People concerned with different health and environmental issues are helping the organic food industry grow 20 percent per year.
Traditional farming methods allow organic food to be grown without the use of compound fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides and without the use of genetically engineered organisms.
Conventional farming, the method used with most foods sold in markets, does not allow the body to reap the benefits of organic food. Instead, it produces drawbacks.
One such drawback is the chemical and pesticide runoff into the groundwater, which produces carcinogens, the agent that initiates cancerous growths.
“Whenever you can avoid carcinogens in your body, your health as an individual is going to be greatly improved,” said Chuck Homuth, proprietor for Chuck’s Natural Food Marketplace.
Stephanie Budd, an employee at Chuck’s who was certified as an herbalist last December, said inorganic foods containing chemicals such as pesticides eventually cause people to become malnourished.
“They are not getting all the nutrients they would get because pesticides either kill the outside things (nutrients) or they are having to cook them or peel them off,” Budd said.
She said the nutrients that are being lost are stored in the peels.
“Getting more nutrients means that you would have more energy,” she said.
Some of the short-term effects on the body are a dull immune system, and one of the long-term effects is that they are cancer-causing.
“If your apple tree was giving you 100 apples, and now it’s giving 500 apples, you aren’t getting the same amount of nutrients in the product,” said Bobby Pardo, grocery manager for Ansley’s Natural Marketplace, of a broken-down immune system.
However, besides killing the insects that eat the crops, the pesticides also affect the good insects.
“They’re supposed to kill, but those pests are growing immune to it,” Budd said.
Another problem lies in the topsoil being stripped away, meaning the soil will never recover.
“The pesticides prevent mineral absorption into the crops,” said Chris Lazos, vitamin manager for Chuck’s Natural Food Marketplace.
However, traditional farming rebuilds the soil season by season and strengthens it. Homuth said this has a positive effect.
“This sustains our health and nutrient levels in the future,” Homuth said.
Annette Zimmerman, an employee at Nature’s Harvest, said the benefits lie in not putting more toxins into your body.
“(These benefits) are present in conventionally-grown foods and supporting the environmental practices that are cleaner,” she said. “What you eat contributes to your health, or your lack of health.”
For the past few years, genetic engineers have been creating all sorts of genetically engineered organisms. For example, chemical companies used to provide the pesticides for crops.
However, potatoes now make insecticide Bt in their cells and are not labeled in the store. The effect of eating these potatoes is unknown.
Also, spuds of potatoes have been made to glow in the dark when the vegetable wants water and will be placed in with other so-called healthy potatoes to tell the grower when it needs water. Although this will not be meant for consumption, ecologists say that the glow-in-the-dark potatoes may mix with the other potatoes.
Another product called the terminator seed was made to not produce any seeds, meaning the seeds will not be saved for the next season. Although Monsanto, the company that produced these seeds and sells seeds to farmers, agreed in 1999 that they would not market it, the question still remains about what will come next.
Novartis, the company that owns Gerber Baby Food, announced in September 1999 that it would no longer produce food with genetically engineered organisms. Gerber announced its conclusion of genetically engineered organisms in August 1999. Gerber decided that producing healthy food for a baby became more effective.
Despite the natural production methods, the price of organic food can be steep, with few options of where to purchase it. Two options are buying food at the local grocery store or health food store. However, at the grocery store there are a few narrow selections.
Publix contains an organic produce section of apples, pears and grapefruit along with a section consisting of meat products, a small health food section, a small frozen food area and a dairy cooler. Health food stores tend to carry a wider selection.
Shoppers should look for foods labeled as certified organic. A last option is to have an organic garden. Many said organic foods tasted better, that they had more energy and felt healthier. Others, including Budd, said creating organic foods doesn’t have to be a hassle.
“Everything could easily be organic again,” she said.