You may have heard that "going organic" is a healthy choice for farmers, the environment, and
your own health. But do you really understand
why it's such a positive choice? This article series
explores the benefits of choosing organic.
A recent article in Organic NZ magazine highlights
another reason to question procedures that are
part of conventional food production. Alison
White, convenor of the Safe Food Campaign in
New Zealand, outlines the potential dangers of
food irradiation, a process that herbs, spices,
herbal teas, tomatoes, capsicums and a range
of tropical fruit that comes into her country are
allowed to go through.
She explains that food, which is irradiated
gets exposed to gamma rays, or a high energy
electron beam, or x-rays. There are a few reasons
- To disrupt the development of any insects that may be concealed within fresh produce.
- As an effective and cost-efficient alternative to commonly used toxic insecticides.
- To extend shelf life by delaying ripening and to help lower the incidence of foodborne illnesses.
The above reasons all sound like great ones, but
are the potential harmful consequences again
being downplayed? The scientific community is
still asking questions around nutrient loss, free
radical production and changes to antioxidant
properties. The Food Irradiation Watch website
addresses the reasons that consumers should
be concerned—ranging from links to cancer
and immune system disorders to reproductive
problems and nutritional deficiencies, and it also
covers safe alternatives to irradiation.
Will this be yet another case of "innocent until
proven guilty," which happens all too often in the
world of conventional farming? DDT, a commonly
used pesticide of the past with strong links to the
polio virus was removed AFTER the risks were
realized, and in today's world we are questioning
the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the
widely used herbicide, Roundup.
Whether it is proven to be safe or not, consumers
should have a right to know whether their food
has been irradiated so those who wish to tread
with caution, can. There are a few things you can
do to avoid irradiated food:
- Purchase certified organic food. Organic standards do not allow food irradiation.
- Ask your favorite brands whether they have an irradiation free policy. Even if the spices and teas you are using were made in your own country, they could be using imported ingredients that have been irradiated.
- New Zealand does not have any irradiation plants so if you live in New Zealand you can buy locally grown fruit and vegetables and know they haven't been irradiated. If you live outside New Zealand, find out if your country has any irradiation plants, and if so, stick with points one and two!