Until the past few years, studies were few and not considered conclusive due to variable controlled conditions and small sampling when comparing organic to conventionally grown. At this time, the USDA ( US Department of Agriculture) and the FDA ( Food and Drug Administration) will not support any claims that organically grown food is better for you. They are responsible for regulating the certification of organic foods but will not state any specific benefits.
Starting in 2001, though, new studies have been conducted that show evidence of the superiority of organically grown food. The Organic Center website is a comprehensive analogy of how studies are conducted and the conclusions of the latest studies on nutritional differences between organic and conventionally grown food. Andrew Weil, MD states that a new study reviewing.
11 nutrients, the nutritional premium of organic food averaged 25% higher in these nutrients. Some of the findings:
- Polyphenols 20%
- Antioxidants 80%
- Quercetin 60%
- Vitamin C 44%
- Vitamin E 25%
Harmful Effects of Chemical Residues
More importantly, the public has shown concerns over the use of pesticides and herbicides having a detrimental effect on our health, even causing cancer. And we have seen specific pesticides banned in the US as studies have born out the hazards of these chemicals.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is responsible for regulating the safe levels of use of these chemicals on our food.
Tolerances constitute the single most important mechanism by which EPA limits levels of pesticide residues in foods.
A tolerance is defined as the legal limit allowed in a raw agricultural commodity or processed food that an adult can ingest safely. The current regulatory system does not, however, specifically consider infants and children.
In 1993, the US Congress requested the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to appoint a committee to study this issue through its National Research Council (NRC).
Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children
“Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children”, found that quantitative differences in toxicity between children and adults are usually less than a factor of about 10-fold.
The study stated a lack of data on pesticide toxicity in developing children and that little work had been done to identify effects of pesticide exposure to infants and children; it estimated that for some children, depending on what they eat and their age, exposures could be high enough to produce symptoms of acute organo phosphate pesticide poisoning.
Recently, the EPA has reassessed the 9,721 pesticides permitted for use to determine the safe level of residues. As a result of the study, levels allowed were reduced by 57%. This was according to Jonathan Shrader, EPA’s spokesman.
But Chuck Benbrook, chief scientist of The Organic Center, states “The pesticide limits that EPA permits are far, far too high to say they’re safe. And the reduction that EPA cites is accompanied by a steady increase in pesticide-contaminated imported foods”.
A more recent study on children, “Organophosphate pesticide exposure of urban and suburban pre-school children with organic and conventional diets”, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, studied the urine samples from 18 children with organic diets and 21 children with conventional diets for presence of 5 organophosphorus pesticide metabolites.
The study found that, “The median concentration was about 6 times higher for children with conventional diets. After calculating dose estimates assuming that all exposure came from a single pesticide, the dose estimates suggest that consumption of organic fruits, veggies and juice can reduce children’s exposure levels from above to below the EPA’s current guidelines.”
One such study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, “Use of Agricultural Pesticides and Prostate Cancer Risk in the Agricultural Health Study Cohort”, studied 45 common agricultural pesticides and 55,332 male pesticide applicators from Iowa and North Carolina.
This study showed that use of chlorinated pesticides among applicators over 50 years of age and methyl bromide use were significantly associated with prostate cancer risk.
“Breast cancer and serum organo-chlorine residues”, published by Occupational and Environmental Medicine, showed that mean blood levels of total DDT and HCB (hexachlorobenzine) were significantly higher for breast cancer patients that were agricultural applicators.
Safety: A Conflict of Interest?
Be aware that testing for safety is often done by the manufacturers of these chemicals to show their safety, and only one chemical is tested at a time, though many foods are sprayed with numerous chemicals during the season of growth for different pests or disease. Accumulative amounts are not tested to demonstrate safety. While produce is tested for residues, it is hit and miss, every shipment is not tested for permissible levels of residues.
To further add concern for the home gardener is the fact that you will be the one spraying these chemicals in your garden. There are studies that have been conducted on agricultural applicators that show the incidence of cancers much greater to individuals that actually spray these products.
Observe Mother Nature’s Example
Native plants exist in harmony, doesn’t it just make sense that if the environment is in balance, and the fruit of your labor will follow naturally.
- soil balancing
- amending with humus and natural amendments
- variety selection resistant to disease and pests
- crop rotation
- use of plant complements grown in the same bed
- pest management instead of “annihilation”
All will promote an environmental balance so that use of chemical products in your own kitchen garden can be a practice of the past.
It’s OK to share a little with the critters and bugs, just plant a little more!
Home gardeners can easily grow an organic kitchen garden since the size is usually small enough to notice “attacks” when they first appear and making a profit does not affect the effort applied. It’s always worth the effort and will bring so much joy and fun to the entire family.