In recent years, more and more people have embraced organic products as a part of their daily diet. Whereas a decade ago grocery stores may not have had any organic products, nowadays most grocery stores offer an abundance of organic items, and not just those in the produce section. Organic dairy products have increased in popularity, and many stores now even sell organic frozen pizzas.
So why such a quick turnaround with respect to how consumers feel about organic products? Perhaps consumers realized that organic products have proven friendly not only to the environment, but to people and animals as well.
Organic agriculture can be considerably healthier than crops grown in a traditional fashion. Traditional ways of raising crops have involved the use of pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides. These chemicals produce toxic residue that is found on the fruit and vegetables people eat every day. This residue makes fruits and vegetables unnecessarily unhealthy, in particular to infants and children, whose immune systems are not as strong as those of their adult counterparts. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports indicate that 90 percent of fungicides are carcinogenic, while 60 percent ofherbicides and 30 percent of insecticides could potentially cause cancer.
People are also at heightened risk of drinking contaminated water the more such chemicals are used to grow fruits and vegetables. Agricultural runoff is one of the leading contributors to contaminated water supplies, which pose great health risks to those who drink or even cook with tap water.
But the risk associated with traditional, as opposed to organic, methods of farming is not restricted solely to fruits and vegetables. Treating farm animals with supplemental hormones could prove highly detrimental to anyone who consumes the products of such animals. A 1998 study from researchers at the Harvard Medical School, for example, found that the hormone IGF-1 is a potent risk factor for prostate cancer. That's particularly alarming when considering that traditional farming methods routinely called for treating cows with recombinant bovine growth hormone, which results in a two- to tenfold increase in levels of IGF-1. Because organic farming methods do not involve the use of hormones, this is not a problem for those who purchase organic dairy products.
Benefits to Animals
Animals raised in accordance with traditional farming methods often pay the ultimate price. Because they are fed diets high in grain to promote fast growth, commercially raised cattle receive less fiber than their natural diet calls for. This often results in high acid buildup, making the cattle more susceptible to bacteria such as E. coli and, in some instances, more likely to suffer sudden death.
Chickens can also be victimized by traditional farming methods. Breeding chickens by traditional means often requires them to be placed in very limiting cages that do not afford them any room to move. In addition, they are bred to gain weight far faster than nature calls for. While they gain the weight, their heart and lungs are not capable of supporting the rapid growth. Couple that with the unnatural conditions in which they are raised, and their compromised immune system is facing an uphill battle, one that requires the use of antibiotics to keep them alive. This use of antibiotics is not allowed in organic farming, making for healthier poultry and healthier animals as well.