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Is Eating Organic BS?

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Is Eating Organic BS?

Penn and Teller’s: BS

One of my very favorite shows on TV is Penn and Teller’s: Bulls**t. It airs on Show Time and involves magician duo Penn and Teller calling “BS!” on various different hot button issues, from taxes to video game violence.

Each episode focuses on a particular topic and one that I watched recently centered on organic foods.

As someone who has supported the organic food movement for many years by purchasing organically grown produce, clothing, bathroom supplies, etc, I couldn’t wait to watch this episode.  I was expecting to school them both (by yelling at my TV in the comforts of my own living room, of course) on all the merits of going organic.

To my surprise, Penn and Teller schooled me!

That said, I think I have some important insights to add and will do so today by examining all 5 of the different components discussed in the show:

  1. Environment
  2. Pesticides
  3. Nutrition
  4. Taste
  5. Small Business Farmers

Let’s start things off with benefits for the environment.

Environment

As I’m sure you know, one of the biggest reasons people give for buying organic foods is because it’s far better for the environment.

Penn & Teller

Growing organic actually requires MORE land than conventional, thus being less energy efficient. Not only does the food itself require tons more land, but the livestock necessary for fertilizer (synthetic fertilizers are not allowed and so organic farmers must use animal manure) do as well.

My Comments

First, it depends upon the food being grown as well as the farm itself.  According to this article on organic farming from The Independent:

“The report for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found “many” organic products had lower ecological impacts than conventional methods using fertilisers and pesticides. But academics at the Manchester Business School (MBS), who conducted the study, said that was counterbalanced by other organic foods – such as milk, tomatoes and chicken – which are significantly less energy efficient and can be more polluting than intensively-farmed equivalents.

Ken Green, professor of environmental management at MBS, who co-wrote the report, said: “You cannot say that all organic food is better for the environment than all food grown conventionally. If you look carefully at the amount of energy required to produce these foods you get a complicated picture. In some cases, the carbon footprint for organics is larger.”

This problem can easily be avoided by refraining from purchasing these organic foods. Chicken and milk, whether organic or conventional, are not appropriate for humans anyway and conventional tomatoes – or, even better, local tomatoes – can be purchased instead.

Second, animal manure is not necessary for organic farming. Even commercial farms can use what’s termed “green manures,” or manures comprised only of vegetable matter.

While this method does require land to grow the vegetation, it is still a much more environmentally friendly option (not to mention much more animal friendly as well) than relying upon animal feces.

Third, buying produce in season is another environmentally-friendly practice, as it requires more energy and resources to produce the crop out of season. This is a common practice for both conventional and organic growers so no matter which you purchase, make an effort to buy in season.

Finally, if you really want to be environmentally friendly, there are three things you should do that have nothing to do with organic growing:

  1. Don’t buy animal and animal by-products (e.g. milk, cheese, leather, etc.)
  2. Don’t buy processed foods
  3. Don’t cook.

You can find out more about the environmental benefits of consuming a low fat raw vegan diet by checking out my article here.

Pesticides

Another reason so many people support organic farming is because organic growers do not use pesticides, which are believed to be bad for both us and the environment.

Penn & Teller

Contrary to popular belief, organic farms DO use pesticides and preservatives. And because they are not using synthetic, the farmers have to use even more  poisonous pesticides, some of which are even more dangerous to both us and the environment than synthetic.

Further, technology regarding farming has improved so much over the years that the synthetic pesticides today are perfectly safe for us.

My Comments

You may be completely surprised that organic farming also involves pesticide use.

Don’t worry, you are certainly not alone. It was news to me, too!

The reason this still is not well-known is because the general public has always assumed that since the pesticides are natural, they must be perfectly safe to use.

However, as this 2007 NY Times article explains, the truth about natural pesticides has been known for quite a few years:

Dr. Ames was one of the early heroes of environmentalism. He invented the widely used Ames Test, which is a quick way to screen for potential carcinogens by seeing if a chemical causes mutations in bacteria. After he discovered that Tris, a flame-retardant in children’s pajamas, caused mutations in the Ames Test, he helped environmentalists three decades ago in their successful campaign to ban Tris — one of the early victories against synthetic chemicals.

But Dr. Ames began rethinking this war against synthetic chemicals after thousands of chemicals had been subjected to his test. He noticed that plenty of natural chemicals flunked the Ames test. He and Dr. Gold took a systematic look at the chemicals that had been tested on rodents. They found that about half of natural chemicals tested positive for carcinogencity, the same proportion as the synthetic chemicals. Fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices contained their own pesticides that caused cancer in rodents. The toxins were found in apples, bananas, beets, Brussel sprouts, collard greens, grapes, melons, oranges, parsley, peaches — the list went on and on.

Remember, poison ivy occurs in nature too. Just because it’s natural does not mean it’s healthy!

As far as the comment that synthetic pesticide use is perfectly safe, I just don’t buy it. Pesticides are poisons used to destroy insects and other organisms that harm the crop. They are toxic substances not originally present in or on the food and we would not be consuming these substances in nature.

But don’t worry!  There are other options if you are worried about pesticide use:

First, source out farms that practice Non-Pesticidal Management (NPM). This means that the farmers do not use synthetic OR natural pesticides, but instead rely on techniques to control the pest population. Neem and Diotomaceaous Earth are two harmless products commonly used on NPM farms.

Second, wash your produce before you eat it. There are many effective, yet harmless fruit and veggie washes available on the market.  Vermont Soap offers a very good one.

