Let’s say, for example, that we increase our awareness of food’s influence upon the body as we do at Hippocrates. We now have increased our power to change the body using that influence. As we increase our awareness of organics, we increase our power to change not only ourselves and other life forms, but the entire planet. What an exciting opportunity as well as a grand responsibility. Let us invoke our compassion, forgiveness and love as we learn about our past and allow it to guide us to a brighter future.
It used to be that our farming and agricultural practices naturally resembled our organic practices today. But that began to change after World War II. During the war, we developed new technologies and new chemicals which opened new directions for agriculture – paths that would challenge our beautiful planet.
However, there were people who realized the implications of these changes and began efforts to craft a law that would restore balance. Fifty years in the making, the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) was passed in 1990. It took another 12 years for the OFPA to be enforced. In October 2002, the U.S.Department of Agriculture was given the responsibility of enforcing the law. The USDA in turn created the National Organic Program, responsible for setting the standards which define organic in our country and overseenig the certification process. The standards are:
These are the NOP’s minimum standards.
Some states, such as New York, have chosen to set higher standards. The certification process which guarantees the consumer these standards have been met can be carried out by state, local, non-profit or private agencies.
The USDA defines organic thus: “Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation.”
Let’s use this definition to come to a deeper understanding and appreciation for what it means to support organics.
We will focus solely on organic fruits and vegetables since they reflect the majority of a live foods vegan diet. Although there is a growing movement in organic meat, dairy and processed foods, we will not explore those specifics here.
As we release that which did not serve us well, we make way for that which does serve us well.
The first thing we release when we choose organics is conventional pesticides. This is probably the most well known distinction between organic and conventional produce. One of the reasons to release this practice is that 98 percent of sprayed insecticides and 95 percent of sprayed herbicides go somewhere other than where they are sprayed. For example, one U.S. Geological Survey found that every stream and 90 percent of the wells sampled contained pesticides.
Not only is the water threatened by these toxins, but so too are other life forms such as honey bees. If a crop in bloom is sprayed with pesticides and a honey bee attempts to pollinate there, the honey bee dies. The USDA believes that 1/5 of the honey bee colonies which have died succumbed to pesticide poisoning. It is interesting to note that we can thank honey bees for every third bite of food we take.
Not only do pesticides threaten the water and other life forms, but also our own. Scientists suspect pesticides of disrupting hormone activity. This means that anyone who is working to support his or her immune system, reproductive system or endocrine system greatly benefits by choosing organic. Children, with their lower body weights and higher metabolisms, are more vulnerable to the affects of pesticides and also benefit from organic choices.
Some produce is more susceptible to pesticides as well. Independent research sponsored by the FDA and USDA of 100,000 food samples found strawberries, apples, tomatoes, potatoes, spinach, peaches, grapes, celery and bell peppers to be some of the most highly contaminated with pesticides.
When we choose organic, we also release artificial fertilizer. Nitrogen, which occurs naturally in the atmosphere, cannot be used by life until it is “fixed.” There are two ways to fix nitrogen naturally. One: lightning strike. Lightning strikes are responsible for 10,000 metric tons of “fixed” nitrogen. Microorganisms which live in our soil do the rest of the work. These microorganisms are responsible for 140,000 metric tons of “fixed” nitrogen.
So we must value these microorganisms – after all the food chain requires nitrogen to begin its pattern of growth. These microorganisms are found not in just any soil, but in what is called humus. Humus is an ecosystem all its own and is sometimes referred to as the life force of the soil. It is a very complex substance not easily defined but which can be compared to very mature compost. One of the main reasons the USDA no longer supports artificial fertilizer is because it hurts the humus.
Prior to WWII, a process was discovered which can chemically fix nitrogen – the Haber Bosch Process. This process uses very high temperatures that can be attained only with a great deal of fossil fuel. The process enabled us to do many things, including make artificial fertilizer. We produce about 500 million tons of fertilizer. This fertilizer, although containing some of the nutrients necessary for growth, also rocks the natural balance of nitrogen. As a result, much of the nitrogen is not usable. According to the film The Carbon Connection, “Every pound of excess nitrogen applied to the soil by artificial fertilizer destroys 100 pounds of humus.”
Nitrogen fertilizer spills into waterways, which can lead to eutrophication (nutrient loading) and hypoxia (oxygen depletion) of large bodies of water. It has happened in the Mississippi Valley Basin, where years of fertilizer runoff from farms into the watershed has resulted in a hypoxic “dead zone” the size of New Jersey off of the Gulf of Mexico. The artificial fertilizer also contains harmful salts which create hardpan in the soil, locking up water and other nutrients. This destroys earthworms and other beneficial microorganisms as well. According to the book Topsoil & Civilization, “Every great nation has risen and fallen according to the quality of topsoil.” By choosing organics, we are choosing to honor and protect the life force of our soil (the humus) and all of the activities which take place within it that support life as we know it on our planet.
Our sewage treatment facilities are responsible for taking sewage and finding ways to use it efficiently. Sewage plants detoxify 42 percent of the hazardous components through biodegradation. Another 25 percent escapes into the atmosphere and 19 percent is discharged into lakes and streams. The remaining 14 percent, approximately 28 million pounds per year, winds up in sewage sludge.
