So far in my two previous articles exploring organic certification, we’ve examined the basics of what it means to eat organic food. Avoiding the use of all synthetic pesticides and other chemicals, using natural fertilizers and following sustainable agricultural practices are all hallmarks of organic food production. But did you know that the benefits from supporting organic agriculture go beyond food? When I started reading about the benefits of organic agriculture, I also discovered how much of a positive impact it has on our planet!
Pesticides (including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, etc.) and synthetic fertilizers are used for producing crops which are not intended for human consumption as well. For example, these chemicals are used for a type of corn that will be transformed into ethanol gas, or into construction materials like drywall and glue. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are also used on the grains used to feed animals, whether it be cattle, pork, or chickens (or our pets), which goes into the meat and in turn is eaten by humans, increasing our ingestion of these same chemicals.
The organic certification also has various laws that ensure a better and more humane treatment of animals, and that for me personally was a good reason to support it. I especially make sure to purchase eggs from free-range organic chickens. I did some research and found an organic farm just outside of the city where I live. I go there every 3-4 weeks and buy some fresh eggs from happy chickens!
What else do pesticides affect? Well did you know that 25% of all insecticides worldwide are used on cotton? That cotton is used to make a wide variety of household items like sheets, towels, mattresses, personal products, and clothes, but also coffee filters, and even gunpowder and bookbinding. Cottonseed is also used to make oil, which is often called ‘vegetable oil’ and is used in many processed foods, as well as in medical and cosmetic products.
How does all this affect the environment? I’m sure you’ve heard by now the detrimental impact that some pesticides have had on the bee population, which in turn impacts our food production, but chemicals also affect other insects and animals, plants, as well as water sources. For example, some new research has shown that some pesticides can kill frogs within an hour, and that synthetic fertilizers are increasing soil erosion and the ability of the land to absorb nutrients the way it naturally does. This causes flooding, especially in agricultural fields. As a result, farmers must dig draining systems to evacuate the extra water, which in turn takes all this extra water full of chemicals directly to lakes and rivers. They also have a negative impact on marshes and wetlands, which are considered “nature’s kidneys” when it comes to cleaning chemicals. When phosphorus fertilizers end up in lakes this can lead to toxic blue-green algae invading the lake. The algae blocks sun rays from penetrating into the water and cuts off oxygen, killing both fish and plant life.
There are many sources of these chemicals which end-up in our rivers, lakes and water supply. Aside from non-organic agriculture, other ways these chemicals find their way into our environment include detergents, sewage, intensive pig farming and direct waste from various industries. Once in the air, soil and water, many of these synthetic substances can be difficult to remove and do not breakdown the way organic material does.
Thankfully, there are many alternatives available to each of us to help prevent these issues. When you buy organic products and support organic farmers and companies taking the lead in organic food production, you can have a very real impact on all of these areas we’ve discussed. I find this so empowering to know that my choices and daily actions can have such a positive impact on the environment!
Here are some ways to help
- Switch your cleaning products to non-toxic ones, including laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent
- Avoid using any synthetic pesticides or herbicides in and outside your house. Instead look for natural methods to maintain your grass and property
- Dispose of any chemicals you use according to your local regulations, don’t pour them in the sink or toilet
- Plant trees around your property to help filter chemicals before they get into the soil. Trees also clean the pollutants from the air. Best of all, they look pretty and boost your property value!
- Practice water conservation: don’t leave water running when you brush your teeth or clean the kitchen, take shorter showers or skip a day, don’t take baths too often, make sure your dishwasher or clothes washer has a full load before running it, water your outdoor flowers and trees later at night or early in the morning to use less water
- Promote environmental education, talk to others about it (share this article with them!)
- Support organic agriculture in all its forms, crops and animals (meat, dairy, eggs), food and non-food items, as agricultural pollution is the biggest contributor
- Whenever possible, look for organic cotton items, such as bed sheets or t-shirts. These might cost a bit more but they are usually much higher quality and lasts longer.
Hopefully this article has helped you see some of the additional benefits choosing certified organic food can have. Giving your body the best possible fuel is only half of the reason to choose organic food. Finding a way to provide the food we need while maintaining the health of the entire ecosystem we live in is a key goal of organic food production, and that is something we can all feel good about! GoPure! Go Organic!