Part II Still To Come

Stay tuned for Part II of this article in a few days, where I’ll discuss nutrition, taste, benefits for the small farmer and conclude with the absolute best option for purchasing tasty, nutritious, environmentally responsible, pesticide-free, small farmer-friendly raw produce.

So until next time…

UPDATE: Check out Part II here:

http://www.fitonraw.com/2010/06/organic-food-bs-part-2/

Go raw and be fit,

Swayze

Jan asks,

I have been eating Xocai Healthy Chocolates (they are raw). I like them but they are expensive and I didn’t really notice any results. I’m just getting ready to order a supply because for two months’ supply I can get a free month. I am tempted. Is eating this Healthy Dark Chocolate a good thing, or haven’t you heard about it?

First, raw chocolate does not exist; there is no chocolate tree in nature. There are cacao beans, which are the seeds of the cacao fruit, and these seeds are  heated and processed to create chocolate. Without processing them, cacao beans are extremely bitter and inedible.

Second, chocolate is a stimulant.  The “energy boost” that people get after eating chocolate is really just the body working overtime to eliminate it.

The caffeine in coffee gives us the same results, which you can learn more about in my article here.

Hope that helps,

Swayze

12 comments

1 Papatya { 06.21.10 at 8:55 am }

Hi Swayze!
In this sentence, “Chicken and milk, whether organic or conventional, are not appropriate for humans anyway and conventional tomatoes,” what do you mean by inappropriate? Thanks!
Papatya

Swayze Reply:

Everything about human anatomy and physiology – from our eyes to our digestive tracts – points to a frugivorous diet, i.e. one that is predominated by fruits. We are not carnivores nor are we even omnivores. We do not need any animal or animal by-products like milk and cheese in our diets. In fact, these foods are very harmful to us.

I suggest you check out The China Study by Dr. Colin Campbell (the longest nutritional study ever conducted) for its findings on the effects of consuming animals and high-protein diets. Also, my friend Frederic Patenaude recently posted a great article on consuming animals. Here’s the link:

http://www.fredericpatenaude.com/blog/?p=1208

Hope that helps! :)

Swayze

Papatya Reply:

Thanks Swayze!

Swayze Reply:

Cool name, by the way! :D

Papatya Reply:

Right back at ‘cha. I’d better get back to work before you dad catches me goofing off.

2 Jill { 06.21.10 at 12:03 pm }

Look into organics a little further. Penn and Teller are entertaining to watch, but too much is left out. My grandfather was a conventional farmer and died of ALS. My cousin was diagnosed with ALS and her adopted son has MS. I add adopted since it can’t be genetic in their case. My cousin’s husband is an internist who believes it’s all environmentally related. My cousin and her son live near the field where my grandfather would spray his orchards. When we’ve researched ALS further, we find that there’s a definite red flag where pesticides are concerned. I have several friends who have organic gardens that are pesticide free. They really hand pick critters off their leaves and use natural methods, like spiders and ladybugs, to help with damage control. Sometimes I have to buy conventional, but I won’t eat conventional strawberries, peaches…dirty dozen list.
Pesticide use hit me personally a few years ago in another way, too. I lived in the valley in California where lots of orchards are. I drove my son to school through orchards that were being sprayed each morning. I had two late term miscarriages – both babies were due in May and I was exposed to the pesticides all fall during both pregnancies. Since deformities were noticeable in both babies, my husband and I went through all sorts of genetic testing. All the doctors concluded that it was environmental and said they couldn’t be 100%, but it may have been the pesticides in the area. The area (Hanford, California) was labeled a cancer cluster area about the same time with people suffering from brain tumors. I don’t like to eat conventional fruits and vegetables for my own safety and I want to support organic farming so other farmers will move away from the more harmful synthetic pesticides. It’s an important debate, and I wouldn’t let my final decision be because of a Penn and Teller show.

Swayze Reply:

In the article, I say:

“As far as the comment that synthetic pesticide use is perfectly safe, I just don’t buy it. Pesticides are poisons used to destroy insects and other organisms that harm the crop. They are toxic substances not originally present in or on the food and we would not be consuming these substances in nature.”

By far the best option is to look for farms that use neither synthetic NOR natural pesticides (or as little as possible), as BOTH are harmful.

3 Jill { 06.21.10 at 4:13 pm }

Thank you! I missed that part. I’m glad you’re encouraging people to stay away from both. I read more about the Penn and Teller show and learned a little about the expert Alex Avery. He’s paid by the Hudson Institute. I haven’t checked to see if that’s accurate info yet. I really question this statement from the show:

Further, technology regarding farming has improved so much over the years that the synthetic pesticides today are perfectly safe for us.

I’d hate for people to fall for that and give up on buying organic food. I definitely agree we have to be careful where to buy our organic food and make sure it’s really pesticide free.

Thanks for watching out for us, Swayze! ~Jill

4 GirlonRaw { 06.22.10 at 12:48 am }

Wowee, I am sooo glad you came and contributed on my blog so I could discover yours. I LOVED this topic and cannot wait for more on your part II.

Thanks again for stopping by!

Swayze Reply:

No problem! Glad you liked Part I. :D

5 Nadja { 08.07.10 at 7:25 am }

Well all my thoughts of going organic flew out of the window. It’s good actually, because alot of people I know march ‘organic’ to the max and it’s a relief to know that this issue again has been simplified. Thanks, for all the interesting info.

Swayze Reply:

Yes, it really was an eye-opener for me. I actually just finished reading another organic foods eye-opener called “The Truth About organic Gardening.” I’ll be sure to post a review in the near future.