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The cost of health advantages outweigh the disadvantages of organic diet

14 August 2009 3,530 views No Comment

Richard Clark has more energy, feels less tired and feels healthier than ever.
The North York resident attributes this to eating organic foods – which he started 10 years ago.

Clark said he began to eat organic when he became more aware of contaminates in food and started reading the labels.

“If you don’t know what it is you’re reading, why would you eat it? What does it do to your body when it metabolizes? You don’t know,” he said. “They say things are safe, but there haven’t been enough long-term studies to prove it either way.”

Clark said the first thing he noticed about organic food is the taste. He claims it tastes fresher and more authentic.

“It tasted like it did when I was kid,” he said. “An apple tasted like an apple and orange tasted like an orange,” he said. “There’s nothing artificial in it, no pesticides, no herbicides no fertilizers. You know it’s safe to eat,” he said.

Organic food production as a holistic production system focuses on improving the soil by not adding fertilizers and other chemicals, said Laura Telford, national director of Canadian Organic Growers, a federally incorporated charity that promotes organic growing as a social good.

“We think organics has major benefits, particularly environmental, and that it’s on society’s good to promote organic methods,” she said.

Simply put, healthy soil equals healthy plants and organic farmers believe in working with nature’s natural processes, not adding things to the soil.

“What you end up doing is destroying these micro-organisms that have evolved for millennia to produce healthy plants and then what you end up doing is getting into the cycle of needing more of it,” Telford said. “You produce unhealthy plants that can no longer battle pests so you need more pesticide.”

Telford said the initial incentive for people to eating organic food is the health benefits, and one of the biggest trigger points to eating organic foods for women is becoming pregnant.

“They do it for their personal health and their babies,” she said.

Jeffron Desavoye began eating organic, and also became a vegetarian, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer two-and-a-half years ago. She said while her entire diet is not organic, things like eggs, fruits and vegetables comprise most of her organic consumption.

“I go to farmer’s markets and I won’t buy an apple that’s not organic. And for the family I won’t buy any meat that’s less than free range,” she said.

When first diagnosed, Desavoye said she immediately went to see a naturopath and part of that treatment involved improving and changing her diet, which she said helped her body during radiation and healing.

“Psychologically it helped for sure, and scientifically…it has to have helped,” she said.

For Desavoye, it’s also about being aware of what she puts into her body and eating organic helps her to avoid ingesting chemicals. She also said she finds her energy levels have gone up 100 per cent and finds organic foods tastier.

While Desavoye said what would prompt her to buy more organic foods is if they were more accessible in stores, many people shy away from buying organic because of their higher prices.

Telford said the higher prices are because there are some things in organic food production and in following organic standards that are more expense, but the bottom line, she said, is people are willing to pay more for food that they can trust.

“If we were perfect designers we would charge a tax on all the bad food and make the good food cheaper, but the reality is we don’t control that,” she said.

Recently, a British study claimed organic food has no more nutrients, like vitamin C and calcium, than regular food. Telford said the study is only talking about nutrition and not about chemicals, and either way you want to debate the nutrient content, the fact remains what organics doesn’t include are things like food additives, dyes and chemicals.

“If you don’t know what stuff can do to you, then it’s probably not a good idea to put it in your mouth,” Telford said. “There are a bunch of different foods that fit in that situation where we don’t have all the evidence that say ‘this will kill you’ or ‘this will cause cancer,’ but we also think that’s there’s enough evidence that suggests we should be careful about eating it.”
                                                                                                                       By MARIA TZAVARAS

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