You may have heard that ‘going organic’ is a healthy choice for
the 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.
Reason 1: Glyphosate
You may be aware that organic food and products are produced
without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides
or chemicals. Advocates of conventional farming (the type
that does allow use of these artificial substances) argue that
recommended levels of these chemicals are not exceeded.
This statement may be true for one chemical in one product
but it does not consider the sheer number of potentially toxic
chemicals that we are subjected to in modern society—in our
food, our water, in the materials we use to make products and
clothing, and in the air we breathe.
A chemical may be tested and found to be safe at a
certain level, but it is unlikely that the full cocktail of chemicals
contained in a product have been tested. Molecular biologist
Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini has demonstrated that the full
formulations of pesticides are much stronger than the declared
active ingredient. Additionally, the ‘active’ ingredient may not be
the most toxic ingredient in pesticide formulations.1
Coupled with these issues, there is little consideration
for variations in sensitivity between individuals, nor for the
consequences of being exposed to so many different chemicals
over the course of a day, or a lifetime.
Glyphosate is a chemical under hot discussion in the
farming world. Being on the market in the form of the active
ingredient in the widely used herbicide Roundup, virtually all
conventional produce and food products contain traces of this
chemical. As with all subjects of debate, there are many studies
that claim Roundup herbicide poses no risk to humans.2
However, in March 2015 the World Health Organization's
International Agency for Research on Cancer classified
glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic in humans” (category 2A)
based on epidemiological studies, animal studies, and in vitro
Advocates for organic farming believe it is wise to err on the
side of caution—who wants to risk a build-up of toxic residue
that could lead to serious health problems? It is much safer to
ban ‘questionable’ chemical ingredients and to find a proven
safe alternative than to live by the mantra of ‘innocent until
The links between glyphosate and a wide range of health
concerns and conditions are becoming increasingly evident. Dr.
Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT), has found strong links between
glyphosate use, and the rise in celiac disease. She explains that
the villi in the gut are destroyed by glyphosate, which reduces the
person’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals and can result in
Glyphosate has been highlighted as a potential endocrine
disruptor7 and has shown a strong correlation with the increased
incidence of many diseases, from cancer to dementia, to
autism.8,9,10 The World Health organization lists the adverse
health effects caused by glyphosate as airway, skin, and mucous
membrane irritation, abdominal, pain, nausea, vomiting, shock,
dyspnea, respiratory failure.11
For consumers who are not convinced about the safety of
food production methods using synthetic chemicals such as
glyphosate, the only ways to currently drastically reduce exposure
are by choosing certified organic produce and products, growing
your own, or by getting food from a local farmer who you know is
not using these chemicals.12,13,14
For those who are not sure how to start shifting from a
conventional to an organic diet, or who have concerns around
personal budgeting restraints, a good place to start making
changes is by focusing on the ‘dirty dozen’— a list of the twelve
foods in New Zealand that have been identified as having the
highest pesticide residues.
Reason 2: Healthy soil, healthy body
Many people are now choosing organic as one way to help optimize
their health and wellbeing. The vitamin and mineral content of
fresh produce and other foods will vary based on how the soil is
cared for, the environment they are grown in, and how they are
processed, among other things.
In organic farming, caring for the soil is of the utmost
importance, because it forms the basis for health, for all life
forms. As Sophie Grigson and William Black explain, “Healthy soil
encourages healthy plants, plants which are strong and disease
resistant, which means there is less need for artificial pesticides in
organic production.” Their book “Organic—a new way of eating”
highlights the fact that if we feed the soil, the plants will look after
Sally Fallon reiterates this in her book “Nourishing Traditions,”
when she explains that nitrogen fertilizers used in conventional
(non-organic) farming produce high yields, in part by pulling
minerals from the soil. In turn, the food suffers because the vitamin
and mineral contents are depleted. She explains that vitamin and
mineral content between conventional and organic crops can vary
hugely, and that some commercially raised oranges have been
found to contain NO vitamin C!16
The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ really does ring true. If
you are consuming food that was once a sickly animal who was fed
routine courses of antibiotics and a genetically engineered diet of
pesticide sprayed grains that it is unable to digest, how healthy do
you think you will be?
If you are eating food that has been sprayed copious times with
a herbicide that has been engineered to kill EVERYTHING around it,
except that particular crop, how do you think this affects the health
of the soil, and the subsequent health of your body? Similarly, with
the skin being the largest organ in the body, and readily absorbing
anything you rub on it, have you considered what is entering your
system via this method (by way of creams and lotions)?
Yes, our bodies are amazing, and yes they can process and
eliminate a certain degree of ‘rubbish.’ But, when they become
overloaded they are unable to summon the resources required to
neutralize the onslaught of poisons entering them. Therefore it
makes sense to limit our intake of toxins wherever we are able to
do so; for example by making organic choices.
Organic farming helps ensure you are receiving the best quality
for your body, allowing your cells to be as healthy and strong as
possible. Growth hormones, protein rich feeds and the routine use
of antibiotics are not allowed, nor are synthetic chemical fertilizers,
fungicides, herbicides or pesticides.
If you consider health as a holistic word encompassing
people, animals, and the planet, then choosing organic is a positive
step in this direction.
- “Food Matters – Life matters!” article. Organic NZ magazine. May/June 2015.
- “Organic – a new way of eating.” Sophie Grigson and William Black. Headline Book Publishing 2001.
- “Nourishing Traditions." The Cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats. Revised second edition. Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig. Ph.D. 1999, 2001 New trends Publishing Inc.