By Archana Rao D’cruz
A move towards a healthier, greener lifestyle is not complete without organic food. This refers to grains, vegetables and fruits grown without the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. And also to dairy products and meat which are processed without the use of hormones or antibiotics.
Children and Organic Food
In 2012, The American Academy of Pediatrics sent out this warning, “Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity. Chronic health implications from both acute and chronic exposure are emerging.” Children are more susceptible to the ill effects of fertilisers and pesticides because of their developmental patterns. Children grow till the age of 18 but their nervous system (including the brain) is in a state of growth till the age of 25. Since exposure to chemicals is especially harmful to growing systems, chemical pesticides and fertilisers are even more toxic for children.
The scientific community is divided on the long-term effects of chemical exposure but studies have linked increased chemical pesticide and fertiliser use to a rise in cancer rates. The American Academy of Pediatrics concludes that “feeding children organic fruits and vegetables cuts down on the amount of potentially harmful chemicals and also may help prevent immunity to antibiotics.”
The Real Benefit of Organic Food
Several studies have concluded that there is no great difference between organic and non-organic food with respect to the nutritional value. But this argument misses the most vital benefit of organic food. The real benefit of organic food may actually be in the missing ingredients – pesticides, fertilisers, synthetic hormones and antibiotics.
Let’s look beyond organic food and focus on the agricultural practices involved in growing and processing organic food. It is clear that there is a vast difference in the processes involved in the production of organic food and non-organic food. Use of natural fertilisers and natural methods of pest control result in lower pesticide residues on organic food. While parents can’t prevent all exposures to toxic chemicals in the environment, choosing an organic diet is an important way to limit the damage.
Nonorganic meat production involves the use of synthetic hormones to speed up growth of animals and antibiotics to prevent the spread of diseases. This increases health risks for children and leads to deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria. To increase growth, nonorganic farmers often feed ground-up cattle remains to farm animals. In the past, this practice has led to dangerous infections like bovine spongiform encephalopathy (commonly known as Mad Cow Disease). Since organic farming prohibits this, organic meats are safeguarded from such dangerous infections.
Our Children’s Future
Organic agriculture is designed to conserve soil and water, and to control pollution. Moreover, the animals on organic farms are raised with less damage to the environment than in traditional meat production. So while organic food may be costlier, there is a payoff in terms of the future health of our children and of our planet.
How has your health changed after you switched to organic food? How do you ensure that you buy organic? Tell us your stories.