Why Eat Organic?
What is Certified Organic Food?
Definition of organic
1 a : of, relating to, or arising in a bodily organ b : affecting the structure of the organism
2 a : of, relating to, or derived from living organisms (2) : relating to, yielding, dealing in, or involving the use of food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides
2 b : of, relating to, or containing carbon compounds (2) : relating to, being, or dealt with by a branch of chemistry concerned with the carbon compounds of living beings and most other carbon compounds
• Exclusion of Synthetic Inputs
o pesticides, herbicides, fertiliser
• Focus on Biological Processes.
o other measures to maintain soil fertility.
• Use of Natural Pest Control
o interplanting or companion planting
• Priority re Long term Ecological Health
o biosoil quality
Feed the soil, not the plant
Organic growers feed the soil, which enhances soil life and increases long-term fertility. Healthy soil will grow healthy plants which feed healthy animals and people. Synthetic fertilisers feed plants directly in a way that by-passes certain natural, biological processes.
Compost, manures, seaweed, mulches and green manures (crops which are grown to dig in to the soil) build up the humus content in the soil and provide a natural source of food for plants. Natural fertilisers such as blood and bone and unprocessed rock minerals also add to the fertility.
Non-Chemical control of Pests & Diseases
Well-fed plants grown in healthy, fertile soil have more resistance to pests and diseases.
Organic growers aim at a balance between pests and their natural predators (which may mean accepting occasional damaged leaves); and plants which are attacked by pests are often left to provide food for the predators.
Only 1% of insects cause damage to crops, which means that 99% of insects are either harmless or useful.
Diversity - growing a mixture of plants - helps to confuse many pests. Herbs, flowers and vegetables grown together also provides shelter for many useful insects. Bird-attracting trees and shrubs will help in keeping pest populations down.
Crop rotation - not growing the same vegetables in one place each year - discourages a build-up of many pests and diseases.
Non GMO - GMOs are strictly prohibited at each stage of production
There have been numerous studies some conflicting done on the nutrient quality comparisons of organic and conventional foods. When the poorly designed studies are eliminated good studies show organic produce generally has higher levels of trace minerals, vitamin C and antioxidant phytonutrients and less pesticide residues.
Organic means more minerals
The British Institute for Optimum Nutrition, is convinced that organic food does have more taste. In nutritional analysis organic food does tend to have more in it, both in terms of dry weight and nutrients. Not only does organic food have 26% more dry matter, but it shrinks less when cooked, and higher water content usually means less taste. Organic produce also contains 56% more calcium, 290% more iron, and 35% more essential amino acids.
A recent study commissioned by the Organic retailers and growers Association of Australia examined the mineral content of four vegetables organic and supermarket version showing significant differences in flavour, and the organics having up to 8 times the calcium, 10 times the potassium and 7 times the magnesium.
One study comparing organic and conventional vegetables from Rutgers University in New Jersey showed organic lettuce had significantly higher calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and iron.
Non-Organic means toxic/heavy metals
A study in 1993 Journal of Applied nutrition shows aluminium to be 67% higher, lead 41% higher and mercury 33% higher in conventionally grown food compared to organic.
Organic means less additives
While organic foods may only legitimately use 7 different natural additives, non organic producers are permitted to use around 7000 artificial additives.
The use of antibiotics, anti-microbials, hormones and other growth promotants are prohibited in organic production.
Where animals are treated with veterinary chemicals, they are not allowed to be sold as organic.
Similarly the use of synthetic chemicals as preservatives, colourings, antioxidants etc are prohibited in the processing of organic foods. 5
Organic means less pesticides
Research shows that populations that eat organic food have significantly less (only 10-20%) of the residual pesticides in their bodies compared those who eat regular produce which is pesticide treated. (Eady)
Organic food means better taste
The British Institute for Optimum Nutrition is convinced that organic food does have more taste.
In nutritional analysis organic food does tend to have more in it, both in terms of dry weight and nutrients.
Not only does organic food have 26% more dry matter, but it shrinks less when cooked, and higher water content usually means less taste.
Organic produce also contains 56% more calcium, 290% more iron, and 35% more essential amino acids.
Example Organic Kiwi Fruit Healthier
Researchers from the University of California, Davis found that organic kiwi fruit had much higher levels of polyphenols and antioxidant activity.
