Tipping point – what’s with organic?

George Novak -photographer

George Novak -photographer

I can’t afford it. It’s too hard. Supermarket’s good enough for me.

What makes people change? For most people it is not an easy process. Going to the supermarket, whizzing around, piling up the car, now that’s convenient. So why would you go to all the bother? There’s got to be a tipping point. And it has to be for a variety of reasons, not just one. Change is always hard.

Here are my reasons:
1. Organic food is higher in nutrition

Why this is important.
Many illnesses are connected to lower nutrition – our grandparents got their nutrition from the soil, that’s always how humans did it. Effectively, I would prefer my kids to get more nutrition from a slightly more expensive natural food source that is better for them than from a capsule…and they digest it better.

2. Organic food is lower in chemicals.

Why this is important
Chemicals in your gut disrupt it. They work in different ways, mainly around reducing good bacteria (which then makes bad bacteria take over) and damaging – degrading your gut wall. Gut wall breakdown (permeablility, IBD etc) is the number one way you descend into ‘immune mediated illness’- which is connected to a whole range of illnesses we are seeing around us. Our grandparents had our genes – they just didn’t have our toxins. As a parent, you can choose to act preventatively, or you can try to make an already unwell family better. You’ll notice a lot of pharmaceutical organisations are investing money in developing medicine for the gut wall and talk is of medicine and probiotics to improve our microbiome. They know this is happening. Unfortunately there is not much talk about removing the toxins that lead to gut dysbiosis in the first place – so it’s a nice medical model if you have constant gut degradation. My point is – let’s stop the degradation in the first place. I could also discuss toxins as carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, but gut dysbiosis is often the first step.

3. Don’t we only have to worry about the ‘dirty dozen’ – fruit and vegetables with the worst pesticides?

We wish it were so. Unfortunately science is finding out that the full formulation of pesticides (on our cereals, in dairy products, in corn and soy, on fruit and vegetables) are way more toxic than the ‘active ingredient’. If the full mix of a fungicide which is sprayed on wheat is 1000x more toxic to your cells (than the single ingredient our governments investigate) – then it means we should be investigating this. But this doesn’t happen. It’s a broken system that is very convenient for pesticides corporations.

4. But the government does toxicity testing to make sure our pesticides are safe?

Nup. Here are the facts:

The corporation that produces the pesticides or the genetically engineered food sends the NZ EPA the studies they select to prove safety of their own product. Therefore usually the studies are
a. Directly paid for by the company that made the product
b. Carefully selected by the company that made the product
c. Not available as a publicly released study to scientists and researchers for criticism and discussion

But at this stage, our NZ EPA doesn’t have enough funding/inclination/power to demand independent research, to look at the publicly released research and examine the facts. And as I said before, when it comes to pesticides (like Roundup), our NZ EPA never considers the full formulation, they only look at one part of the mix (eg. glyphosate). Can you imagine the cigarette industry only testing one ingredient in a cigarette and then providing you with the studies that say cigarettes are safe? It’s a broken system.

5. Realising that I can’t trust government assessments of the chemicals that go on my food is a bit weird.

Yup. Here’s another fact for you just to hammer it in. Permitted levels of Roundup on your cereals, wheat, oats and barley were increased 600% in 2006 internationally by Codex. NZ subscribes to Codex levels for imported food. However, also, traditionally NZ grown cereals have been higher in fungicides/insecticides/herbicides due to our slightly wetter growing climate. So we are in a bind. But the NZ government, in its Total Diet Survey, never tests Roundup in food including cereals. And many of the products sprayed on our cereals are ignored in the survey. It’s realising that this problem is across the food we eat. If you really want to get picky, the Codex levels aren’t really safe – they are worked out from old industry studies that say high levels on our food is just fine. For example, the ADI for Roundup (glyphosate) in the EU, Australia and NZ is .3mg/kg, but today scientists reckon it should be .025mg/kg, twelve times lower. Our governments aren’t looking at new science. And believe me, it is all about the science.

6. Seriously, this is doing my head in. I can’t afford it. Organic is expensive.

Maybe your family is as fit as a fiddle. No worries. But, if you find yourself at the doctor on a monthly basis, your children are sick on a monthly basis, you are on medication, you are home from work sick on a monthly basis, you are exhausted and fatigued, your kids are struggling with behaviour, toileting, they’re grizzly and can’t sleep or can’t concentrate, perhaps you could consider the set of costs you are dealing with right now. Medical procedures like ear infections and stents are expensive and related to degraded immune systems, intolerances and allergies are related directly to gut health. Translation – a sick gut equals a low immune system and less health. Our neurological functioning is also directly impacted by gut health, a whole new area of science that is just starting to be explored. The question becomes – what is too hard?

