By Noah Yarnol Rue

In our youth we were are often reminded prior to eating fruit to wash it first, or maybe you have memories of being handed a piece of fruit when it was wet. Presumably, this is due to cautious parents that deem produce much safer to eat after a rinse. This is true to some degree. Pesticides contain dangerous compounds that pose as cancer risks for young children and are commonly sprayed both at home and over large commercial crops. The other problem lies within the soil; chemicals inside produce enhancement soil, like Miracle-Gro, is also stirring up the organic gardening community, calling it “inferior ingredients that are cheap and destructive to the environment.”

Photo courtesy of  Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Organic pest control and soil is a very real alternative for many crops and gardens. Granted, it is more expensive, but that is an entirely different discussion. Below, are helpful facts to aid discussion and illustrate why consuming more organic grown and processed produce is the best route to take.

Nutritional Value of Organic Produce

Not only are synthetic residues from preservatives and chemicals unhealthy to consume, but they also decreases the nutritional value of the produce. Now the preservatives don’t literally suck the nutrients out of your fruits and vegetables, but when farmers use preservatives and chemicals to increase the shelf life of their crop after it’s been harvested, that’s when we see the nutritional value start to slowly decline.

An apple, for example, is significantly higher in nutritional value freshly picked than one that has been coated in preservatives sitting in a store for several days or even weeks. Once the fruit has been harvested, the nutritional value immediately begins to decline. Fresh broccoli loses 50 percent vitamin C  as early as seven days after harvest. Organically grown produce will begin to spoil within a considerably shorter period and is best eaten within a few days after harvest.

Human and Environmental Health

Baron and Budd, a national investigative law firm, is potentially looking to file legal action against Monsanto Co. the producers of the weed killer , RoundUp. There have been several cases of farmers developing cancer after being exposed to the herbicide. “We believe there is a great deal of evidence that suggests Monsanto [the agrochemical company] was clearly aware of the hazards presented by glyphosate,” said environmental attorney Thomas Sims of Baron & Budd. “Whenever a corporation introduces a harmful product to the public, it must be held responsible for any illnesses that product causes.”

Both children and adults are prone to the toxic effects inside fertilizer and pesticides, as it is commonly found in both public recreational areas and at home. The visible effects of agricultural chemicals can come in the form of skin rashes. According to the Toxicology Information Brief, “Many pesticides can be absorbed through the skin into the blood, and can cause toxic effects. Skin irritation and skin rashes produced by irritating chemical substances are a very noticeable type of chemical toxicity.”

The negative environmental impacts that pesticides and chemical fertilizers have are staggering. According to the research center, Planet Natural, “[the chemicals] soak into the soil, contaminate groundwater and surface streams and drift through the air. The pesticides used in the garden can end up in lakes and ponds, neighbor’s yards and in house. Many agricultural pesticides are proven neurotoxins as well as likely endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.”

The Solution

Pesticides, herbicides and inorganic fertilizers are, in fact, a problem. The solution is as simple as growing organic food. But there are other factors involved. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that U.S. farmers’ reliance on synthetic fertilizers and insecticides may be based on an outdated understanding of plant chemistry, and that organic gardening methods can be validated by hard science.

Growing organically, however, doesn’t mean just getting rid of inorganic pesticides and the such. There must be a balance among both the plants and insects. Harmful insects and weeds must be balanced with desirable plants and beneficial insects. The plants are not the only thing that needs maintenance, the soil must start out healthy and be maintained as well by using alternative organic fertilizers that encourage a natural and healthy growth.

Though from a distance it may look as if the surge of shopping organic produce is a trendy buy for health freaks and health conscious mothers, taking a closer look at the health benefits (or the unhealthy effects that are avoided) that comes from eating organically is proven to be a healthier grocery purchase than those that are not.