Three Reasons Organic Food is Healthier

by Brooke Bernard on October 24, 2012

If you’re anything like me, you’re still trying to recover from the absolutely ridiculous coverage Good Morning America (GMA) gave the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) this week, reporting that the AAP believes organic food is not healthier for children and that it does not help prevent disease. If you hadn’t heard that yet, I’m very sorry if you just spit your coffee all over your computer screen. It’s obviously one of the most asinine reports to ever air on the “news.”

The good news is that GMA did a terrible job reporting the actual facts presented in a press release by the AAP. While AAP’s report certainly tows the middle ground more than I believe it should, it does not actually say there is no difference between organic and non-organic food. What it does say, in part, is this:

“They [organic foods] have lower pesticide levels, which may be significant for children. Organically raised animals are also less likely to be contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria because organic farming rules prohibit the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics.”

Whew. At least they got that right – except for the “may be” significant part. Folks, lower pesticide levels? That’s significant. But the AAP wants to be careful that families on a budget aren’t giving their kids fewer fruits and veggies in an effort to purchase more expensive organic varieties.  I can totally understand that; we want kids eating as many fruits and veggies as we can cram down their little growing bodies. For sure.

What I fail to understand is GMA’s misrepresentation of both of those very important points – which I heard repeated just as inaccurately twice on morning radio as I took my daughter to preschool.

To be very clear, here are three reasons organic food IS better than non-organic food (This is not an all encompassing list. It’s just what I can get through before the new episode of Private Practice starts. Don’t roll your eyes. It’s the last season.):

Organic foods do not contain petroleum. If you’re thinking to yourself, “Neither does non-organic food, the big food companies have fooled you! Synthetic food dyes – the chemicals that make Gatorade blue and cinnamon rolls yellow and licorice red – are actually made from petroleum and coal tar. They are linked, and in many cases scientifically proven (despite what the AAP’s middle of the road report claims), to cause behavioral changes in children including symptoms that mimic ADHD and ADD, eczema, migraines, depression, altered handwriting, rage, motor tics and more. Of course, synthetic dyes are also linked to cancer. If you’re buying non-organic food, put it back on the shelf if you see any color followed by a number such as Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1. These are toxic (and have even been removed from the food supply in much of Europe) – and that’s why they aren’t allowed in organic food!

Organic foods are not “Round Up Ready.” Here’s my “Cliff Notes” version of what this means: Non-organic soy in America is almost all created from a company called Monsanto. Monsanto has “genetically modified” soy to be “Round Up Ready.” That means that farmers can apply the herbicide Round Up (which you must wear protective gear to use or touch because it is so highly toxic and deadly) directly to the soybean plants to kill all the weeds growing around the soybean plants – but the soybean plants will never die, no matter how many buckets of Round Up they slather on. Of course, anyone who took 4th grade science knows that a plant absorbs the liquid placed on its leaves and that what it absorbs can’t “be washed off” at the kitchen sink.

Now, c’mon, AAP researchers. If I took your nice, fresh edamame and squirted the Round Up I bought at my local big box store on it just before I served it, would you feed it to your child? Of course not. Round Up Ready soy is no different than that.

Unfortunately, soy is found is nearly every processed, prepackaged snack on grocery shelves.

Genetically engineered seeds are also used to grow corn, cotton, and canola. To be sure your crops haven’t been soaked in herbicide, purchase organic whenever you can.

Eating organic means ingesting fewer pesticides. According to Rodale, “Mainstream research has linked pesticide exposure to a higher incidence of leukemia, childhood brain tumors, breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease, miscarriage, birth defects, diabetes, obesity, developmental problems, and many other ailments.”

Rodale also reports, “Organic food cannot be grown using chemical pesticides that make us sick and put a burden on our healthcare system. Pesticides used in chemical farming have also been implicated recently in colony collapse disorder in bees, a disaster that threatens our food supply. (Bees pollinate our food crops.)”

Hmmm. I like bees. And I like having food. So, I like organic food whenever I can make it a viable option for my family.

And no matter what the AAP or GMA report, I am sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that if my children ingest fewer pesticides, herbicides and toxic food dyes, they will be healthier, with stronger immune systems, and better able to fight off the common cold and even more serious diseases. For me, that’s just common sense.

As a dear friend likes to say, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

Freelance editor and mother of two Brooke Bernard is no health freak. She loves chocolate chips and peanut butter cups. But she prefers them free of body altering toxins. Go ahead, call her crazy. And find her on Twitter every now and then @BrookeBBlogs.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca at "Die, Food Dye!" October 24, 2012 at 8:52 am

Great morning read. :) Thanks as always for spreading the good word about avoiding food dyes and nasty baddies in our families’ foods.

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BrookeB October 24, 2012 at 7:22 pm

My pleasure, Rebecca. Thanks for reading. I’m just sorry a post like this is even necessary.

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Jennifer Montero October 24, 2012 at 6:54 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more, Brooke. Sometimes I feel as though people think I am crazy for eating only organic, and they don’t believe me that if I eat something that is not organic, we get sick (both of my daughters were raised eating an all-organic diet and they become ill if they eat anything that is not organic). I tell the teachers at school not to give them anything to eat or drink that is not packed by me and they think I’m nuts too (but won’t actually say anything). I really believe that most people have no idea what is in their food. If the label says all natural, they believe it must be good for you, which we know is not true. We need more advocates like you to spread the word about the importance of eating organic. It’s a shame that these products have to be so expensive, which limits the number of people who can partake in this lifestyle.

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BrookeB October 24, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, Jennifer. I know for a fact that it’s not easy to advocate for what’s best for your children in the face of lack of understanding and even, sometimes, ridicule from teachers, parents and administration. Good for you for fighting the good fight. What I’ve posted here are plain and simple facts easily research-able — it’s just a matter of spreading the word, I really believe.

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