Polyphenols help to reduce cholesterol and improve blood circulation, while antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals that can damage cells. The study, which is published in the journal Chemistry and Industry, also revealed that organic kiwi fruit had higher levels of vitamin C.
Organic means more antioxidants
A peer reviewed scientific article published in the February 2003 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry stated that organically grown corn, strawberries and marion berries have significantly higher levels of cancer fighting antioxidants than conventionally grown foods. Some of these compounds, such as Flavonoids, are phenolic compounds that have potent antioxidant activities. Many are produced in plants in response to environmental stresses, such as insects or competing plants. They are protective compounds that act as a plant's natural defense and also have protective properties in human and animal health.
The research suggested that pesticides and herbicides disrupt the production of these protective compounds. Good soil nutrition appears to increase the levels of these natural compounds that have anti cancer, immune boosting and anti aging properties.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, (2003) February 2003
Organic Diet Benefits
Researchers at the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences and Newcastle University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development have found that the organically-fed rats slept better, had stronger immune systems and were slimmer than rats fed conventional diets.
"If people think that eating organic food makes them feel better then they are probably right."
Shopper's Guide - Buy Organic & Avoid The "Dirty Dozen" Fruits & Vegetables
According to the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) analysis of data from over 43,000 tests on pesticides in conventional produce, over 90% of ingestion of pesticides in foods can be eliminated by avoiding the most contaminated foods.
The "Dirty Dozen" most contaminated foods in the USA are peaches (97 percent tested positive for residue), apples (92 percent tested positive), sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes.
The "Consistently Clean" in the USA are onions (90 percent tested negative), avocados (90 percent), sweet corn (90 percent), pineapples, mango, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli and papaya.
"Federal produce tests tell us that some fruits and vegetables are so likely to be contaminated with pesticides that you should always buy them organic. Others are so consistently clean that you can eat them with less concern." Says EWG Senior Vice President Richard Wiles.
Ensure the foods you buy are Certified Organic. Look for the symbols and certification of the following on labels.
• Biodynamic Research Institute (BDRI)
o The oldest certification organisation which administers the demeter standard
• National Association for Sustainable Agriculture (NASAA)
o Certifies organic and Biodynamic produce
• Organic Growers Association of WA
o The Western Australian peak industry body
• Go to www.ofa.com.au for organic organisations and certification bodies
A pesticide is a substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying or repelling any pest. Pests include insects, mice other animals, weeds, fungi and bacteria and viruses.
Many household products contain pesticides, such as: cockroach sprays and baits insect repellants, rodent poisons, flea and tick products, disinfectants, ant mould products, weed killers and swimming pool chemicals.
Pesticide residues in food
Many studies show that most conventionally farmed foods have pesticide and other chemical residues. Repeated tests show that many of these foods can carry a cocktail of synthetic poisons.
A growing body of science is showing that repeated exposures, to cocktails of small amounts of synthetic chemicals, have a range of adverse health effects. A recently published study shows that as little a one tenth of a part per billion of one commonly used herbicide can damage reproductive systems.
Many scientists believe these exposures, of minute quantities of agricultural chemicals, are very significant for children. The United States Environmental Protection Agency is now in the process of reducing current chemical residue levels in food to one tenth of the present levels to lessen childhood exposure.
Pesticides cause disease
A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found a cocktail of many toxic chemicals in the blood and urine of most Americans that they tested. Other studies show that most living organisms carry a cocktail of synthetic man made chemicals. Only now are scientists beginning to understand the detrimental effects of minute amounts of these artificial toxins.
Peer reviewed published research has demonstrated that many of these types of chemicals are known to disrupt the hormone, nervous and immune systems. The escalating increase of certain types of cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia, breast, uterine and prostate cancers are linked to agricultural and other synthetic chemicals. Similarly, a good body of scientific research also links these chemicals to the dramatic increases in autoimmune diseases such as asthma and chronic fatigue syndrome. Cancers such as Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma have gone from being one of the rarest cancers to one of the fastest growing cancers amongst people exposed to agricultural chemicals.
