Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Organics Matter....A Lot

Talk about organics seem to be on the rise these days. There are the affluent liberals who claim it’s all they buy, the young couples who frequent farmers markets and then there are the people who think it’s all a bunch of bunk. I find these people interesting. When I try to engage them in conversation (attempting to avoid any offense) the reaction is always the same, either, “it’s all just politics” and “the price really isn’t worth the trouble”. Or even more commonly “I am not convinced it even matters”.  It is true that organic food is more expensive but the reasons are mostly political. Organic foods aren’t subsidized by the government, whereas agribusiness produce often is.  And it is these very same corporate farms that are fighting organic foods because they pose a threat to their bottom dollar. So, yes a lot of it is just politics but not because of the people that want to eat organic food, but instead because of the people who are fighting against it for a larger stake in the food market. Finally to those who think it doesn’t matter, you are just wrong. It does matter, and it matters on a global scale.

There are two main differences between organic and non organic crops. Organic crops do not use GMO seeds or plants and they do not use petro chemical fertilizers. Setting the GMO issue aside, petro chemical fertilizers are made from oil. Sorry all you pro American farmers the mere fact that you are using fertilizers and bug sprays means you are supporting foreign oil. The use of these chemicals also destroys soil fertility. Dirty isn’t just dirt decomposed plant material. It is chock a block full of micro organisms, bacterial, and fungi. These dirty little bugs breaks down decomposed plant material into usable natural chemicals. Chemicals which plants need to survive.  Folks in the fertilizer business have decided plants really only need three nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium or NPK. Just three nutrients derived in a lab to feed the worlds crops.  To quote from one of my favorite authors Barbra Kingslover “To raise a plant on petro chemical fertilizers is like raising a child on bread, peanut butter and the same bed time story every night…and when they cry you just give them more bread, more peanut butter and read them the same story twice”.  It doesn’t matter if you are talking about kids or dogs or plants, living things need great care, and covering them with oil based chemicals isn’t the best way to go about it.

Once the soil has absorbed all the agribusiness chemicals and the plants have been harvested all that is left is a cesspool of chemicals with no roots to keep the soil in place. Winter weather comes and eventually (whether the rainy season is winter or spring) soil is washed away and all the chemicals go with it. Into creeks and stream beds leeching into the lives of fish, birds, frogs, deer…..the entirety of the surrounding eco system.

Eventually these chemicals make their way into human bodies. There is a long history of people who have always thought using unnatural chemicals is dangerous. Mostly they get tagged as hippies. I think more accurately whatever you chose to call them, they were pretty spot on. There is historical and continuing research on the effects of petro chemicals on humans. And it seems that they are endocrine blockers, or in layman’s terms they f*ck with your hormones.  From what I can tell this was sort of an accidental discovery (researchers looking for something else and the results pointed to this). But more and more people are looking into exactly how and why this works in detail. On a summary level though many of these chemicals  bind with hormone receptors in your body causing your endocrine system to over produce growth hormones. Which is also what happens with milk that has bST. The link to this whole mess. Not only do petrochemicals and petrochemical fertilizers destroy soil quality, eventually destroy crop plants, and leech into wildlife, they can also make you fat.

Solution. Life is complicated. As for a real solution food buy local family run produce first (more on why to follow in a later post), and then grocery store organics.  By supporting businesses that have sound practices the trends will grow and we will be supporting a healthier future of communities. But these chemicals also come in shampoos, deodorants, make up, soaps, and cleaning products. If you aren’t down to make your own cleaning products there are plenty of safe organic cleaning supplies in supermarkets across the country. Hypo allergenic and organic beauty products are pretty easy to come by. The most common come from The Body Shop though there are many others out there. Shampoos and sops without sodium laureth and its many cousins are easy to come by you just have to read the label.

That was a bit of an information overload and a bit of a rant. Apologies, though hopefully more of you will now see why organics do matter, even if they are currently stuck in a political war.

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