7. Yes but it’s overwhelming to even think like this?

a. Do not change all at once. Acknowledge that most people (like me) can’t afford a 100% organic diet. So for example, I still buy normal tomato sauce, spices, icing sugar, mayonnaise (but not canola based), dark chocolate. For a long time I still bought conventional dried fruit, nuts, tinned tomato.

b. Stop buying crap. Just stop. Crap is: anything that can has lots of ingredients on the label. Especially corn and soy (Check out the Food Babe for inspiration). Kids do not need chippies every day for lunch. Did you have them? Chips are party food. Sadly, the oils in chips have the highest Roundup pesticides levels in the world permitted, and if it is canola oil it is probably GM (unless it comes from Europe). Kids get used to it. They know you are caring for them. They feel better. And parties are more special. One day you’ll find yourself realising that instead of feeling guilty that you are denying your kids these ‘treats’ – you will realise that you are protecting them. Simple as that.

c. Breakfast cereal/carbohydrates. Gut health prevention. Buy a breadmaker for your partner (doesn’t he love tools?) – or get your friends or inlaws to chip in for your birthday. Takes 5 minutes to stick in the mixer. Each organic loaf costs under $2.
Cereals are relatively cheap so are easier to move onto. For example organic rice bubbles or cornflakes are roughly conventional price plus the cost of a coffee. What is a bit more healthy is eating meusli – organic oats cost between $3.60 – $5.50 a kilo. Hint – kids eat healthy beautiful muesli if you slip a few small dark chocolate chips through it. Wicked? Yes but look at the increased nutrition in their breakfast compared to rice puffs, weetbix or cornflakes.

d.Understand which food is vulnerable to higher residues. We need to understand that our farmers are feeding Roundup soaked pasture, forage and silage to livestock, that our government doesn’t discern the difference (as in check, test, manage or monitor) between imported soy/corn/lucerne/ddgs that is not GMO Vs GMO – farmers don’t have the choice because their feed inputs are not properly managed and labeled. 99% of GMO feed will be higher in Roundup and or a Bt toxin (page 219) that has been found to damage the gut wall and microbiome. Buy organic or know where your meat and milk is coming from. Which vegetables have Roundup or other chemicals sprayed on them to desiccate (dry out and get rid of) leafy matter?

e. Policy: One carbohydrate meal a day. It’s not just the gluten. It’s the stuff we can’t see. Think about a small kid having pasta for dinner. How much vegetables they actually put in their mouth. Then think about the vegie load if they eat a 100% NZ grown (grass fed) mince patty plus 3 veggies. There’s a massive difference in nutrition right there.
For breakfast, think about muesli, half a piece of fruit and a fried egg. No gluten, protein. Health.
Go for it with sandwiches for lunch, knowing they have nutrition on either side.

8.It’s how your grandparents did it – just 21st century style.

Grandparent fact no.1. : Grandparents spent a lot more of their weekly budget on food. We think we can buy cheap food and get away with it. Sickness levels tell us something is broken.
Grandparent fact no.2. : Grandparents grew a lot more food. Green veggies cost more – yet spinach, silverbeet, parsley and lettuce are easy to grow and don’t mind living in a normal flower bed. They won’t be offended I promise.
Grandparent fact no.3. : Grandparents had to eat preventatively – there was less medication back then acting like a safety net to help them. But what we are finding with today’s medication, is that we might end up on one thing, go onto another thing, and before we know it we have the same medication level as someone in their 80s and still feel like rubbish. Prevention is the best medicine.
Grandparent fact no.4. : There was simply not the same gut related illness levels in childhood and adulthood back them. We have the same genes as our grandparents but more stuff is going wrong. This is largely due to the environmental toxins & chemicals we are exposed to – that they weren’t.

9. Yes but we can’t get rid of all the toxins, that’s impossible!

We can reduce our load – our exposure – enormously. Researchers have tracked people going onto an organic diet and indicators of health have improved quickly and dramatically. By reducing our kids exposure they become more robust and can deal with the little things.

10. Wow – so many levels – cultural, ethical, environmental, and political.

Yes it’s a game shifter. You can’t do this and not think and reflect.

Our family culture does more to impact on what we eat than anything else. Our family culture therefore has more to do with health than anything else. We all have genes for illness, but we descend into a huge proportion of the illness presented to doctors today when we don’t have enough nutrition, and we have too many toxins in our diet. It’s as simple as that. Or put it like this, our genes contribute maybe 20% to our illness.

The ethical element is such a nice thing to reflect on. You start to meditate on the fact that you are treating yourself better. As a friend said to me after starting to eat organic, in a kind of shocked way ‘I feel more nourished’, she wasn’t used to thinking like that. Her vet partner has simply suggested the family go on an organic diet. But once you know you are treating yourself better, you understand that by paying true value for food, you are gentler on the earth, you are helping farmers nourish their soil (eg. Supermarket profits have increased 4% a year over the last decade while supplier profits have flatlined) and organic buyers have less power than supermarkets.

Environmental. Pesticides sprayed on our soil kills the microbiome. Like our own guts, the soil has a living microbiome that helps the soil nourish plants through lots of complex interactions that scientists are still finding out about. This is why organic products are higher in nutrients. Furthermore, there is less impact on waterways and drinking water sources.

Political. This is all about acknowledging that conventional food is not safe because our governments are not assessing and regulating genetically modified organisms or pesticides safely – because they are not independently looking at the public, independent studies. They have a big protective wall around them and the big agribusiness organisations. I am happy to talk with anyone that queries this. So by default, you become a political animal.

That is why it is so hard to change. But so important. Unfortunately it is the staple foods that have the highest residues.

It’s simple – like every generation before us we just have to proportionately spend a little more of our household budget on food than we previously did.

We will pay for our health one way or the other – either on toxin free, nutritious food, or in the pharmacy or at the doctors.

Spread the word.

About Jodie

It is only by questioning and discussing and attempting to view the world our childrens children will live in, that we start to understand that life isn't a linear process - it is a room of dominoes falling. Our world has a lot of special interests and stakeholders that by default, keep science undone, and economics hooked in the 1920's - resulting in governments that don't address the complexity that is challenging our world. From pollution to mental health (and the cost of food) to the health of our freshwater - it's complex and dynamic. What equilibrium do we want to reach - a healthy vital one or a suffering one?
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