Pesticides are carcinogenic
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic. Pesticides can have many negative influences on health, including neurotoxicity, disruption of the endocrine system, carcinogenicity and immune system suppression.
xeno-oestrogens - chemicals which imitate oestrogen which come from herbicides, pesticides, chemical cleaners, plastic containers and the lining of tin cans. They are found throughout the food chain and accumulate in fatty tissue and so will be found in animals at the top of the food chain or animals continually eating food exposed to these chemicals. Food wrapped or stored in plastic, especially soft plastic and plastics that have been heated, especially with fat containing foods will release xeno-oestrogens. They can also be breathed in through contaminated air from industry or burning plastics, or drunk in contaminated water. Xeno-oestrogens are cumulative and persist in the body for decades, interfering in healthy hormonal function in men and women.
These chemicals (DDT, dieldrin, chlordane, lindane and PCBS) disrupt the sex hormones, acting like oestrogen in the body. Pesticide exposure may also affect male reproductive function and has been linked to miscarriages in women
Apples and oranges are likely to have been treated with Endosulphan, an organochlorine pesticide. This is a hormone disruptor.
Hormone disruptors alter fat metabolism
Dioxins are contaminants from pesticides/herbicides. Found worldwide in air, water, meat, fish, human body (especially fat and liver)
Genetic damage, vitamin A dysregulation, liver toxicity, altered fat metabolism, skin cysts and scarring, thymus atrophy, impaired resistance to infection, breast cancer, nerve transmission damage.
Hormone disruptors linked with Obesity trend
Emerging data implicates various environmental chemicals in being able to alter endogenous levels of androgens (certain phthalates) and oestrogens (polychlorinated biphenyls, polyhalogenated hydrocarbons), in the increasing rate of reproductive system dysfunctions and the increasing trend in obesity.
The 'oestrogen hypothesis'– where do we stand now?1 R. M. Sharpe, MRC Human Reproductive Sciences Unit, Centre for Reproductive Biology, The University of Edinburgh Academic Centre, 49 Little France Crescent, Old Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh EH16 4SB, UK
What are Hormone Disruptors?
Environmental oestrogens, also known as endocrine distruptors and xenooestrogens mimic the hormone oestrogen (responsible for the sexual characteristics of women), causing health problems ranging from cancer, to physiological malformations, to infertility.
They are detrimental because they disrupt your natural hormones at incredibly low concentrations. They mimic your body’s own hormones, interfering with their production, release, transport, metabolism, binding action, or elimination.
In adults this may lead to cancer, endometriosis, gallstones, etc in children or babies exposed in the womb exposure may result in immune system disorders, thyroid disorders and abnormal sexual development and future infertility.
Animal fats are main food source of xenooestrogens
The major source of oral intake of xenooestrogens is by way of animal fats, particularly red meat and dairy fats.
These animals have been given oestrogens to increase their weight for market and are fed on grains grown with pesticides, which accumulate in the animals fat and then in our own fatty tissues such as the brain, breast, ovaries/testes and liver (Lee)
In the 1970’s and 80’s in Puetro Rico there was an epidemic of early puberty in young girls and boys caused by growth promoting hormones in meat and dairy products.
DES (diethylstilbestrol) a synthetic estrogen was the first hormone used in the livestock industry until it was banned for causing cancer in even extremely small quantities (Lee)
But aren’t they tested for Safety?
When these chemicals are tested for safety they are looking for direct cancer causing effects, however they are not tested for subtle developmental effects or the compounded effect of being exposed to many different harmful chemicals over a lifetime (Dingle)
For instance a combination of only two different organochlorines together in minute doses has been found to be 1000 times more potent in affecting human oestrogen receptors as only one chemical alone (Sellman pp 39)
In their effects on fish xenoestrogens are potent oestrogenic substances even at nanogram doses (one billionth of a gram, ie a grain of sand in an Olympic swimming pool) (Lee)
Ineffectual testing in Australia
“Nobody in Australia really knows what is applied or when or where except the chemical companies… What we do know is that the few products tested every year by state and federal authorities, show regular low levels of pesticides in our food, and even then the authorities may not be monitoring the most significant chemical…kids who consume ‘normal’ food from the supermarket have four to five times the levels of some pesticides in their bodies compared to kids who eat organically grown foods.” (Dingle page 81)
Children are particularly vulnerable
Children, especially in the their first 5 years of life are more affected by pesticides residues in foods than adults (Eady)
In 2005 the EPA's "Guidelines for Carcinogen Risk Assessment" showed that children receive 50% of their lifetime risks of cancer during their first two years of life.
A 2001 study demonstrated that children fed organic diets experienced significantly lower organophosphorus pesticide exposure than children fed conventional diets.