This sewage sludge is a viscous semi-solid mix of bacteria and virus-laden organic matter, toxic metals, synthetic organic chemicals and settled solids removed from domestic and industrial waste water. It contains more than 60,000 toxic substances and chemical compounds. One of the cheapest ways to handle this sewage sludge is to spread it over our farm fields. The Water Environmental Foundation was developed to serve as the main lobby association for the sewage treatment plants. Its job is to encourage farmers to use the sludge on their fields. The sludge is renamed “biosolids” so that its heritage is less transparent. By choosing organics, we are guaranteed that there has been no sewage sludge slathered on our fields.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
GMOs emerged from a fairly new technology that enables genetic information to cross the protective species barrier in an unnatural way. Genes from one species are inserted into another. For example, genes from the arctic flounder which has “anti-freeze” properties may be spliced into a tomato to prevent frost damage. A laboratory-produced DNA construct is shot into embryonic plants with a “gene gun.” These plants are then grown in a medium with antibiotics.
Only a small percentage of these plants survive, those that have the antibiotic resistance gene. The most common GMOs come from splicing chemical pesticides into food crops, a maneuver that reduces the need to spray pesticides. However, now the chemicals in the food cannot be washed off or reduced by peeling skin because they are part of the genetic makeup.
The newest developments in this technology are pharm crops – pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines grown on food. Permits have been issued to grow birth control and herpes simplex vaccines on food in open fields. Corn is one of the most common host plants.
Genetically Engineered organisms cannot be recalled or contained after they have been released and any problems then multiply endlessly. Researchers at Purdue University estimate that just 60 GE fish released into a wild population of 60,000 fish would lead to the extinction of the wild fish in only 40 generations.
The fateful five products are: corn and corn products, soy and soy products, rice, wheat, canola and cottonseed oil (cotton is not regulated by FDA). And the very companies that stand to profit decide whether or not these products are hazardous. For now, no independent checks of companies’ claims are required, although there are great strides being taken to change this. We can set our sights on this change.
So, by choosing organics, we are choosing to honor life as it is presented to us and we are guaranteed by organic standards that no genetic modification has taken place.
Ionizing Radiation (irradiation)
Irradiation is intended to extend shelf life, pasteurize and sterilize food. Interestingly enough, the impetus for food irradiation didn’t come from farmers, the developing world, retail grocers or consumers. In the early 1970s, the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose mandate is to promote nuclear technology, began to hold seminars on food irradiation and established a joint committee of experts. In 1976, this committee decreed that new chemicals called radiolytic products which are produced in irradiated food do not need to pass tests of toxicity as do other food additives.
Because it became classified as a process, it wasn’t subject to the testing required of an additive. Even though a small percentage of chemical bonds are broken when food is irradiated, the process can result in the loss of the cell’s ability to replicate. Molecules become reactive and form free radicals. Vitamins are destroyed, especially vitamins C and E. As a result, although irradiated food may have a long shelf life, it contains very little nourishment, if any.
The organic standards guarantee us that this process has not been used in any way on the food we are putting into our bodies.
One of the standards set by the NOP for organics is that soil fertility and crop nutrients must be managed through tillage and cultivation practices.
Let’s look at some of the choices that are being made by organic farmers and why they serve the future of our planet.
To enhance soil health or fertility, farmers practice crop rotation and cover cropping. Crop rotation means that different crops are placed side by side, each crop having different strengths and weaknesses. These strengths and weaknesses cause them to use different minerals from the soil, thus the soil doesn’t become as depleted. Some of the crops have roots that reach farther down and some crop’s roots stay closer to the surface so the soil is used from top to bottom. This reduces pests and pathogens as well. There is great planning and purpose behind the type of crop used not only in conjunction with another, but one after the other as well.
With cover cropping (or green manure) legumes like alfalfa, clover, peas, beans and lentils (Interesting how this seems to mimic the buffet at Hippocrates, huh?) are purposely planted. These legumes have bacteria in their root nodules that have a symbiotic relationship with the microorganisms that fix nitrogen. Thus, if you recall the importance of fixing nitrogen naturally, this serves all life.
The root systems tend to be quite deep and thus the minerals that are extracted are rich and made available to shallow rooted plants that are grown afterward. When these legumes are adolescents they are plowed over and their energy and minerals are made available for future growth. (Sound anything like eating sprouts?) This improves water retention and increases organic matter as well. Cover crops also prevent soil erosion by slowing down the velocity of rain before it contacts the soil surface preventing soil splash. It also reduces light to weed seeds which helps control weeds naturally. Composted manure is also used as nourishment. It decomposes slowly allowing for a natural nitrogen cycle to be maintained.
It has been stated that 1 tsp of compost-rich soil has 600 million to 1 billion good bacteria living in it, whereas 1 tsp of chemically treated soil has 100 good bacteria. (Does this make us think of enzymes and probiotics?) So, these organic practices are fostering nutrient rich soil. And because we are all connected, this is what is going to be our future.
We have so much to be excited about. Let us all focus on the outcome we know is in the best interest of all life and let the rest of it dissolve from lack of attention. They say what we focus on expands. So we can focus on these practices and feel elated about the direction in which they are taking us.
to www.sare.org for a list of community-supported farms
Let us make choices to live organically, and let us take action with loving intent so that we may bring greater levels of harmony and joy into the landscapes of our life and the life of our planet.
Pam Blue is working as a therapist at the Hippocrates Health Institute. She cares for the guests through various services such as Swedish Massage, Reflexology, CranioSacral Therapy, Ear Candling and Rainfall Therapy, all offered at the Oasis Therapy Center. She cares not only for the guests but for all life on our beautiful planet, which is what enables her to speak on the issue of organics with a heart based direction. She is committed to the Hippocrates Program and to all things which honor and respect the intelligence and the benevolence of life.
Vol 28 Issue 4 Page 52