Organic or Not ?
The popularity of organic vegetable gardening is on the rise as more and more people realize the need for sustainable and non-toxic sources of food. Interest in organic gardening is driven partly by conscientious consumers who are becoming more aware of the impact their food choices have on the environment and their well being.
Today, dozens of countries around the world have either banned or limited the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides, such as Monsanto’s RoundUp.
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In the United States, California continues to wage a high-profile legal battle to label this widely used herbicide as a known carcinogen. As the dangers posed by environmentally toxic and unsustainable farming practices continue to come to light, interest in organic gardening is expected to grow.
According to the North American Organic Trade Association, sales of organic food hit $43 billion in 2016. This represents a growth of 8.4% over the prior year, compared to the 0.06% growth seen in food sales overall for the same period.
Fruits and vegetables accounted for nearly 40% of total organic food sales in 2016, which means the organic segment grew at roughly twice the rate of overall fruit and vegetable sales.
Produce is called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years before harvest. Banned substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. In instances when a grower has to use a synthetic material to achieve a specific purpose, the substance must first be approved according to criteria that examine its effects on human health and the environment (What Does the Organic Label Mean)
As for organic meat, regulations require that animals are raised to accomodate their natural way of living and not administered antibiotics or hormones.
In the US alone, nearly 15% of all fruits and vegetables sold are now organic.
This shows that consumers are willing to vote with their wallets as they say loud and clear they want healthier, more ecologically friendly food choices for their families.
Unfortunately, fresh and frozen organic produce often comes with a premium price tag, which is usually 20-30% higher than comparable non-organic items. These higher prices mean many families can’t afford the luxury of adopting an organic diet. As a result, many are left searching for a sustainable, affordable way to incorporate more healthy fruits and vegetables into their diet.
One viable alternative is to grow their own organic fruits and vegetables at home. Edible All Year Gardening and One Square Food of Soil – 6 square feet of Vertical Growing Space can get you started.
Beyond food safety, there are several other good reasons to embrace organic gardening. Here are just a few of the many benefits you can expect from time spent in your organic vegetable garden.
How Organic gardening protects the environment.
When you adopt organic gardening methods, you are making a conscious decision to protect the environment.
By eliminating the use of synthetic herbicides and pesticides, you are creating a more welcoming habitat.
Beneficial animals and creatures including bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, ladybugs, earthworms, bats, and many others.
These creatures are instrumental in pollinating plants, enhancing the soil, and keeping pest populations in check. They all play a critical role in creating a healthy ecosystem right in your backyard.
Another way growing your organic food at home helps the environment by reducing the number of “food miles” required to support your household.
A food mile represents the distance food must travel from where it is grown or produced to where it is purchased and the fuel required to make that journey.
Does Organic gardening offer health benefits?
The impact of chemicals sprayed on food and grass and grain animals eat has been debated. Even with years if research, the effects on health are unclear due to research gaps. Before conclusive evidence is provided, the research needs to be improved.
Governments making decisions affecting big business such as the Dietary Guidelines are always very cautious in making decisions concerning agriculture and the food industry.
Evidence-Based Reasons For Choosing Organic Foods
For this article, an in-depth search within the PENN Practice-Based Evidence in Nutrition Data Base was undertaken. The following questions were researched with the answers provided. Note that all research answers were last updated in 2014 and 2015. More recent research may have been reported elsewhere.
Q Are there any health benefits from eating organic foods?
A Overall results have not observed any clinical or physiologically relevant differences between individuals consuming organic or conventionally farmed foods
Q Do organic foods have lower levels of pesticides than conventionally produced foods?
Limited evidence indicates that organic foods may contain lower levels of pesticides than food produced by conventional methods.
Q Are consumers who consume conventionally produced (sprayed/treated with pesticides/herbicides) grains, fruit, and vegetables at risk for health issues?
Some organizations recommend the reduced use of pesticides through reduced home and garden applications, household insecticide use and application to pets. Organic foods or diets are not explicitly recommended.
Q Are there differences in microbiological concerns or antibiotic resistance between organically and conventionally farmed meats, poultry and milk?
A Bacterial contamination of meats is common for both organic and conventionally farmed meats.
Growing Your Own For Health Benefits
Part of the beauty of growing your food is that it helps your body in more ways than one. For starters, you’ll get more physical exercise as you work in your garden throughout the growing season.
You know what you are eating and where the food comes from.
Plus, you’ll find it is easier to eat healthy when you have a steady supply of fresh fruits and vegetables right outside your door.
Knowing those delicious fruits, vegetables, and herbs were grown without any toxic chemicals makes them even more appealing.
Gardening is a known stress reliever, and it is a great way to unwind after a hectic day. It gives you a chance to spend quality time outdoors surrounded by nature while boosting your levels of Vitamin D from the sunshine. (Just don’t forget your sunscreen!)
Growing Your Own, gives an immense sense of personal satisfaction that comes from planting and nurturing an abundant garden without the use of harsh or toxic chemicals. There is just something about biting into a warm, juicy tomato right off the vine that can’t be beaten.
How Does Growing Organic Affect Taste?
Q Are there taste differences between organic and conventionally farmed produce?
A Even though consumers do say organic food tastes better, the research evidence doesn’t confirm this.
Decide for yourself on this one. When we eat a home grown rooster, it does taste better, and you can see the white and the dark meat. The same for turkey and sheep meat from our farm.
Taste differences may be due to different varieties used, harvesting time and ripeness for fruit and vegetables. For meat and poultry, free-range animals do have a different taste.
Grow or Choose or Organic Not?
There are many compelling reasons to embrace organic gardening and food growing practices. Not all reasons to choose organic foods are grounded in convincing scientific evidence. It’s your choice to do what you feel it best.