Breaking down the differences between organic and conventional produce + the top 5 reasons to choose organic!
The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison - Anne Wigmore
Organic. What does it even MEAN?
1. relating to or deriving from living matter
2. produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or
other artificial agents.
Until I went to school for Holistic Nutrition, I had no idea what the organic certification actually meant. I knew what it was supposed to mean and felt in my heart that it was the better option, but I heard many people say it's just a cash grab and there's no real difference. More importantly, I was completely unaware of all the NASTY that goes into the conventional farming of mass mono-crops.
The industry of mono crops is detrimental to not only our health but to the health of our planet, our great mother.
There is a lot of debate and questioning of whether organic is legit and even worth it, but if you dig into it, you'll find there are some pretty significant differences. Conventionally farmed foods are often products of genetically modified organisms, are heavily sprayed with harmful synthetic pesticides and herbicides, and are often grown using unsustainable practices; depleting the land of nutrients and water while contaminating it with toxic substances, not to mention destroying entire ecosystems in the process of clearing large quantities of land.
Organic farming is an entirely different story. There is quite a strict process in place to obtain and maintain organic certification. Organic farmers have to keep documents on EVERYTHING; they are subject to inspection at any time to ensure they are up to par with ALL the requirements. Obtaining an organic certification means the following practices are strictly prohibited; the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO's), the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides (glyphosate) and the use of human sewage sludge as "fertilizer". The land and the soil used must also be free of prohibited substances for at least three years before they can become certified. A barrier (trees or a solid fence) around the farm's perimeter is also required; serving as protection against pesticides and contaminated debris from blowing onto the organic crops and into the soil. While organic isn't always 100% free of contamination, the toxicity levels are significantly lower.
If you would like to learn more about Canada's organic certification regulations, click here.
Now, here are the top five reasons to choose organic.
1. Avoid GMO's
Conventional seeds are often genetically modified. The reason for genetically modifying seeds is to enable them to resist the plethora of chemicals in the synthetic pesticides sprayed on them, as well as to withstand unpredictable temperatures and weather due to climate change, which needless to say mono-crop farming plays a big role in. We do not yet know the full extent of the long term effects genetically modified organisms have on the human body, and honestly why gamble on your health.
2. Reduce Chemical Exposure
Multiple studies have linked the use of synthetic pesticides sprayed on conventional crops to many cancers, including lymphoma and leukemia. These cancers are often found in conventional farmers themselves as well as their neighbours; due to their high exposure of these toxic substances (that might I say, ARE BEING SPRAYED ON OUR FOOD!) There's a lot of other nasty things conventional farmers can get away with such as using growth-promoting antibiotics and using human sewage sludge to fertilize their crops. Nasty right!? Well, it gets even nastier when you think about how much contamination is in human waste, due to the mass use of prescription medication which results in the sewage becoming laden with heavy metals and hormone-disrupting chemicals. Not exactly the fertilizer I'd want to be using in my garden.
Glyphosate (aka Roundup) is reason alone to switch to organic. Glyphosphate is a herbicide widely used to not only kill unwanted weeds but is commonly used to harvest wheat (and possibly other crops). It is sprayed on the plants to kill them (as nature would eventually do), giving the farmers a proportional, early and larger yield. Glyphosate is known to accumulate in the body and is linked to many health issues and chronic illnesses, including gastrointestinal disorders, infertility, cancer, obesity, heart disease, depression and Alzheimer's disease (to name a few). Glyphosphate is also known to disrupt the proper function of healthy gut bacteria which are responsible for the synthesis of many of our nutrients. They even prevent permeability of the intestinal walls, not to mention they play an enormous role in our immunity. That being said, Glyphosophate is suspected as the culprit for the growing number of autoimmune diseases and diagnosis. Since the permeability of intestinal walls (leaky gut) is a leading factor in the development of autoimmune disorders, this chemical concoction is likely a key player. There are many cases of people who are intolerant to wheat in Canada and the United States but have no reaction when indulging while travelling to places such as Europe, where the laws around the use of pesticides and herbicides are vastly different.
Remember, synthetic pesticides and herbicides are meant to kill. Some pesticides used are designed to make an insect's stomach explode; it's not a likely coincidence that as pesticide use increases, leaky gut and autoimmune disorders are also on the rise.
3. More Nutrients
Many factors play a role in how much nutrients we are truly getting from our food. The first and most crucial factor is SOIL. The soil of big cash crops can become depleted in vital nutrients; this has to do with the fact that each specific grain or vegetable is being grown for miles. When there is no diversity of plants, there is no diversity of nutrients going back into the soil. If the same crops are planted and harvested in the same spot year after year, the nutrients that one type of plant needs to grow gets a little more depleted each year, leaving our food a little less nutritious each year. There are so many benefits small organic farms and forest gardens provide, number one being the diversity of nutrients feeding the soil, which feeds our food. Mass and early harvesting also contributes to nutrient depletion, as many cash crops are harvested before they are ripe, sent to a cold warehouse to be stored until they are needed and then ripened by being exposed to a gas. When harvesting fruit or vegetables before they are ripe and ready, they can be devoid of certain nutrients that form as they ripen on the plant; and we all know nutrients begin to deplete once a fruit or vegetable is picked. Now, that can also go for organic foods, so it's always best to shop local, grow your own if you have the means and eat up your produce soon after it's bought or picked.
