Benefits of Organic Food Essay
Organic food, once only found in health food stores, is now a consistent element at local supermarkets. So what is the difference between a conventionally grown apple and an organic one? The answer is in the way the crop is grown and what it is and is not exposed to. In order to be labeled “organic” the farmer who grew it used renewable resources and conservation of soil and water methods. Also, organic farmers do not use conventional pesticides or weed killers, which may contain synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge. According to Fisher, “Sewage sludge from municipalities’ waste may contain heavy metals and toxins . . . ” (1).
Rather, organic farmers use sophisticated crop rotations, spread mulch and manure, and even hand pull weeds to keep them away. Instead of applying pesticides, they use beneficial insects and birds or traps to keep pests from harming the crop. The organic apple at the grocery store was never exposed to pesticides, chemicals, additives or preservatives. Pesticides may cause harmful effects to the nervous system and mild skin and eye irritations. Chemicals used in additives and preservatives may disrupt the natural rebuilding of cells and your resistance to disease diminishes after continued exposure to these chemicals according to Lagerquist.
According to the USDA, instead of these harmful ingredients, the organic apple has higher levels of minerals, vitamin C and antioxidants. Vitamin C is helpful in protecting your immune system, decreasing cardiovascular disease and promotes healthy skin. Antioxidants protect cells against free radicals that create destructive processes in the cells. Besides being beneficial to your health, organic food has a positive impact on the environment. Farming organic food allows for less groundwater to become contaminated that in the process of farming conventional crops.
This is because organic crops are never exposed to harmful chemicals that can seep into the ground and infect our groundwater. This absence of chemicals in the ground water also means that the quality of the soil is greater. When the soil is not exposed to chemicals such as pesticides and insecticides, it is able to be of better quality. With better soil quality, comes stronger crops for years to come. Another benefit to the environment is that organic crops increase biodiversity. Biodiversity is created because the absence of chemical inputs creates a habitat suitable for wildlife.
Also, because there is no insecticides used farmers of organic farms are forced to use natural pest control methods. This means that to control one type of pest, the famer has to bring in other pests to kill it, creating a diverse farm. Organic farms also do not use synthetic fertilizers, so one way to keep the soil up is to bring in different types of worms, arthropods, and microbes. These animals stabilize and detoxify soil. Organic farming also helps the environment by using conservation methods. Organic farms are planted where the crops could grow naturally, instead of clearing away land for the purpose of planting there.
They also conserve soil by not only planting the crop, but also planting other vegetation where there are places crops are not growing to make sure the topsoil does not get blown away by the elements. Crop rotating is also used. This is when the farmer plants more than one crop in the same place. For example, one year the farmer might plant corn in field, but the next year he plants beans. This process of crop rotation increases the soils productivity and reduces need for farm land. Organic farmers do not use harmful fertilizers. Instead, they take advantage of reusable waste options.
These options include human waste and waste from the farm animals. These natural fertilizers do not contain harmful ingredients and it also allows farms to ‘go green’ in a sense that the waste is not going elsewhere. Another environmentally-friendly practice that organic farmers use is tilling. Tilling stirs up the topsoil of farms and makes it so that the soil does not become compact. Compacted soil can result in soil that is unable to create a run-off surface. If this happens, the water will be unable to seep into the soil and irrigate the crop.
Tractors passing over soil can cause this compaction to occur, which is why tilling is a more effective way to stir up the soil. And as a bonus, tilling can help get rid of weeds, so it is a win win. Pesticides and preservatives are not only harmful to human beings, but they are also harmful to our environment and ecosystems. Pesticides used in organic farming may run-off and contaminate nearby bodies of water. If enough contaminated run-off from pesticides and artificial fertilizers get into water, it is able to poison animals and fish that live there.
According to Raloff, recent studies have demonstrated that exposure to hormones has a substantial effect on the gender and reproductive capacity of fish, throwing off the natural cycle, (1). This is not only harmful to the animals that live there, but if enough fish are dying because of poisoned run-off, the fish industry could suffer and it will affect humans as well. The same chemicals that poison bodies of water could seep into our groundwater and affect the well water we drink and use daily. This does not happen with organic farming, because no chemicals are ever sprayed on the fields and there is much more run off because of tilling practices.
Organic farming does not only include crops. There is also organic eggs and meat produced by livestock raised on organic farms. During normal farming of animals, conventional farmers use medications, hormone shots, and antibiotics to promote the health and growth of the animals on their farm. On these conventional farms, animals are forced to be crowded together in dirty, indoor spaces. The living conditions make it necessary for these animals to receive regular medication to fight of diseases that may be caused by their poor living conditions.
Because so many animals are crowded together, their manure accumulates rapidly and for convenience for the farmer, is sometimes poured into lagoons which can leak into local water sources and may contaminate our water. Scientists are studying the question that if humans eat hormones found in the meat of animals injected with hormones, if it can affect our human hormones the same way it affects the animal it was injected into. “Scientists believe about two-thirds of American cattle raised in for slaughter today are injected with hormones to make them grow faster and America’s dairy cows are given a genetically-engineered hormone .. . to increase milk production,” (Raloff, 1).
These injected hormones are also a scare because if the animal is digesting them, it means that these chemicals are also in their manure, which is spread on the fields of crops we eat and may be dangerous. Not only could it affect the crop, but also the topsoil, and in turn the groundwater. And again, if it gets into a water source, it has the opportunity to harm the aquatic life living there. In one case, cattle injected with artificial growth hormones revealed serious health problems.