A similar but perhaps more convincing study in 2006 measured the levels of organophosphorus pesticide exposure in 23 preschool children before and after replacing their diet with organic food. In this study it was found that levels of organophosphorus pesticide exposure dropped dramatically and immediately when children switched to an organic diet.
European Union bans Growth Stimulants in food
The latest data backs up the EU's ban on the use of such hormones and a prohibition of imported beef treated with hormones
In a statement, the EU said its scientists used latest techniques to review studies undertaken in 1999 and 2000 on the six banned hormones and came to the same conclusion.
"The use of hormones to stimulate the growth of cattle raises a potential risk for consumers' health," it said.
This latest opinion follows a re-appraisal of 17 studies as well as taking into account the latest scientific evidence available from other relevant sources. The 17 studies were launched by the European Commission to address certain research gaps identified following the ruling of the WTO Appellate Body concerning the scientific basis of the EU import ban on meat and products treated with growth-promoting hormones.
The studies addressed toxicological aspects, potential abuse and control problems, as well as environmental aspects of six hormones:oestradiol 17-â, progesterone, testosterone, zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengestrol acetate and their metabolites.
Growth Promoting Hormones
The results of a study on growth stimulants in cattle indicated considerable increases of oestrogen residue levels in all tissues of treated animals,
this data indicates that lipoidal esters form a sizeable part of the total residue level and thus may contribute considerably to an additional oestrogen exposure via meats.
lipoidal esters appear to have an even higher effect on the mammary gland in experimental animals (Mills et al., 2001).
a high bioavailability of biologically active lipoidal esters and the possibility of accumulation (Larner et al., 1985) might contribute significantly to an undesirable exposure to oestrogenic substances.
Oestrogens found in meat cause cancer
These experiments clearly identify a risk for excessive exposure of consumers to residues from misplaced or off-label used implants and incorrect dose regimes. In these cases, levels of oestradiol and its 12 metabolites in muscle, fat, liver and kidney from hormone treated cattle maybe 2-fold up to several hundred folds higher as compared to untreated meat.
Of particular interest is the finding that oestrogens down-regulate the expression of enzymes that are involved in the protection of cells against DNA damage by free oxygen radicals.
Additional and conclusive data have now been published in the scientific literature to demonstrate that 17_-oestradiol is genotoxic. inducing mutations in various cultured mammalian cells. The reactive metabolite, oestradiol-3,4-quinone, also induces mutations in mouse skin in vivo. The catechol oestrogen-quinones form DNA adducts in cultured cells and in mouse skin.
How much is too much?
The 1999 JECFA analysis (99) estimated that a person consuming 500 g of meat from implanted cattle would consume an extra 30-50 ng estradiol per day. This calculation utilized the highest residue levels reported for implanted beef and considered "meat" as a mixture of 300 g muscle, 100 g liver, 50 g kidney, and 50 g fat. (Estradiol levels are higher in organ meats than in muscle.) This additional 50 ng estradiol consumed can be compared to the acceptable daily intake of 50 ng/kg/day or 3000 ng/day for a 60 kg (132 lb) person.
Bovine growth hormone in Milk can cause cancer
Levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) are substantially elevated and more bioactive in the milk of cows hyperstimulated with the biosynthetic bovine growth hormones rBGH, and are further increased by pasteurization.
IGF-1 is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, as evidenced by marked growth-promoting effects even in short-term tests in mature rats, and absorption is likely to be still higher in infants.
Converging lines of evidence incriminate IGF-1 in rBGH milk as a potential risk factor for both breast and gastrointestinal cancers.
Hormones in meat means less omega 3
Research carried out in the United Kingdom by the Mental Health Foundation and Sustain has revealed that significant changes in the way food is produced and manufactured have not only reduced the amounts of essential fats, vitamins and minerals consumed, but have also disturbed the balance of nutrients in the foods eaten.
The proliferation of industrialised farming has introduced pesticides and altered the body fat composition of animals due to the diets they are fed. As a result, the population’s intake of omega-3 fatty acids has decreased while the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids has increased.
