The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists pesticides as any substances or mixtures of substances intended for the preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating of any pest. A pest is classified as an insect, rodent, unwanted plant/weed, fungi, bacteria or virus.
Although the federal government and individual states regulate the amount of pesticides that can be used in farming, health concerns are an important issue for many who choose to purchase organic
food. Pesticides can be harmful to human health and, according to the EPA, can cause "birth defects, nerve damage, cancer and other effects that might occur over a long period of time."
The adverse effects of pesticides on children can be even more severe. Their immature excretory systems are unable to fully remove the pesticides from their systems. Further, pesticides can block the absorption of nutrients needed for proper development and growth. Studies show that when parents switched their children to organic diets, the pesticide levels in their urine decreased.
Organic food is all natural -- meaning, it's free of hydrogenated fats, artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners. Organic meats come from animals that have never been given antibiotics or had growth hormones injected into them to make them larger. Additionally, organically raised animals are never fed other animals, which may be contaminated with antibiotics, hormones or other chemicals themselves.
Antibiotics are used to decrease the amount of food an animal needs to grow, to stimulate the animal's growth, and to protect the animal from possible infection. Although animals aren't used until their antibiotic levels have decreased, antibiotic use is a deciding factor for many who choose to eat organic. The use of antibiotics in food can be hazardous because they can create antibiotic resistance and promote the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. If a human becomes infected with harmful bacteria from meat that has been treated with antibiotics, doctor-prescribed antibiotics may not have any effect on the bacteria.
According to the Organic Center, "Forty-three percent of consumers choosing organic food do so because of 'better taste.'" While taste is subjective, buyers of organic food say organic fruits are juicier, organic vegetables have more flavor, and organic animal products taste fresher. Research backs them up: A study conducted in Spain compared organic and conventional (non-organic) strawberries grown on neighboring plots. Eaters of both said the organic strawberries were sweeter, more deeply colored and better able to resist deterioration.
One reason for the great taste may be that organic food often is grown locally, so it doesn't have to withstand the long, cross-country shipping that many conventional fruits, vegetables and meats do. So consumers wind up with ripe, tasty produce and meats.
Conventional versus organic food has been a hotly debated topic for many years. Organic food enthusiasts insist organic food is far richer in nutrients than conventional foods, while conventional
food devotees disagree.
In March 2008, the Organic Center released a study on the nutrient value of organic food versus conventional. The study, titled The State of Science Review: Nutritional Superiority of Organic Foods, found that the tested organic food was nutritionally superior by 61 percent in a comparison of 236 matched pairs.
The next time you stroll down the aisles of your grocery store, consider trying organic fruit, vegetables or meat. You may or may not notice a difference in taste, but you're sure to enjoy knowing that you've fed your family as healthfully as possible.
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