Organic, is it worth it? 3 Reasons that will Influence Your Choice
What’s the difference?
I was recently discussing organic vs non organic with a friend and it got me thinking about whether it’s worth the, often higher price, for organic produce. Let’s start with what the difference is.
In Australia and NZ we’re fortunate to have strict regulations on pesticide usage in place, but is it enough?
Organic farms can still be affected by neighbouring pesticide-using farms due to wind and water travelling through those areas.
There’s a lot of talk (in my circles at least!) about animal agriculture and its affect on the environment, but there is also industrial farming for produce to consider and what I’d like to focus on in this blog, is health.
My illness from pesticides
From my personal experience, whilst living in Cambodia, where pesticide usage is NOT regulated, often banned or unregulated pesticides are used, with instructions in different languages and interpreted by farmers who often have low literacy,
I spent close to 6 months feeling nauseous, suffering with headaches and having many issues with my appetite. I also developed a severe intolerance to eggs. I’ve never been allergic to anything in my life and have always been proud of my ‘stomach of steel’, this was a hard time for me. It culminated in me struggling to work and get through the day, seeking out my local cafe for very simple, comfort food on a nightly basis as I dragged myself down the road feeling lethargic.
I saw a variety of doctors and one finally resolved that the volume of pesticides was what was causing me to feel so sick and that I should adopt an organic diet as best as I could. Not as straight forward a prospect in Siem Reap at the time, I made it my mission to do what I could.
The moment I stopped buying produce from my local market and started buying as much as I could from a newly established organic farm and switched to organic eggs, I began to feel normal again. As time went on and the organic farm became very popular, it wasn’t that easy to always get the produce I wanted. I found other options, I went to a different market to shop and spoke with sellers about the quality of their produce. I remained healthy for the remaining 3+ years that I stayed in Cambodia following that diagnosis.
That personal experience, whilst extreme and remote particularly to people living in Australia where there are regulations, also showed me how sensitive our systems are to toxins. At the end of the day, even though we minimise their severity by calling them pesticides – they are also poison and we should be really careful about putting poison on or near our food.
A wave of positive change
Collectively, we have a lot of power. Changes are happening, organic produce is becoming more accessible and here’s why.
By supporting organic and regenerative farmers, we’re voting with our dollars for the change we want to see. When these systems succeed, we see a shift, farmers will start to consider their options and change their methods when they see that organic and regenerative methods are popular and effective. This is how we create change.
From a practical perspective, the cost of organic produce is often a factor. This is where we apply the ‘embracing imperfection’ approach of buying a little of what we can as organic produce and what we can’t from other sources.
I’m personally a big fan of the farm to kitchen type produce boxes that are readily available in most places – there are several in Cambodia and countless in Australia. This is where I get the bulk of my produce, it’s not organic, but it is direct from the suppliers, which means it’s totally fresh. When I need extras (for some reason my box hasn’t included bananas lately) I go to my local supermarkets and see what’s on sale, what’s in season and what’s in budget. If you’re trying to choose what you should prioritise in the organic section, I’d suggest food you eat frequently and that you eat all of, such as broccoli, tomatoes, fruit that you eat the skin.
I’m proud to say that my monthly expenses are probably the most impressive of any single person living in Sydney – and I buy some organic, mostly local, often package-free and all nutritious. On the food front, I don’t miss out on anything essential to my health and that feels pretty fantastic.
Our planet is like the canary in the coalmine
Is it the planet that is the canary, or are we the canary?
Covid-19, obesity, cancer, food allergies and more modern diseases are highly prevalent now compared to when I was young. I’m not a scientist but I do think that what we’re doing to the planet is affecting the overall health of humans.
Severe weather; in both Australia and Cambodia we’ve seen extreme droughts and floods. Last year when I arrived back in Sydney, the country was on fire, this year our weather is erratic, mostly cold and pretty rainy. We’re officially in summer and as I write this, it’s 20 degrees and has been raining all morning.
The way we’re producing and consuming food isn’t sustainable. Mass produced food laced with chemicals not only affects our health, but it’s affected the quality of the soil and the yield that farmers can expect from their land over time. I was recently listening to a podcast that was talking about nutrition and how important it is that we take multivitamins because previously we’d get those vitamins and minerals from soil that our food is grown in, but now the soil is dead, we’re not getting those essential minerals. (I can’t remember exactly which podcast, I have a lot of favourites, it was likely one of these: The Model Health Show or The Broken Brain Podcast.
Pesticides and aggressive farming techniques are literally destroying the earth, to create enough food for us to select only the most perfect and pretty produce from the crop. The amount of food waste in western societies is astounding. Most of that waste goes to landfill where it produces greenhouse gases, further exacerbating the climate issues I’ve mentioned above. Find out more about food waste via the ABCs War on Waste series.
Things are not going well in the world…. the warning signs are glaring!
So what can you do?
My top 5 tips to start making a change on the way you buy and consume produce to include more organic and take care of your health better:
- make a shopping list every time you shop, and highlight what you can buy that’s organic
- get home delivered produce; it will also save you time and money
- don’t get caught up in perfection, make changes you can keep
- read the labels on what you buy, understand where your food comes from (though ideally with package-free produce there are no labels to read!)
- soak fruit and vegetables that you’re not going to peel in a mix of water and vinegar (4:1 water:vinegar) and give them a gentle scrub
In summary, small changes will make a difference. Awareness of your options and making conscious choices are a significant part of the process. No change is too small to make an impact.
So to answer the question; is it worth buying organic? My answer is a solid yes.
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