4. More Flavour, More Love
Most of us have eaten at least a fresh berry right off the bush. There's absolutely no comparison to freshly picked over a plastic container of berries that have been sitting in a warehouse, on a truck and then on a store shelf for days, maybe even weeks before hitting your taste buds. The depletion of nutrients from mono-crop farming shows in flavour and in colour. Ever notice how a regular old tomato from the grocery store is sometimes a very pale red, almost pink and most organic tomatoes are a vibrant, bold, TOMATO red? That's due to a higher content of the nutrient lycopene (a carotenoid), it's responsible for a tomato's vibrant red hue, which by the way neutralizes free radicals before they can do damage to cellular structures, reducing the risk of breast, colon, skin, lung and prostate cancer as well as macular degeneration, heart disease and cataracts. I'll take my tomatoes fresh and organic, please!
Ever wonder why grandma's homemade cookies are always the best? Because she most likely put a whole lot of love into them. If it's her own recipe, she probably honed it for years, tweaking it until it was just right or maybe it was passed down from generation to generation, cherished by many loved ones and in each batch, she most likely pours a heaping dose of love into them. Everything is energy, and energy affects energy. It's contagious. So when we are creating in the kitchen, our vibe affects the vibe of the food we're preparing. Even by taking a moment before you eat to centre yourself, breathe deeply and look at your food, it helps to increase the vibration as well as your nutrient absorption (more on that to come).
So, what does any of that have to do with organic? As we know, organic farming is much different than conventional. Most organic farmers care for their plants in a MUCH more respectful manner; thus, the plants are happier, healthier and tastier, providing much more nutrients and passing along better vibes.
5. Spread The Love
Choosing organic is not only better for your health; it's better on every level. It's like spreading a little love to mother earth and our fellow beings. Organic farming is better for the environment and is often more sustainably practiced. Most organic farmers are actively doing their part to give back and preserve mother earth, rather than just using and abusing her for their own profit. Choosing organic also helps support smaller farms and provides more jobs than conventional. Conventional farmers commonly use machines and chemicals for harvesting, while most organic farmers are more hands-on with the care and collection of their crops, which can require hired help.
As mentioned above, there are many reports of conventional farmers and neighbouring residents who have fallen ill with cancer due to high exposer to Roundup and pesticides. By supporting organic farms, you are also supporting the health of the farmers, their neighbours, our world and of course you and your family. We also make a statement with our dollar. When we choose organic, we are encouraging organic farming and our grocers to carry organic products.
Every time you buy organic, you're persuading more farmers to grow organic - Mother Earth News
Now, I know that organic isn't always accessible. Where I live the organic sections in the grocery stores are pretty sad, to say the least. I guess there's just not enough demand for it here in my small town, not like when I lived in the city. However, there are a lot of little local farms that do practice organic farming but do not obtain certification because of the expenses and rigid regulation involved. It's always a great option to ask around and talk to the vendors at your local farmers' market.
The expense of eating organic is also a common complaint, especially if you're on a strict budget; it might mean having to make some sacrifices. That's why I love following the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen rule. If I can't get my hands on organic, I'll go for the Clean Fifteen. Every year EWG determines which fruits and vegetables have tested with the most and least pesticide residue. See 2020's list below.
If you're interested in learning more about avoiding pesticides, click here to check out EWG's shopper's guide.
When Choosing organic, you're avoiding GMO's, reducing your exposure to chemicals, getting more nutrients, getting more flavour and higher vibe food, spreading the love to our earth and organic farmers as well as creating more jobs.
ORGANIC FOR THE WIN! (and if all else fails stick to the clean 15)
EWG's 2019 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. (2019) Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean-fifteen.php
Government of Canada (2018, March) Organic Production Systems Permitted Substances List. Retrieved from http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2018/ongc-cgsb/P29-32-311-2018-eng.pdf
Hard, V. (n.d.) 10 Reasons You Should Choose The Organic Food Label Over the Non-GMO label. Retrieved from https://foodrevolution.org/blog/why-choose-organic/
Peluso, M. (n.d.) Carotenoids Found in Tomatoes. Retrieved from https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/carotenoids-found-tomatoes-6020.html
Samsel, A., Seneff, S.(2013, April 18) Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416
Top 10 Reasons to Go Organic (n.d.) Retrieved from
What are Canada's Organic Standards? (n.d.) Retreived From https://www.organiccouncil.ca/organics/standards-regulations/