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Friday, August 1, 2008

calci. um?

That’s right, kids. Even more reason to drink your milk (or calcium fortified OJ or soy milk or yogurt or whatever).

Organic: your thoughts?

The article outlines how organic sales have slowed because just slapping an organic label on a food product no longer means consumers will rush to buy it. They want specifics – Is it local? Is it pesticide free? Is it free range? Is it genetically-modified (GM) product free?

Personally, the only one of those I care about is local. I would much rather buy local than buy into any of this organic craze. Local produce cuts down on packaging waste, greenhouse gases because it doesn’t have to be shipped across the country or the world, tastes better because it gets to you sooner and supports local economies. Seems win-win to me. But I find most of the organic craze to be a crock.

Here’s a news flash for you. most organic produce still has pesticides on it, it just has “organic” pesticides. What that means is that instead of having highly regulated chemical pesticides with strict testing requirements and safety data available to farmers, organic farmers are using other substances like horticultural oil which is basically coating plants with petroleum oil to keep bugs off of it. Mm petroleum. Now Bt is a scientifically tested pesticide isolated from Bacillus thuringiensis which has been genetically engineered into some plants to keep bugs from eating them. But using those would be GM and not organic, while applying Bt to the plants externally counts as organic. Seems silly to me, but ok.

Another issue is if organic farmers use no pesticides or only those that kill bugs, not bacteria or molds. Mold is a big issue, bigger than just bacterial contamination. I know everyone is up in arms about Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 on produce and the FDA tracking the outbreaks (that’s a whole different rant for another day :-D), but those generally produce short-term effects except in worse case scenarios where )157:H7 has caused some kidney failure. Very rare. But molds – there’s a different story. Many molds produce toxins when they grow on grains and fruits. One particular type produced by Aspergillus flavus. aflatoxins, are highly carcinogenic. So because organic buyers are scared of chemical pesticides present on their foods in parts per million or billion amounts that generally wash off with soap and water, they might be getting mold toxins that’ll give them and their families cancer. Way to go!

Here’s another article on organic. Studies have come out assuring the world that organic produce is better for you than conventionally grown produce. Only, here’s a shocker, the methodology of their studies is flawed. A former professor of mine at Rutgers who is an expert in analysis techniques and study methodology reviewed the studies and found their design was fundamentally flawed. Seriously. Some studies included kiwi skin in the calculations for organic nutrients, even though I don’t know a single person who would ever actually consume said kii skin.

Besides, have you ever taken a good hard look at the organic produce in the supermarket? It’s always bruised and a little bit shriveled. If you want healthy fruits and vegetables, go to a farmer’s market. Skip the organic produce shipped in from California or Massachussetts or wherever.

Do I ever buy organic products? Sure. When there’s no conventional alternative or they’re on sale or otherwise appeal to me in flavor. I buy packaged goods that are labeled organic; in fact, I just bought Horizon organic yogurt yesterday because it was on sale and the right flavor. I’m not against buying organic products. I just want to be clear on the issues. eating “conventionally grown” produce does not mean your kids are going to get doused with pesticides and hormones. just like processed food doesn’t cause obesity, people who can’t limit their intake of processed foods causes obesity. Just like Bovine Growth Hormone in milk won’t affect your children’s development because, hello! It’s BOVINE growth hormone; hormones are not effective across genus and species lines. It’s just treated by the body as another protein to digest.

So calm down, people. Buy what looks good and wash your produce whether it’s organic or conventional if you’re that scared about pesticides. Let’s have some common sense. And don’t believe anything the Center for Science in the Public Interest ever tells you. They’re getting paid to yell at people for doing their jobs.

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