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The Environmental and Health Benefits of Organic Food

January 14, 2019

The Environmental and Health Benefits of Organic Food 

The market for organic foods has grown to about $45 billion in the United States, based on data collected from the Organic Trade Association. Nowadays organic products are being old in conventional supermarkets and specialty stores, and they contain numerous marketing claims, but only a few of them are being regulated and standardized. The biggest claims about organic food products is that they offer numerous health advantages and are also great for the environment. 

Organic diets have been demonstrated with great success to expose consumers to less pesticides, which are linked to various diseases, like cancer. Organic farming also has less of an environmental impact than conventional methods of farming. However, despite all that the evidence currently available doesn’t support any meaningful nutritional benefits of eating organic foods over conventionally grown foods. There is a lack of human studies that demonstrate the health benefits of organic diets or how it protects consumers against disease. The studies done have also not shown if organic diets cause any disease-promoting or detrimental effects when consumed. 

This comes on the back of the high demand for organic foods, which has seen their price soar in the industry. Numerous farming studies have shown that organic farming does lead to cost-cutting, and higher yields of produce than conventional farming methods. The information shared in this article is strictly for educational purposes, and shouldn’t be taken in any other manner, as we are going to cover the environmental and health benefits of organic foods for the average consumer. The article is going to look at what the term ‘organic’ means and explore the benefits of organic farming over conventional farming methods. We will examine all evidence and present a holistic picture on the environmental and health benefits of organic foods and whether you should make them a part of your diet. 

What does “organic” mean? 

The term ‘organic’ is related to the way in which agricultural products are processed and grown. The regulations governing organic farming vary from each country, and in the United States all organic crops are grown without using any synthetic pesticides, sewage sludge-based fertilizers, petroleum-based fertilizers, and bioengineered genes (GMOs). 

Organic livestock that is raised for eggs, dairy, and meat products should be raised on organic feed and have access to the outdoors. They shouldn’t be given any animal by-products, growth hormones, and any antibiotics. 

The benefits of organic food 

The way food is raised or grown has a lasting impact on your emotional and mental health, along with the environment. Organic foods tend to have more nutrients that are beneficial, like antioxidants, than conventionally-grown foods. People, who have allergies to preservatives, chemicals, or food have noticed that consuming a diet of organic food has alleviated their symptoms as well. So, without further ado, let’s check out some of the benefits of organic food below: 

* Organic produce has lesser pesticides 

Chemicals like insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides are used commonly in conventional agriculture or farming methods. That means that the residues remain in the food that you are eating. 

* Organic food is fresher 

Organic food is better because it doesn’t contain any preservatives that make it last longer, and organic product is always produced on small farms. Therefore, it is fresher and sold where it is grown. 

* Organic farming is better for the environment 

The best thing about organic farming is that they help improve soil fertility, use less energy, decrease soil erosion, conserve water, and reduce pollution. The nearby animals and birds also find farming without pesticides better as they don’t get exposed to any harmful chemicals. 

* Organically raised animals are healthier 

Another great thing about organic farming is that the livestock are raised in a healthier manner, since they aren’t given any antibiotics or growth hormones. Feeding livestock with animal byproducts also enhances the risk of mad cow disease (BSE), and using antibiotics creates antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, which can be harmful. Animals that are raised in an organic manner are given access to the outdoors and more space to move around, which helps them remain healthy. 

* Organic milk and meat are richer in nutrients 

A European study in 2016 revealed that there are certain levels of nutrients, which include omega-3 fatty acids that are 50% higher in organic meat and milk than the standard versions. 

* Organic food is GMO-free 

Genetically engineered (GE) foods and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are plants whose DNA has been changed in a manner that couldn’t happen in nature or in natural crossbreeding. These plants are generally resistant to pesticides, and insecticides. 

How Organic Farming Benefits the Environment 

Organic food is appealing for consumers, and organic farming is very profitable both as an ethical and healthy choice. Apart from ethics and money, organic farming practices may result in various benefits to the environment. The standard way of producing food isn’t recommended, and there is scientific evidence that points to organic food production as being the best thing for the environment. Here, are some of the many ways that organic farming tends to benefit the environment: 

Organic farming creates healthy soil 

If you want to grow healthy food, you must first have healthy soil, but if you treat the soil with chemicals and harmful pesticides, you won’t get that. The soil will not manage to thrive, and chemical soil management is not the way to go about it. Natural cultivation practices are much better, and a 9-year study done by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), has shown that organic farming creates organic soil matter that is better for the environment. 

Fighting the effects of global warming 

The Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial is the longest running comparison of organic and conventional agriculture in the United States. It has been running from 1981 and has revealed that healthy organic agricultural systems help slow down climate change and reduce carbon dioxide levels. 

Supporting animal welfare and health 

Fish, insects, birds, and other critters suffer whenever they are exposed to humans, since we destroy their natural habitat with conventional farming methods. Organic farming is the opposite, since it helps preserve natural habitat areas and encourages other natural predators and birds to live happily on farm land and help with pest control. 

