Once in a while a major news organization will say something that seems obvious to many of us who try to eat ethically produced, organic food as much as possible. One example is this BBC article from October of 2007 stating that organic food is better for you. Now this was a European study, and it is hard to imagine the FDA or a major U.S. agricultural research university saying the same thing. Still, it was certainly nice to see the health benefits to humans of eating organic food getting this publicity. There is, however, a reason other than your own health to buy organic whenever you can.
Earth’s oceans cover 71 percent of our planet’s surface and contain 97 percent of the planet’s water. The health of the oceans, and indeed the entire planet, is positively affected by the production of organic food. One of the biggest contributions to the pollution of the oceans, lakes, and rivers is runoff from conventional agriculture practices. As just one example, I wrote about how the increased demand for ethanol is prompting a huge increase in corn production in the Mississippi River drainage. Runoff of fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides from this corn growing is quickly increasing the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.
Whether it is fish from Lake Huron contaminated by pesticides, Striped Bass in the Sacramento River filled with pesticides and PCBs, or algae blooms on Lake Champlain caused by agricultural fertilizers, runoff from industry and agriculture is a huge problem for the health of our waterways. Anything that makes its way into the smallest, most seemingly isolated, stream, eventually runs into a bigger stream, then into a river, and eventually into the ocean, often hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles from the contamination source. The volume of contamination has grown so large in parts of the world that it has now reached the point where marine life many miles from shore can be contaminated, sickened, or even killed by agricultural runoff.
Raising animals for human consumption is also a contributor to pollution of the oceans. Even though some attempts are now being made to control runoff from huge, industrial, factory farms, the problem is still a serious one. By reducing your consumption of meat, you can play a role in the health of the oceans. Even if being a vegetarian is not the choice for you, steps can still be taken to help. If, like me, you choose to eat meat at times, there are organic, humanely raised, choices available. By purchasing meat raised responsibly and ethically, you contribute positively to your health, the health of the animals, and the health of the oceans. It may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but with the increasing legions of ethically conscious consumers, growing or purchasing organic food can make a difference.
Unfortunately buying organic still costs a lot more than buying conventionally produced and artificially subsidized food. But when considering the health benefits to you, your family, and the earth, you may find organic is well worth this extra expense. As more people demand organic food and more of us work to expose the artificially high price some retailers charge for a food they see as a “specialty item”, the price should come down.
Please consider joining the growing force of consumers purchasing organic and ethically produced food. Your health and the health of our planet will benefit from this choice.