Our children’s health is the most important concern we have as parents. Organic products can be our first step in protecting our baby’s future. These products include baby food, formula and baby care products.
How can organic baby food positively affect our child? What other factors could influence our decision to buy organic products? We will look at three factors to consider before determining if we should purchase organic or conventional products.
There is no evidence that organic food has more nutrients than conventionally grown food. In fact, there have been studies that show there is no significant difference.
So, are there any health benefits at all when choosing organic products?
The National Academy of Sciences estimated that 50% of lifetime exposure to pesticides will occur by the time your child is 5 years old. 50%! Let’s delve into this a bit. Children consume more food and beverage per weight than adults do. An infant’s brain, nervous system, and organs are still developing after birth. As these immature livers and kidneys continue to develop, they are not able to deal with the pesticides, and cannot remove pesticide metabolites as well as adults. These metabolites can block the absorption of nutrients. Research has shown an immediate decrease in pesticide metabolites, once an infant switches to an organic diet.
30% of the global burden of disease in children is attributed to environmental factors such as pesticides, per the World Health Organization. So how are children exposed to pesticides? It can be out in your back yard if you (or you neighbor) has used pesticides. It could be in your house or apartment if you have used them for rodents or ants or cockroaches. The American Academy of Pediatrics report that infants are mostly exposed to pesticides through their diet. You can check out the full report here as a downloadable pdf.
Pesticides even at low levels can cause cancer. Much of the alarm bells for cancer and leukemia are attributed to products like roundup and bug spray. We should be careful not to let our children ingest pesticides through the food we give them.
Clean Vs Dirty Produce?
There is a “dirty dozen” list of fruits and vegetables list published by the Environmental Working Group. It lists 12 fruits and vegetables that generally have high concentrations of pesticides. As of January 2016, the list is as follows:
- Sweet Bell Peppers
If possible, we should try to purchase these fruits and vegetables organically or try to avoid them.
They have also published a list called The Clean 15 List, in which the fruits and vegetables typically have low or non-existent traces of pesticides.
- Sweet Corn
- Frozen Sweet Peas
These are safer conventional grown produce, but we still may want to purchase organically, if possible.
Small amounts of pesticides are harmful to our babies. Through a better understanding of organic products and lifestyle, our informed decisions will benefit our children for the rest of their lives.
Global Warming, Climate Change, Greenhouse Emissions, and Fossil Fuels. Most of us know these terms and understand the negative connotations associated with them, but how would purchasing organic products for our children benefit the environment?
- Sustainability – Organic agriculture uses a proactive long-term approach to fight problems such as pest control and soil fertility. Farmers minimize reliance on fossil fuels used in the production of pesticides and insecticides and conventional agricultural practices will degrade soil.
- Water and soil quality are the most important factors in farming that farmers can control. Sun and air are beyond their control. When rainfall is not sufficient for crop growth, irrigation is required. Organic farmers focus on proper management of irrigation. Soil erosion is a major world problem. Soil management techniques used by organic farmers are no-till farming, sending the organic matter back into the fields and halting the use of chemical fertilizers, to name a few.
- Water Contamination – Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides contaminate ground water. This is a fact. It is estimated that only 1% of pesticides reach the pests they are intended for, leaving 99% to go back into the environment. There are an estimated 1 billion pounds of pesticides used in the USA each year and 5 billion pounds worldwide.
- Air and Climate Change – Agrochemicals require large quantities of fossil fuel to be produced. There is a very good article here that explains the impact of agriculture on climate change. Organic farming contributes to mitigating greenhouse effects by sequestering carbon in the soil. The practice is called Regenerative Organic Agriculture. The processes can be covering crops, residue mulching, composting and crop rotation.
- GMO’s – The impact of GMO’s on our health and the environment is not entirely known right now, and it may take decades to fully understand. But organic agriculture does encourage biodiversity
Cotton constitutes 2.4% of the world’s crops. 16 % of the world’s insecticide sales and 7% of the world’s pesticides sales. Organically farmed cotton uses approximately 70% less water and 60% less energy than conventional cotton farming. Organic cotton is about 80% rain-fed. Did you know that it takes about 2700 liters (713 gallons) to make a conventional cotton t-shirt? Check out http://aboutorganiccotton.org to learn more about organic cotton.
There is no denying the impact of conventional farming on the environment. Whether we are talking about soil and water pollution, soil degradation, climate change, resource depletion, or loss of biodiversity, we are changing our environment at speeds never witnessed before. Organic farming is a step in the right direction for course correction.
Yes, organic food is more expensive. And with products typical ranging from 1.2 to 2 times more expensive, it will set you back. Here is a Consumers Report Article detailing costs associated with some organic products and major retail establishments. Their average cost was 47% more for organic products. If your average weekly grocery bill is $100.00 per week, you could be looking at upwards of $150.00 after switching to organic food for the household. This can be a kick in the arse to your budget.
We all know that organic products are more expensive than conventional products. We can only hope that costs trend down as more consumers make the switch (remember 4k televisions a couple of years ago?). But the big question we should focus on, is can we afford not to invest in organic culture? Even if you don’t believe in the studies about your child’s health and prefer to wait until there is more proof, the studies behind the environmental impact are pretty eye opening. We should remember that the health of the environment in 30 years will also impact our children’s health as much as what they ingest today. We can’t and won’t change are behavior toward eating and the environment overnight, but maybe, with baby steps, we’ll get on the path.