Organic farming, by definition, is free of chemicals; pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. This practice utilizes the interaction of natural components within the soil and ensures that the crops contain the minerals abundant in this fertile soil. When food is Certified organic, it means that it meets this criteria, as well as, provides the assurance that crops are not genetically modified and that the soil has been chemical free for at least 3 years prior to harvest. Certified organic livestock must be raised without hormones or antibiotics and must be fed 100% organic foods for a minimum of 12 months before slaughtering.

Okay this sounds great, but what does it all truly mean?

Fertilizer Facts
To talk about fertilizers we must talk about soil. Soil contains a plethora of minerals. Phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, iron, chlorine, manganese, boron, zinc, copper and molybdenum…to name a few.  Fungi in the soil contain chelating agents, which bind to minerals in the soil and allow the plants to absorb them. Chemical fertilizers, in contrast, consist only of  potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus. That is it. They dissolve in water and are absorbed immediately by the plant roots without chelation by soil components. Therefore, the plant is primarily absorbing only these three minerals (potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus) instead of ALL of  the other minerals, which it is naturally supposed to incorporate in balanced proportions while it grows.  Not only does the use of fertilizers disrupt the natural soil cycle, but unfortunately we are then eating fruit and vegetables with a great deficiency of many minerals. Fertilizers can also impair the natural immunity of the plant, therefore making them susceptible to pests and thus increasing the need for pesticides.

The Problem with Pesticides
Pesticides are heavy-duty toxic chemicals sprayed on plants to reduce the pests and ensure the hearty growth of vegetation. The problem with pesticides is that these chemicals leak into the soil and water, and accumulate in our environment. We breath, eat and drink these pesticides on a daily basis. Some pesticides have been banned and some have been "proven safe". However, the long-term effects of these pesticides have not been studied (due to their relatively new usage) and there are no studies done on children who have a significantly lower threshold for potential toxins.  As well, the combined effects of pesticides have not been determined, nor the effects on farmers or the lasting environmental effect. Some pesticides that are banned in Canada are still being used in other countries on crops, which are then imported into Canada. For example, DDT was banned here because it was shown to cause birth defects, however, many countries still use DDT as a pesticide and then export their vegetables to Canada. EEK!

Say No to GMO?
GMO, a genetically modified organism, is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques genetically pollute plant life, transferring genes between species, creating super weeds and super bugs; once genes are changed it is irreversible. Health risks include allergenicity due to altered proteins, cancer risk due to altered DNA and toxicity risk due to ingesting foods which contained "cides" at a molecular level.  Due to the trademark advantage of these GMO seeds there is aggressive promotion of GMO in farming, resulting  in the loss of myriad seed varieties. Corn, soy, alfalfa and tomatoes are the most prevalent GMO crops so look out for these in particular. To learn more visit www.labelgmos.org

These are just a few reasons why eating organic is better for your health and for the environment!

About Sarah Goldstein
Sarah Goldstein Sarah is a Holistic Nutritionist practicing in Toronto, Ontario. Her approach to health is about creating an understanding of balanced nutrition and instilling the habits needed to live a full and enriched life. Her ultimate goal as a nutritionist is to empower individuals to take an active role in their health, while establishing a connection with the environment, community and food sources. She is passionate about organic growing and urban agriculture because it is using local resources to bring food to people, while at the same time bettering the financial landscape and the environment. To learn more check out her blog www.twistandsprout.ca or visit her website www.sarahgoldsteinnutrition.com