How do you eat more organic food without going crazy trying to find it or
going broke buying it? When this compelling question is posed to me on the
same day by a woman who produces a newsletter for a Darien environmental
group and a sixth-grade student in Bridgeport, I'm inspired.
Consumers' problems range from the difficulty of finding any organic food
at all in many stores to the higher cost of some organic foods when they
can be found. This isn't surprising because the conventional food system
(including supermarkets, convenience stores and chain restaurants) has been
created to take advantage of the enormous quantities of cheap food produced
by damaging chemical/industrial methods. Fruits and vegetables can be
picked unripe in California, Mexico or Chile, sprayed with an assortment of
fungicides to prevent rot, and then shipped thousands of miles for sale at
rock bottom prices. From what customers at the Farmers Market tell us,
this produce is often rock hard and tasteless, until it rots from the
There are many reasons why people are now choosing organic foods. The most
prominent is for health: that is, to avoid residues of the toxic chemicals
that are used routinely in producing and shipping most non-organic foods.
This seems to be increasingly important to mothers of young children, for
those who are working to heal themselves of serious illnesses, and for the
elderly (who are less resilient). Many of these people already know that
the fats, sugars, refined carbohydrates and synthetic ingredients found
today in so many processed foods are probably more damaging to health than
pesticide residues are, and have cut back on these, as well. That's good,
because searching for organic Twinkies(tm) or Happy Meals(tm) misses the
point, although enough advertising could create just such a fad.
The rapid introduction of genetically-modified organisms into the food
supply has spurred many to search for certified-organic foods, especially
dairy products. This new technology is not allowed in organic production.
Studies indicate that many people should eat fewer dairy products, anyway,
which can make up for organic dairy's reasonably higher prices.
There are other, more altruistic reasons for eating organic food. Growing
demand increases organic farming practices which in turn can protect soil,
water, air, animals and farmworkers. This also leads to fewer toxic wastes
in places like Connecticut where pesticides are manufactured.
Eating organic food, however, won't necessarily address other negative
effects of the American food system, such as enormous energy- and
resource-use for processing, packaging and transportation, and its tendency
toward very-large-scale enterprises. Lettuce trucked in from California or
tomatoes flown in from Holland consume the same transportation and
packaging energy and create the same pollution and waste problems whether
they are grown using organic or conventional methods. Consuming more
locally-grown, seasonal foods and learning to cook with basic ingredients
like vegetables, grains and beans is an effective and accessible solution
to these problems.
The majority of the world's people live on diets which consist primarily of
whole grains and legumes. The complex carbohydrates, fiber, low fat and
other nutrients in these foods are widely recognized as being very
beneficial to health. Organic grains and beans, in bulk from a health food
store or food co-op, are a real nutritional bargain compared to processed
and prepared foods.
It's not surprising that in Connecticut, the highest concentration of
stores selling organic food is along the "Gold Coast" in Fairfield County.
There are, however, organic foods growing abundantly in back yards and
community gardens in every town and suburb throughout the state. Growing
more of the food that you want to eat is important, even if it is just a
jar of sprouts on your kitchen counter.
To protect your health, become familiar with the fruits and vegetables
which are most contaminated with pesticides. Peanuts, strawberries, green
peppers and melons rank high on this list. Avoid these foods altogether if
you can't find organic sources.
There are few consumer choices that can have so many positive effects in so
many places. What are your reasons for eating organic food? One good one
is: changing the way you eat, can change the world!
For more information, send a self-addressed, stamped envelop to Organic
Food, WSHU, 5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield, CT 06432.
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
(C)1998, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491
Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT
certified organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban
agriculture projects in southern Connecticut and producing "Living on the
Earth" radio programs). Their collection of essays Living on the Earth:
Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful Future is available from Bill
Duesing, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491 for $14 postpaid. These essays first
appeared on WSHU, public radio from Fairfield, CT. New essays are posted
weekly at http://www.wshu.org/duesing and those since November 1995 are
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