Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Organic or Non-Organic???

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably have figured out that I know my way around a kitchen fairly well. And my girls will tell you that I also like to feed people who are within 3 feet of me.  I haven't gone so far as to grab strangers off the street to feed them, but if you are a guest in my home, well it is safe to say that you will be well fed......   

I believe in American Agriculture and the American Farmer, but then again it’s because I’ve been involved in producing one of the two most common ingredients found in pantries ….wheat.  Even though this harvest is a bittersweet one, as I am no longer a farm partner, I still am grateful to all those men & women whose job is to raise the food you & I eat, as I know firsthand the long hours spent getting the crop from seed to harvest.   
Feeding America. Semi's lined up to get weighed in before being unloaded at the grain terminal.
And as wheat harvest in Northern Idaho is in full swing, here is a picture I snapped while doing some errands in my small farming town……. semi-trucks all loaded up with wheat straight from their fields. While I can pretty much guarantee those loads are not “organic grown” but rather grown with careful applications of herbicides and pesticides, I am okay with that. In fact I personally am picky on what goes on my dinner table and  I think you, my reader friends, are too.  I am not afraid of conventional grown food and typically do not buy organic, but feel that whatever your food choice is, that it should be one that is an informed choice, not one made out of fear of how we grow your food with our conventional way of farming.  And I understand how media can play a part in those food choices.   So when I was contacted by Lisa Turner, an author whose degree is in  Food and Nutritional Sciences  who offered to write a blog for me, I jumped at the chance and asked her to please write about Organic vs. Non-Organic food.  And with that, here is her excellent article.

Whether You Opt for Organic or Non-Organic Foods, Limit Intake of Processed Items

Ask the public whether organic food is a healthier option and the answer will usually be yes. Those involved in the production and sale of organic produce have certainly sent out the message that their food is a safer, healthier and more environmentally friendly choice, which has boosted sales of organic items; according to the Agriculture Marketing Research Center, between 1990 and 2011 sales of organic food in the US jumped from $1 billion to $31.5 billion. However, are organically produced crops really as beneficial as consumers believe them to be?

The debate surrounding pesticides and fertilizers
Pesticides, whether artificial or natural, play an important role in increasing yields and ensuring plants are free from disease. Although artificial pesticides are potentially hazardous, those used in agriculture have received approval and when applied appropriately there is minimal risk to farm workers and even less so to consumers as limits have been set to ensure food sold contains residues at safe levels. While organic farming uses no artificial fertilizers and pesticides, leading to the assumption that they are free from residues, plants resort to their own methods of defense, producing substances called phenols to ward off pests. There is evidence that phenols, as antioxidants, may offer protection against the likes of heart disease and cancer, but as yet it is still to be proven the higher concentration of these in organic plants offers additional health benefits beyond those found in standard varieties. Chemists are also concerned that their higher phenol content could potentially bring with it its own risks to health. Use of manure as a natural fertilizer has been suggested to increase the risk of bacterial contamination of crops, increasing the likelihood of food poisoning, but research has shown that as long as manure is appropriately prepared the risk posed by use of manure is kept to a minimum. Organically grown plants are also more vulnerable to attack by hazardous fungi, as natural fungicides are less effective, though the avoidance of nitrate rich inorganic fertilizers does offer a degree of protection against this.

The debate surrounding nutrient content
Intensive farming has been blamed for the decline in the nutrient content of the soil in recent decades due to the overuse of fertilizers, soil erosion, focusing on single crops and not using traditional practices such as crop rotation, which allow the quality of the soil to increase. A soil with a lower mineral content results in plants that also contain fewer minerals, which is one of the reasons why organic farming is reported to be more favorable. However, studies that have investigated the nutritional content of organic produce have produced mixed results with regards to whether they offer a more nutritious option than crops grown using standard methods. While a review of 41 studies published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine showed that organic items contained a significantly higher amount of micronutrients including vitamin C, iron, magnesium and calcium, this has not been consistently found. With any method of farming, practices differ from one farm to another; not all non-organic farms use intensive practices and not all organic farmers will use natural practices to maximize the quality of their crops, which can explain the variability in nutrient content across both types of produce.

Either way, choose fresh produce
While parents may feel under pressure to purchase organic produce for their families, with the higher costs of these items and the uncertainty surrounding the degree of benefit that they actually offer over non-organic produce, they should not feel guilty if they decide to opt for the latter. Some perhaps choose to purchase organic versions of those foods that have been identified as having the highest pesticide residues, still leaving sufficient budget to buy plenty of fresh produce in general. Whether you choose to go down the organic or non-organic route, the important thing is to ensure that your family’s diet contains predominantly fresh food; there is little point in choosing organic fruit and vegetables if that then means the rest of their diet is made up of processed items. A diet that contains a higher proportion of plant-based foods (however they might be produced) and less processed food is richer in vitamins and minerals yet lower in fat, sugar and salt, creating the perfect balance for kids as they grow and helping to protect their long-term health. By mainly choosing fresh items you are also avoiding a whole range of artificial preservatives; while some of these are harmless, others have been linked to health problems and the long-term safety of others is still unclear. For instance, while some parents of children with ADHD opt for organic produce believing that pesticide residues are behind their children’s behavior, it is advisable that they provide a nutrient rich diet for their children that also contains limited processed foods. This is because an adequate intake of essential fatty acids and minerals may have a positive impact on the symptoms of ADHD, while additives (particularly food dyes) have been shown to worsen their behavior.

As you can see, the debate surrounding whether organic or conventionally farmed produce is a better option is not clear-cut and your purchasing decision is no doubt based on a range of factors. People often say that they want to know what is in their food and as a result purchase that which is organic. By the same token, buying locally produced food and opting for fresh rather than processed items is another way in which you can have a better idea of the origin of your food and that it is a nutritious option. ~ By Lisa Turner

And yup the farm-chick has been making a mess in her kitchen again.... so when I came across a recipe that not only uses whole wheat flour, but had chocolate and raspberries in it.... well I couldn't help myself and had to try it!  =)   It is definitely a Cake of the Month contender.  I hope you try it, as it was quite yummy! The recipe is located on the page, or just click on the above link.

                                                                  Chocolate Heaven

Also, don't forget to enter to win the contest from a blog or two back on "Care Labels"  as it closes at the end of this month.  If you do choose to email me rather than posting your label on the blog, make sure & email me your name, address and size of shirt, so if selected I get have it sent to you.  =)  As always, thank you for stopping by and if you have questions or comments, contact me at   All my best, Gayle