What does it mean to buy “organic produce”?
Many of the Hillview customers at the Hornsby Thursday market ask if the produce “is organic”. They want reassurance that it is not sprayed with toxic chemicals that may cause them harm. They are aware of potential health risks and/or are already dealing with health issues (including cancer)– and wanting to feed themselves and those they care for with the best fresh food available.
Hillview Farm produce is not CERTIFIED organic, but they follow the best of chemical free farming practices down on the farms, without the onerous and costly certification process necessitated if wanting to market themselves as Certified Organic. They refer to this as sustainable farming practices, which includes:
Soil conservation that minimizes erosion and maintains ground cover
Composting and recycling that returns organic residues to the soil, instead of using synthetic inorganic fertilizers
Water conservation in irrigation, washing and packing of produce and wash-down of facilities
Reduced environmental and health impacts by using mechanical and biological pest controls instead of pesticides
Fair treatment of works by paying them fair wages and providing healthier working conditions.
Regrettably, it is a false reassurance that organic produce is chemical free. This descriptor is unregulated in the Australian domestic market, and may be used to mislead consumers. Moreover organic growing practices allow use of unregistered products, including manures and other biological products, that may not be regularly tested or independently verified that they do not exceed allowances for toxins that can include heavy metals, organophosphates, organochlorines and pathogens (ACO Std 2013, p 96).
Even certified organic is a false reassurance. Chemicals with active ingredients that would normally be prohibited are permitted “… in cases of imminent or serious threat to crops…” and where normal organic control measures would not be effective (ACO Standard 2013, p 33).
Keogh (2013) acknowledges results of studies that report that organically grown produce has a 30% lower risk of pesticide contamination (but they are not pesticide free); but disputes that allowed pesticide residue is a danger to human health or that organically grown produce is any better nutritionally than conventionally grown produce. By what measure?
Consider the research results reported by Baranski etal (2014):
18%-69% higher levels of phytochemicals, which help protect us against diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancers (because they reduce oxidative damage). The extra nutrient value estimated to be equivalent to eating two extra portions of fruit and vegetable a day i.e. more nutrient value for your money with no added calories (Lantz and McIntosh, 2017); less need for nutritional supplements (an added expense)
10X-100X lower levels of pesticide residues, many of which are linked with cancers, reproductive defects, birth defects, developmental-, hormonal- and mental disorders.
About 50% less cadmium contamination - a toxic heavy metal (see Resources for health effects of cadmium).
So, it seems reasonable to accept that most truly organically farmed produce would significantly reduce your exposure to toxic pesticides and be more nutrient dense than most conventionally farmed produce; but there are NO guarantees that you can completely avoid all toxic chemicals.
What do you choose to eat?
Who to trust?
Increasingly, the public is skeptical of accreditation, misleading labelling and brand marketing and they relish the opportunity to have a relationship with their food growers and to eyeball them while asking questions about where the food comes from. There’s greater appreciation of how hard our fresh food producers work not only to bring this food to us, but as custodians of natural environmental resources. Also greater appreciation of how much more delicious vegetables and fruit taste when grown in naturally healthy soils, harvested at peak ripeness and not transported or stored for extended periods of time; AND how much longer this fresh produce lasts before it deteriorates. Why? Because it’s higher in minerals that give it structural integrity. These factors are all reasons why this food IS more nutritious and better for our health.
If you’d like to eat more of great tasting, fresh food, visit one of the Hillview Farm stalls. More info here.
If you’d like to understand more about the health risks of pesticides and strategies for reducing these risks, I highly recommend the book “One Bite at a Time” (Lantz and McIntosh, 2017). I have copies for sale, so feel free to contact me.
If you’d like to understand more about how these toxins contribute to adverse effects on cognitive health, contact me about attending a workshop on Alzheimer’s Disease.
I too am passionate about supporting my own family and community health through reducing toxicity and environmental damage. Come talk with me for some help with your food choices, detoxification or other health concerns. More info here.
Australian Certified Organic Standard 2013, p33, http://austorganic.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/ACOS-2013-final.pdf
Baranski M, 2014, “Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses”, British Journal of Nutrition, viewed online 5 March 2018, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4141693/
Keogh M, 2013, “Do consumers really know what they are getting when they buy organic food?”, Australian Farm Institute, viewed 5 March 2018, http://farminstitute.org.au/ag-forum/do-consumers-really-know-what-they-are-getting-when-they-buy-organic-food
Lantz S and McIntosh T, 2017, One Bite At A Time Reduce Toxic Exposure & Eat The World You Want”.
Health effects of cadmium: