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Gayle Salter FACS 242-Position 15 April 2006 Going Organic
Organic living is a way of life that is growing enormously every day. It seems like the word “organic” is everywhere now. However, I am surprised that I do not hear more about organic nutrition in Family and Consumer Sciences. In fact, in some classes I have been taught that there are no significant differences. After doing much research to see if I have been taught correctly, I have come to the conclusion that there are in fact many differences between the two, and organic foods are much healthier. They are not only healthier for humans, but also healthy for the environment, local economies, and the animals themselves. Animals raised in today’s factory farms are not grown. They are instead harvested and manufactured. These animals do not live full natural lives as they should; instead they begin their lives in a factory and they never see the light of day. Fed antibiotics, growth hormones, and filler food of no nutritious value, these animals are forced to live sped up lives to quicken the process in which they can be slaughtered and sold. This shortens the amount of time of production while maximizing profits for the factory farms and slaughterhouses. There are three interdependent areas in which detrimental problems can be observed. These areas are consumer health, environmental conservation, and animal welfare.
Humans are subjected to many artificial chemicals by consuming animals raised in factory farms, also called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO). First, cows that are raised to produce milk are injected with recombinant Bovine Growth Hormones (rBGH) to increase milk production by 10 to 15 percent (Sustainable rBGH) and increase the amount of time that the cows are able to produce milk by 8 to 12 weeks, in addition to the natural 12 weeks of milk production after they bear their calves (Health). This may seem like a very efficient way to mass produce milk, but it has serious health consequences. “Cows injected with rBGH suffer increased rates of udder infection (mastitis) and other health issues, forcing farmers to increase their use of therapeutic antibiotics including important human antibiotics. Antibiotic use in food animals contributes to antibiotic resistance transmitted to humans. More generally, the increased use of antibiotics in animals has contributed to the global crisis in antibiotic-resistant infections in humans” (Health). It is believed by some scientists that the growth hormones in animal products also cause hormone imbalances, reproductive problems, and cancer (Sustainable hormones). Young females who ingest these added hormones reach puberty at a much younger age which causes them to potentially have breast cancer (Sustainable hormones). Mad Cow Disease is also a risk since there is no ban on feeding these animals the remains of other slaughtered cows (Organic). Because of all of these health concerns, rBGH has been banned in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and all 25 of the countries in the European Union (Health). These countries have even taken a step further by making the importation of hormone Smith 3
implanted meat against regulation. For some reason, America is going in the opposite direction; “According to the Cattleman’s Beef Association, 90% of all U.S. feedlot cattle are hormone implanted” (Sustainable hormones). However, organic livestock is fed organically. “Compared with conventional products,[…] grass fed products are lower in artery clogging fats but higher in beneficial nutrients including antioxidant vitamins, polyunsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids, and the cancer fighting fat CLA,” (Robinson) which shows the first benefit of choosing to live an organic lifestyle. A study has shown that organic soups sold commercially in the United Kingdom contain almost six times as much salicylic acid as non-organic soups. Salicylic acid, which is responsible for the anti-inflammatory action of aspirin, has been shown to help prevent hardening of the arteries and bowel cancer. The average level of salicylic acid in 11 brands of organic vegetable soup was 117 nanograms per gram, compared with 20 nanograms per gram in 24 types of non-organic soup (Edwards 10). Reviewing 41 published studies comparing the nutritional value of organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables, and grains, certified nutrition specialist Virginia Worthington has concluded there are significantly more of several nutrients in organic crops. These include: 27% more vitamin C, 21.1% more iron, 29.3% more magnesium, and 13.6% more phosphorus. In addition, organic products had 15.1% less nitrates than the inorganic products. She also noted that five servings of organic vegetables (lettuce, spinach, carrots, potatoes and cabbage) provided the recommended daily intake of vitamin C for men and women, while their conventional counterparts did not (Worthington). Smith 4