It is found that animals that live on organic farms are exposed to chemical-free and clean grazing that keeps them resistant to illness and naturally healthy. Organic farmers have healthier, happier, and more productive animals raised in an organic manner. 

Fighting erosion 

Organic farming helps build healthy soil, but also fights serious land and soil problems, like erosion. A study was done that compared chemically treated and organic wheat fields side by side, and it showed that organic fields had 8 inches of topsoil more than the chemically treated field, which was due to only 1/3rd erosion loss. 

Erosion is a big problem for the planet, and has serious consequences for humans, the food supply, and the land. That is the reason why organic farming practices are considered better for the environment, since they stop erosion from taking place. 

Organic farming encourages biodiversity 

The greater the biodiversity on a farm, the more stable the farm is going to be, and organic farming encourages biodiversity in greater numbers. Itensures that the farm is free from disease, pests, and bad weather, while reduced biodiversity correlates with an increase in infectious diseases and that is bad for everyone. 

Reduced exposure to pesticides and chemicals 

The Organic Trade Association has stated that every farmer in the United States, should convert to organic production, to eliminate 500 million pounds of harmful and persistent pesticides from entering the environment every year. Chemical and pesticide use has led to negative environmental problems like the following: 

* Building up disease resistance in bacteria, fungi, plant-eating-insects, weeds, and plants. 

* Contaminating the air, water supply, and the soil, which stick around for decades. 

* Discourage smart farming practices like crop rotation and cover crops. 

All these practices are not only bad for the environment, but also result in unhealthy food that is being consumed by people daily. 

Science-Backed Health Benefits of Eating Organic 

The organic food industry is growing at a rapid rate, and the future is looking extremely bright in terms of business in this industry. Most consumers are looking to buy organic, since it is not only better for the 

environment, but also because of various health-related reasons. There have been numerous studies done that have shown that organic food is healthier and better than conventionally grown food. 

We have covered some science-backed health benefits of eating organic foods here, along with the benefits that you will gain by making them a part of your diet every day. 

1. More healthy fats 

Eating organic products like milk and meat means that you have 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than if you consumed conventionally produced products. This was concluded in a study done in 2016 in the British Journal of Nutrition. The study tested organic milk and found that it had less saturated fat than non-organic milk. This is mainly down to differences in how organic livestock are raised, since a grass-fed diet and spending more time outdoors resulted in healthier milk and meat. 

2. More antioxidants 

A recent study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry also revealed that organic onions had a 20% higher antioxidant content than onions that were grown conventionally. They also found that other instances of higher antioxidants in organic food in some cases. 

3. No antibiotics or synthetic hormones 

Most livestock farmers feed antibiotics to their livestock to protect them from illness, especially if the farmer is raising animals in unsanitary or crowded conditions. The FDA has limited the use of antibiotics for livestock, but there are still loopholes in the legislation. Except for poultry all livestock can be injected with growth hormones, so they produce more milk and gain weight faster. 

However, traces of these substances can make their way to consumers, and drug residue is found to contribute to widespread antibiotic resistance. Organic foods that were produced without antibiotics are safer for consumption, and organic dairy and meat don’t have any synthetic hormones that were linked to increasing the risk of cancer. 

4. Fewer pesticides and heavy metals 

Grains, vegetables and fruits that were labeled as organic are grown without using artificial fertilizers or synthetic pesticides. These chemicals although deemed safe in some quantities used in conventional farming are harmful if they are given repeated exposure or prolonged exposure. Studies have also found that pesticide residues can lead to ADHD prevalence, while they have also been linked to reduced sperm quality in men as well. 

A meta-analysis in 2014 in the British Journal of Nutrition revealed that crops grown organically were less likely to contain any pesticide, since they were grown with different fertilization techniques. They were also 50% less likely to have cadmium, a heavy metal that accumulates in the kidneys and liver. 

Conclusion 

Even though organic products are thought to be better for the health and the environment, they are more expensive than convention ones. It is mainly down to personal choice if they are worth the extra cost, but if you can afford organic products then that is a great thing for you. It will not only benefit you but will also support all those farmers, who practice organic agriculture and farming. 

It isn’t necessary that you start buying organic straight away. You can make small changes in your diet, like buying organic dairy, eggs, and meat products at first. Elderly people, young children, pregnant woman, and those suffering from allergies will benefit from consuming organically produced food. However, a strictly organic diet can also be unhealthy, as you could eat too much meat and sugar, without consuming enough vegetables. 

Consumers are advised to make rational decisions when they are buying organic produce, and there are further studies being conducted on organic food. If you’re trying to reduce your exposure to pesticide residues, then adopting organic food is the right choice, but if you’re buying them just because everyone is telling you to do it, then you may not experience the full benefits of organic food.

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