These included deformed calves and an increase of a bacterial infection in the udder. In order to treat the infected cows, it needed antibiotics and eventually became reliant on them. Cattle are often forced to produce so much milk that they cannot keep up the nutrients they are losing in the milk and the amount they are given in their food. This imbalance causes them to become malnourished and it makes it easier for them to get more diseases. This type of mistreatment and malnutrition does not happen on organic farms. Healthy plants and animals are more disease resistant.
This fact means that as long as the plants and animals are kept clean and healthy, there is little to no need for use of antibiotics or medications. Organic farmers keep the facilities clean to reduce the amount of diseases caused by poor living conditions. Organic farmers allow livestock to live in outdoor conditions with plenty of grazing room. This extra room can greatly decrease the number of diseases in the livestock because they won’t be crowded together to closely. On a conventional farm, livestock is kept indoors and fed possibly unhealthy grains made to make them grow. This is not the case on organic farms.
Livestock is kept on a balanced diet and fed using a rotational grazing process. Rotational grazing means that once the livestock has eaten all the grass and vegetation from one field, the farmer will move them to another to allow the vegetation to grow back. This helps maintain the health of the farmland and also keeps the livestock happy by keeping them in an area with enough food, if the livestock is well fed, there is less of a chance that it will get sick as well. If livestock are kept healthy, there is no reason to give it medications, which may not be healthy for the consumer.
Organic foods are never bioengineered. Bioengineered foods are foods that are manipulated through their DNA to have traits that are desired. For example, many foods are bioengineered to be resistant to insects, herbicides, and diseases. These crops may seem like a good idea, but many have wondered if these genetically altered crops could be harmful to humans. Crops resistant to bugs and weeds have caused Mother Nature to fight back with “superbugs” and “superweeds”, bugs and weeds that have evolved to overcome genetically altered plants.
Cases like this cause scientists to turn it up a notch and create a new crop that can defeat the “supers”. But when is enough enough? Soon the weeds and bugs could become resistant to every type of herbicide resistant plant. There are many health scares associated with bioengineered foods. One is that if a gene is injected into a crop to make it have a more desirable trait, this gene may cause an unexpected danger to the consumer. One such danger is allergic reactions. For example . . . “bean plants that
were genetically modified to increase cysteine and methionine content were discarded after the discovery that the expressed protein of the transgene was highly allergenic” (Villano, 1). Sometimes these dangers can be detected before it is introduced into the public, but sometimes it is not found until several people are affected. Another health risk concerned genetically engineered foods is that for most plants, it is simple to tell that the genetic altering caused an unusual problem in the crop, but in some cases, this is not easily seen.
If it is a very obvious problem, the crop may be discarded immediately based on the appearance. However, if the genetic altering caused a problem in low or uneasily seen genes, it may become a problem for the consumer especially if the mutation is in the edible portion of the plant. Again, most of the time these problems would be detected before it is presented to the public, but it may not always be found that soon. This is a very dangerous risk to take. In addition to not being bioengineered, organic food is never exposed to radiation.
Food irradiation is frequently used on conventional food because ionizing radiation is can be used to kill bacteria and other germs that may be found in certain foods. These conventionally grown foods are passed through radiation waves on a convention belt. This type of radiation attacks the unwanted organism’s DNA beyond its ability to repair. It can also be used to stop the natural ripening process of fruit in order to prolong the food’s shelf life, and it can be helpful in managing bacteria and other harmful organisms There is much criticism about ionizing radiation.
One concern is that irradiation may disguise spoiled food by means of altering the natural growth process of the food. The radiation prolongs its shelf life, but there is reason the food has an expiration date. Some believe that the natural decay of food should not be tampered with. Another scare to some critics is that these chemical changes may not be healthy for the consumer. There are many regulations and inspections in food plants that use irradiation practices, but many critics believe that there is not enough extensive research done of the subject. Critics have several arguments against food irradiation.
They argue that food preservation techniques are inefficient because it is unable to undo food spoilage that happened before the radiation treatment. This means that the food is ‘stuck’ in a certain stage of maturity that may not be ideal for the consumer. Another argument is that the radiation process, while getting rid of unwanted organisms, may also remove nutrients that are vital or helpful for the consumer. There are several risks associated with buying conventional foods. These foods may contain pesticides, chemicals, additives, or preservatives that are not natural and may be very harmful for the consumer.
When buying organic food, there is never a risk of ingesting any of these harmful substances. Organic farmers use only natural methods of keeping insects, diseases, and weeds away to unsure safety for the consumer. Unlike conventional farms, organic farms are more diverse, more conservative, and use reusable and environmentally friendly practices to keep the earth in good physical shape for years to come. Instead of being concerned with convenience, organic foods focus on health. There are never artificially introduced hormones, sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation exposed to organically grown foods.
The most disturbing fact about conventionally grown foods that is that little has been tested in the procedures used to grow the food conveniently. It is not proven that food exposed to radiation, bioengineering, pesticides, herbicides, medications, hormones and antibiotics given to livestock are harmless to humans. Many critics believe that these practices could cause extreme damage to humans in the future if it is not tested more thoroughly. So why not play it safe? Organic foods have none of these health risks and actually have higher levels of minerals, Vitamin C, and antioxidants.
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