Beyond the frontier of the health concerns for humans, another reason for not supporting this immoral market is for the health of the environment. A prime example of one hazard that these farms pose to the environment can be examined through one of the most common fertilizers in the world. Manure. The CAFOs have far too much manure to dispose of properly. One farm in North Carolina had 178 ‘Notices of Violation’ for dumping excessive manure into streams and wetlands, dumping on unlicensed disposal fields, busted waste filled pipelines, and “breached lagoons” just to name a few (Kennedy). In many cases, this means that manure leaks into water supplies causing “skin rashes, infections, and other health problems” in farm communities (Nierenberg). These problems can easily be solved. All that we have to do is go to our local farmers’ markets and buy our meats, eggs, and produce. Small family farms at the local level do not have problems with manure because they use it to fertilize their crops. What is left over is manageable and easy to be disposed of properly. This is yet another benefit of buying organic. Another hazard the factory farms pose to the environment is their release of chemicals into the air. As the CAFOs grow, so do the amounts of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide that are released. These emissions directly correlate to the high levels of respiratory illness found in the people living in the surrounding areas of the factory farms (Cook). It should be of no surprise that most people who make claims about the horrors of the treatment of the environment are dismissed as ‘tree huggers and hippies’. Most people would not give a second thought to the triple meat patty burger they order from their Smith 5
favorite fast food restaurant every other day. These people think that it is insane for anyone to think that eating non organic food is bad for the environment. They are correct, as long as they stay in the shallow ends of their minds. Eating the food itself is, of course, not bad for the environment. However, buying these products supports everything that is going wrong in the environment as far as factory farms are concerned. Buying into these money making machines does nothing but sink the factory farm owners’ sinister teeth deeper into our way of life. This is the message that the ‘tree huggers and hippies’ are attempting to convey when they voice their concerns about the environment. On top of issues such as consumer health and well-being of the environment, there is another issue that calls for a drastic change in America. This final issue is ethics of animal welfare. These factory farms pose a huge problem for the ethical treatment of animals because they simply do not allow for these animals to live a natural life. “… [These hormones have] given us dairy cows producing ten times as much milk as their calves would drink, double muscled beef cattle so large that Caesarean births are the norm…”(D’Silva) is evidence to prove such abnormalities. The aforementioned rBGH is harmful to the cows as well. This hormone weakens the cows’ immune system causing illness and infections throughout the cows’ life. There have also been cases reported of incapacitated animals being dragged behind trucks, kicked, beaten, whipped, confined, and fed insufficient meals all after these animals are injected with substances that have caused their incapacitation (Factory). The owners of factory farms do not care about the health of the people who consume their products. They do not care about the environment that they are destroying. Smith 6
They do not care about the way they treat the animals that they profit from. All these people care about is their profit. All they feel is greed and a lack of conscience. If America can shift away from these factory farms and move more to their local farmers and buy organic at the grocery stores, then there will be nothing but benefits for the consumer, the environment, the animals concerned, and for the local economy. I feel that it is my duty as a Dietetics major to educate as many people about this topic as I possibly can. I encourage those Dieticians that are already established, to do their own research and not rely on just what they hear or their own assumptions. I was easily led astray once by someone who did not have the correct information and I feel blessed that I now know the truth. The only way to make a change in the world is to be the change you wish to see in the world, as Mahatma Gandhi so wisely spoke so many years ago. This consists of living the lifestyle by example and opening as many eyes as possible on these horrors. It may be a slow process but I have faith that others will see the benefits of going organic and choose to do the same.
Works Cited Cook, Christopher D. “New rules to stem pollution on factory farms draw fire,” Christian Science Monitor 97.57 (2005): 2. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. McNeese State U., Frazar Memorial Lib. 11 April 2006 <http://www.epnet.com/>. D’Silva, Joyce. “Faster, cheaper, sicker. “ New Scientist 180.2421 15 November 2003: 19. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. McNeese State U., Frazar Memorial Lib. 11 April 2006 <http://www.epnet.com/>.
Edwards, Rob. “The Natural Choice.” New Scientist 173.2334 16 March 2002: 10. Factory Farming. www.factoryfarming.com 19 April 2006 < www.factoryfarming.com/gallery/photos_video.htm.> Health Care Without Harm. “Health Care Without Harm Position Statement on rBGH.” 10 April 2006 < www.noharm.org> Nierenberg, Danielle. “Factory Farming in the Developing World.” World Watch. 16.3 May/June 2003: 10. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. McNeese State U., Frazar Memorial Lib. 11 April 2006 <http://www.epnet.com/>. Riddle, Jim. “Why Organic Beef is Safer than Conventional Beef.” Organic Consumers Association. 11 April 2006 <www.organicconsumers.org>. Robinson, Jo. “Cows, Pigs, and Chickens are Going Back to the Pasture.” Mother Earth News 207. Dec. 2004/Jan.2005: 26. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. McNeese State U., Frazar Memorial Lib. 11 April 2006 <http://www.epnet.com/>. Sustainable Table. “The Issues: Hormones.” www.sustainabletable.org 12 April 2006 <www.sustainabletable.org/issues/hormones/.> Sustainable Table. “The Issues: rBGH.” www.sustainabletable.org 12 April 2006 <www.sustainabletable.org/issues/hormones/.>
Worthington, Virginia. “Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 7.2 (2001): 161-173.
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