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Food For Thought

Food For Thought

Don’t Panic It’s Organic

Choosing organic food we are buying much more than just food grown naturally and without pesticides. In organic farming systems, food production is viewed not as only the supplying of a commodity, but as a holistic enterprise. Where sustainability and health are interlinked and wholesome food can only be produced on healthy soils and from animals reared on a natural diet.

Choosing organic food is not only about our wellbeing, as far as what we put on our table and into out tummies. The knock on effects of intensive non organic farming is wide ranging. The artificial fertilisers are expensive and do not improve the soil, which gradually becomes impoverished, not to mention the extensive use of insecticides which can cause allergies and contribute to creating a “chemical cocktail” in our bodies. Organic farmers do not use artificial fertilisers and pesticides. Instead soil fertility is maintained by crop rotation, compost and animal manures.

The major source of Nitrogen applied to crops as a soul fertiliser for boosting growth take the form of nitrate compounds which are highly soluble. This means any excess not taken up by the plants leaches into the surrounding water supply. Water companies in the UK spend in excess of 11 million euros a year in dealing with it. As far back as 1996 the UK government was spending 14 million pounds of tax money on Nitrate control per year, now the costs are sky high. Often, non-organically produced food can seem relatively cheap, in comparison, but in effect we are subsidising the farmers profit with high water charges , rates and taxation. Counting the real cost to health and the environment is far more difficult to calculate, but substantial. As organic farmers do not use artificial fertiliser or pesticide it is inevitably labour intensive, but they only receive a fraction of the available grants and farm subsidies from the EU or government (PAC).

Industrial agriculture and modern farming practices enable food to be produced more cheaply but, the hidden costs that are not apparent when we pay for our groceries at the till are astronomic.

Globally, one of our worst offenders for intensive production and an environmental “Bad Boy” is the Fast Food providers, who own the whole process of growing, production, packing and distribution and are the worlds largest retailers. We have to look at the American experience to really see the enormous effect on the population. Americans now spend more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers or new cars!

In moderation the odd hamburger, will of course, not kill us, but they are dangerous in excess, because in addition to being addictive, fast foods are high in energy, but low in essential vitamins and other nutrients. Health problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes are common and pregnant women also increase the risk of their children developing hypertension. Ask any teacher and they will confirm that kids are increasingly far more restless, difficult, and unruly, even those from functional families. There is evidence that the effects of poor nutrition and the worrying symptoms of excessive fast food consumption are transferred to babies from their mothers in the womb. Children in America often eat fast food, either in the high street, at home as a TV dinner or as a take away 4 or even 5 times a week. Low income groups, single parents and young people often eat a lot more, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day.

Over 3.5 million fast food workers are by far the largest group of minimum waged earners in the USA. The only other workers who constantly earn a lower hourly wage are migrant, non organic farm workers, often producing the ingredients for “Mc Terribles” on enormous “Mc Farms”.

A huge 90% of all money spent on food in America is spent on industrialised fast food! Research shows that in the long term, this food, eaten regularly can precipitate ailments such as, heart disease, inflammatory bowl disorders and kidney damage. The American Food Administration will not protect consumers in many cases because “Flavour” companies are not required to disclose the ingredients of their additives and flavour compounds, as they are “secret”. They often contain more ingredients than the taste being attributed. For example the ubiquitous phrase “artificial strawberry flavour” gives little hint of the chemical wizardry and manufacturing skill that can make highly processed food taste like a strawberry. Some strawberry milk shakes actually have no milk or strawberries in them at all.

Common sense says that meat produced from animals that receive a natural diet and graze organic pastures, that are not stressed nor constantly dosed with antibiotics, has to be better for us. The broiler chicken is one of the most industrialised foods and sits in tiny cages for 6 months, always eating, under constant medication and growth hormones. Try an organic chick next time, even if it’s a bit dearer, it will not taste of fish, will not have had 5% of its weight injected into it and will not have been decombed or debeaked from a young age.

The non organic chicken is more than just water retentive ; it really has its own very sad story. Although the little bird has not been able to move in life, in death it could have been flown thousands of miles from Thailand or China. It is not unknown for chickens to be farmed here in Spain, and with a little hunting around we can find organic chicks, free range and as far as we can tell, happier. Battery eggs cost 6 times more energy to produce than they produce in food value, eggs from organic chicks, normally eat maize and have deep yellow yokes and taste great.