preservatives in their bodies that they don’t really require embalming when they die. That’s one of the cost-saving benefits of eating chemically enhanced food.

Bon appétit. 

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