The link between weight and oestrogens
Weight issues can be linked with the function of
• The thyroid
• The adrenal glands
• And the reproductive hormone levels
Increased oestrogen to progesterone ratios are associated with increased body fat, syndrome X, and fatigue
Increased oestrogen creates inflammation which upsets the immune system, and increases certain enzymes which are associated with obesity, fatty liver and liver damage
Increased oestrogen affects neurotransmitters reducing your feel good hormones serotonin and dopamine and increasing a stress hormone noradrenaline leading to anxiety, PMT and depression- all associated with poor eating habits
Corticosteroids, tamoxifen and other oestrogens may induce fatty liver by exacerbating insulin resistence, diabetes, obesity and elevated triglycerides
The Oral Contraceptive Pill is associated with weight gain
Increased body fat increases oestrogen production
Copper accumulation is linked with xenooestrogen exposure, OCP and HRT, pesticides
Copper retention in the body reduces iron, zinc, Vitamins C and E and increases fluid retention
Metabolic affects associated copper are fatigue, raised cholesterol, syndrome X, increased insulin, hypoglycaemia, hormone imbalance, fatty liver, impaired liver function, gallstones (Tabrizian)
Copper increases inflammation – allergies, arthritis
Copper reduces resistance to infections
Excess copper blocks production of serotonin and melatonin and reduces youth hormone (DHEA)
Heavy metals and glucose metabolism
Nutrients needed for glucose control
• Zinc (blocked by copper, mercury, cadmium, aluminium, antimony) Zinc, mercury and cadmium are in the same series in the periodic table and so can be used interchangeably by plants and animals
• Magnesium (blocked by copper, cadmium)
• Selenium (blocked by mercury, cadmium, arsenic, lead, aluminium, antimony)
• Manganese (blocked by copper, lead)
• Sulphur (blocked by mercury, cadmium, arsenic, lead)
• Vitamin C (blocked by copper)
• Vitamin E (blocked by copper, arsenic, aluminium)
• Arsenic and cadmium are xeno oestrogens
Pesticides contain heavy metals
Mercury Sources: amalgam tooth fillings, fungicides, pesticides, soil, water; large fish due to chlorine bleaches leaking into our waters; fabric softeners, inks, cosmetics, plastics, solvents and polishes.
Cadmium Sources: air pollution, cigarette, cigar or pipe smoke, plastics, PVCs, tap water, fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides, air pollution, processed grains, processed meats, nuts, food grown with superphosphate fertilizers such as wheat, coffee, tea and soft drinks.
Superphosphate fertilizers contain about 20mg of camium per kg of fertiliser as an unavoidable contaminant, so all foods grown with these will have cadmium present. (Tabrizian)
Lead Sources: rainwater, lead-based paints, ceramic glazes, leaded petrol, tobacco, liver, water from lead piping, lead contaminated dirt, canned fruit absorbs lead from lead-soldered cans, insecticides, porcelain sinks and bathtubs, foil wrappers around the cork of wine bottles.
Arsenic Sources: pesticides, laundry aids, table salt, beer, smog, cigarette smoke and tap water.
Thyroid function, copper and xenooestrogens
Thyroid needs selenium, vanadium, Vit C, B2 iodine to make T4, to activate to T3 needs progesterone and selenium.
Copper destroys Vit E and C and promotes the conversion of T3 back to T4 and blocks T3 in the cells
Organochlorines inhibit thyroid hormone metabolism and transport, PCBs mimic thyroid hormone and block T4 binding, xenos increase risk of autoimmune thyroiditis, cadmium reduces T4 and T3 levels and liver conversion (metagenics seminar 2002)
Low thyroid function means lower action of an enzyme (P450CYP3A) that helps detoxify oestrogens (Metagenics 2003)
Poor thyroid function leads to easy weight gain despite good eating and lifestyle habits
Take home points
Organic food higher in nutrients, less water so more food and taste for your money
Organic foods contain less pesticides, heavy metals and growth stimulants
Organic farming is better for the environment
Buy at least organic animal products ie red meat, chicken, eggs, dairy (butter, yogurt, sour cream, cheese etc)
Organic fruit and veg or wash well and buy from local growers, pesticides free etc
Reduce exposure to other sources of xenooestrogens –cleaning products, beauty products, plastics
Make these changes and reduce your risk of weight problems cancer, hormone problems, thyroid issues, immune issues and much more
Eady, Julie. Additive Alert 2004 Additive Alert Pty Ltd Perth
Dingle Dr. Peter, The Deal for happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids 2004 Positive Living Foundation Fremantle
Samantha Warner Naturopath
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