Organic September – small changes = big wins
Organic September is a month-long campaign which aims to increase awareness of organic products by shining a light on the incredible farmers and producers who work tirelessly and diligently to rear, grow and produce our food just as Mother Nature intended. It's also an opportunity to learn how the food we eat is produced directly impacts on our physical and mental health.
Our health starts in the SOIL
I'm sure most of us can agree that organic principles – feeding the soil and not the plant, encouraging wildlife, harnessing Mother Nature's innate rhythms to control pests and diseases to produce foods that are chemical-free - are better for the planet.
But the health of our soils, our plants, animals, ecosystems and planet and our own health are not independent! The Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) cautions:
"Long term pesticide exposure has been linked to the development of Parkinson’s disease; asthma; depression and anxiety; attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); and cancer, including leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma."
When you buy organic, you can be sure that the products you’re buying:
- contain no artificial additives or preservatives
- contain fewer pesticides: there are only 20 pesticides that can be used by organic farmers, compared with the use of 300 pesticides in non-organic farming
- conform to high standards of animal welfare
- contain no genetically modified (GM) ingredients
- have been produced in a way that is sustainable.
Foods labelled 'organic' must meet strict regulations on how it has been reared, grown or produced. All farms and producers are inspected annually to ensure that they continue to meet the high standards required to achieve and maintain certification.
This means healthier food and it means healthier people too. Especially healthier children...
The Road to Hell - a cautionary tale for littles
“The road to Hell is paved with good intentions” goes the well-worn proverb, and with good reason.
A UK government scheme to provide schoolchildren with fruit and veg to satisfy the “5-a-day” guidelines has unwittingly ensured mass exposure to poor quality, imported produce subject to high levels of pesticide residue. You are indeed what you eat.
Of course, “5-a-day” isn't, in itself, a bad starting point. But I would suggest that we could all benefit from making sure that we incorporate a wide range of fruit and vegetables in our diet. Better advice might be that we ‘eat a rainbow.’
The Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) has analysed and compiled the most recent five years of government data and turned it into a handy list you can stick on your fridge or in your back pocket when you go shopping. They say: "A fully organic diet can be difficult and expensive to achieve but our ‘Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen’ list can help you to work out which produce to prioritise". You can download it here:'Dirty Dozen - Clean Fifteen'.
The Road to Hell is paved with organophosphates - a cautionary tale for teens
Pre-natal exposure to a a class of widely used pesticides organophosphates have consistently been associated with poorer cognition and behavior problems in children. Now, a recent study reported in Futurity using advanced brain imaging has revealed how exposure in the womb to organophosphates changes brain activity in teenagers: compared to their peers, teenagers estimated to have higher levels of prenatal exposure to organophosphates showed altered brain activity while performing tasks that require executive control, the study finds.
The 15 - 17 year old teens were part of a long-term follow up, initiated over 20 years ago at the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS), to investigate the effects of pesticides and other environmental toxins on childhood development. The study has previously inked prenatal organophosphate exposure with attention problems and lower IQ in children.
“These results are compelling, because they support what we have seen with our neuropsychological testing, which is that organophosphates impact the brain,” says lead author Sharon Sagiv, associate adjunct professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley.
The Road to Hell is also paved with glyphosate (aka Roundup)
In 2016 PAN International produced a very accessible and comprehensive, evidence-based review 'The Glyphosate Monographs' of the adverse human health and environmental impacts of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides. Glyphosate is the world's premier herbicide and is used on non-organic cereal crops.
Far from being harmless, it's a potent herbicide which destroys the human gut microbiome, is a powerful hormone distruptor, a developmental and neuro-toxin and is consistently linked to cancer. Glyphosate's use is ubiquitous all over the globe, particularly on cereal crops. This means and we can be sure that, unless it's organic, our daily bread, cereals and flour-products are seasoned with glyphosate and we are thus consuming it on a daily basis.
Take back your health!
Throughout almost every chapter of my book, I explain how and why the foods on our modern plates are undermining our health and ushering in chronic diseases.
I show why the traditional, nutritious 'organic' foods that our grandparents and theirs enjoyed (they knew no different!) kept them free from the illnesses we see all around us today.
And I explain how we can reclaim our health by caring where our food comes from and how it was produced.. and sourcing better, affordably!
So... from the cradle to the grave?
Taken together all this is clearly telling us that we need to reconsider what is on our plate and how it was produced.
Working WITH Mother Nature
Organic means working with nature. It means:
⬆️ higher levels of animal welfare
⬇️ lower levels of pesticides
⛔️ no manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilisers
😁 more environmentally sustainable management of the land and natural environment, which in turn means…
🐷 more (and healthier!) wildlife.
Organic September - get involved!
It’s really easy to get on board - just look for the organic logo on the foods you buy. Online suppliers are also widely available - Riverford or Fordhall Farm, for instance, offer outstanding produce at competitive prices. In the case of Fordhall, it’s a community-owned venture and has been farming organically for over 65 years.
In addition to buying organic, why not grow your own? On every level, home-grown fruit and vegetables are beneficial for our health. They may come out looking a little wobbly and wonky, but isn't there huge satisfaction in knowing that what-you-plant-is-what-you-get?
The texture and flavour of the produce bears absolutely no resemblance to the bland, tasteless offerings that we will find in most supermarkets or high street grocers.
Even with little space, it’s well worth the effort and pleasure of growing your own - it really does bring a sense of achievement and pride to sit down and enjoy vegetables or fruit that you’ve sown, tended, harvested and brought to the table all by yourself.
Whether you begin to shop better and more savvy or grow your own, by switching even just a few KEY items in your food shop to organic will help contribute to exponential changes in our food system.... AND our health!
Shopping organic is about making simple changes - make buying choices that work for you and your lifestyle. If you’re struggling to go organic all-in, just do as much as you can. Every little helps! Where have I heard that before?! 😁
Too expensive? Start with key items or create a buying club. If there are more of us buying organic food, it means more organic farms and fewer pesticides (clearly better for our wildlife). It also means higher welfare standards and happier, healthier conditions for the animals - what’s not to like?
"Choosing organic means helping protect our vital wildlife and reducing your exposure to potentially harmful pesticides and chemicals. Demand for more organic food means more organic farms. More organic farms mean more wildlife and more animals raised to the highest welfare standards.”
As I discussed in a previous post, we’re heading into autumn and as the nights draw in, we intuitively begin to follow our natural craving for warming, grounding foods like thick soups, stews and root vegetables.
There are fewer things more beneficial to health and more restorative (or delicious!) than sourcing truly organic (preferably local) ingredients for your cooking. Find out more by downloading my free seasonal eating eBook.
If this post has whet your, ahem, appetite, check out these simple, delicious, organic recipes from the Soil Association.
The key take home from this? Do what you can - make simple, incremental changes and enjoy the inevitable benefits.
Small changes = big wins: a small, simple investment in the food you eat will reap huge health rewards, and it’s never too late to make a start.