Back in the J.I. Rodale (who popularized "organic") days of Prevention magazine, organic foods were those grown without pesticides, chemical additives or hormones. They experimented with a row of vegetables alternating with a row of garlic, then a row of vegetables, then a row of onions, which appeared to help control insects.
Organic beef, chickens, eggs and milk were from animals that were truly pastured upon green grass. Chickens were actually "free range," where the birds got their protein from grasshoppers, beetles and other insects, and scratched for roots and grubs in addition to their diet of organically grown corn, wheat and sorghum--but not soybeans at that time. Neither were they fed "downed" animals mixed with soy and other grains in the form of pellets. This latter practice of current use has been stopped due to Mad-Cow Disease.
The true organic foods were in the 1960s and 1970s. There was a small handful of farmers and activists who popularized organic farming. However, as the industry grew, organic methods changed, because it became too expensive and cost prohibitive to have true organic produce and grassy pastures for 3,000 to 4,000 cows and thousands of chickens. As the animal and produce sales grew, the land servicing these entities diminished or increased in cost, and certain changes became inevitable. Complaints were filed in court by some organic producers or regulators that certain organic products were not organic, but had pesticides and preservatives or other chemicals added to the base organic product.
When organic became popular in the 1970s and, as time passed, ensuing problems developed as discussed above, the federal government intervened because of complaints by various entities; and thus, developed the legal definition of organic, which became governed by law in 2002. "Organic" is no longer an umbrella word which covers everything from eating a healthy diet to commune-style farming. The new definition now covers (surprising to many) specific chemicals that can be used along with certain practices that can and cannot be used in presenting a good to the American public as "organic." Those food producers who follow the federal guidelines for "organic" can call the food they produce "Certified Organic."
Now, enter the original farmers and activists who brought us the organic movement, who have created a backlash. Remember, the new terminology describes practices NOT included in the government regulations of the term, "Certified Organic." These practices, provided they don't claim to be "Certified Organic," a government term, may include measures that are better--or worse--for your health.
"Food Alliance Certified" is a new term created for Food Alliance, a non-profit organization devoted to agriculture that is sustainable, that receives funding from companies that pay to be certified by them as "Food Alliance Certified." They formed to cover organic growing practices the government left out. Their label points out the fact that a food is grown on a farm that meets with certain standards for the treatment of wildlife habitat, treatment of the workers on the farm and pesticide use. In 2005, there were 220 of these farms that were certified, which is up 33% over the previous year.
"Biodynamic" is another term still separate and distinct from the government's "Certified Organic" and "Food Alliance Certified." This term points to farms that are practically an eco-system in and of themselves. In other words, livestock animal's manure is used to fertilize fields and certain insects provide pest control against natural predators. In 2004, there were food producers and farms totalling up to 150 that applied for certification, which was up from 75 the previous year. The use of the term "Biodynamic" is governed by Demeter (Greek Goddess of Agriculture) U.S.A., which is a non-profit organization located in Junction City, Oregon. They are funded by fees charged for the use of "Biodynamic" Certification.
- A collage of other terms also exists, such as "Sustainable," "Local" and "Beyond Organic." The use of these terms is not overseen by special agencies, but are used by different producers of food, implying an alternative style of
The problem: when the government entered the scene to simplify things...well, as Ringo Starr, the former Beatles'
drummer puts it,
"Everything the government touches turns to crap,"because most consumers think they are getting really whole, really pure, really "organic" foods produced by practice that are pure and clean.
But the term "organic" no longer indicates food that has been proven to be more healthful. Many consumers of organic foods actually believe no chemical pesticides are allowed in those foods they consume. Here's the rub: organic regulations only disallow certain chemicals. Some "Beyond Organic" farmers actually say they use "less pesticides" than organic farmers! The truth is, you could not afford real organic farming unless you know a local farmer who has one or two milk cows, a dozen free-roaming hens and a rooster and a garden that he uses to raise his own produce outside his real job in the city. Buy from him if you can, because he's producing for his own family and you will probably get real organic food.
In 2004, at the University of Minnesota, a principal investigator of organic produce, Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, explained to CNSNews.com,
"Organic agriculture was more susceptible to carry fecal indicators."
His group compared organically grown produce to conventionally grown produce on farms in Minnesota and found the presence of generic E-coli bacteria that was 9.7% positive to 1.6% positive for produce from conventional farms. The study
appeared in the May, 2004, issue of Journal of Food Protection. It stated:
"...the observation that the presence of E-coli was significantly higher in organic produce supports the idea that organic produce is more susceptible to fecal contamination."
In other words, "organic foods" may contain some "organic wastes." Diez-Gonzalez said, "If you are using animal manure as fertilizer, the chances are that you are going to get fecal bacteria on the product are greater."
The reason is because those foods produced, such as "Biodynamic" organically produced foods, rely heavily on composted animal manure for fertilizer. Even though conventional produce may use some manure, it primarily depends on fertilizers made from petroleum.
And herein lies another problem: we now have chemical-enriched fertilizers classified as "Nutrient Enriched" fertilizers, which contain heavy metals such as aluminum and cadmium from wastes from the aluminum and other industries.
Previous research has shown that animal manure contains salmonella, E-coli and campylobacter. The chief researcher of the Minnesota study did point out that organic produce does not seem to be a higher-risk food. "What the data is telling organic agriculture is there is some room for improvement.
"I don't think we need to be more concerned about organic vegetables based on epidemiological evidence, we can say that both organic and conventional vegetables would pose some risk for consumers" for food-borne pathogens.
The University of Minnesota researcher does contend that the presence of generic E-coli does indicate a possible higher risk for pathogenic bacteria. In other words, E-coli is a marker for fecal contamination. If E-coli is present, then you can assume other bacteria are present too, like salmonella.
How would consumers react, who buy organic food for health reasons, if they knew this--that fecal contamination may be present?
Diez-Gonzalez flatly stated, "The consumer perception may not be very favorable, and that is a potential consequence."
The Director of Education and Research at the free market Hudson Center for Global Food Issues, Alex Avery, points out that the latest scientific study on food-borne illness reconfirms previous years of studies showing that organic produce may generate a higher risk for food-borne illness. Yet, food activists for the organic movement (this includes many researchers at liberal universities who claim that organic food is superior and have done so for years) want to shape society, and scare it, if possible, into purchasing a politically correct fare, Avery told CNSNews.com.
He further points out that their facade is now crumbling. Avery was very much concerned about salmonella and E-coli in organic vegetables. The kidneys and liver can be prime targets for E-coli. This can cause major damage to these internal organs and possibly death. The young and elderly are extremely vulnerable in this instance.
This is what Avery calls organic food that may generate salmonella. What are the results:
"Diarrhea, typhoid fever and Reiter's Syndrome that causes joint pain and painful urination that can last for years after initial salmonella infection."
I personally had a patient who had been diagnosed with an arthritis-like syndrome, but X-rays showed very little to no joint deterioration, but possible inflammation. There was swelling, redness and heat in various joints, as well as pain. The first question I asked the patient, when she presented herself to me after seeing numerous doctors at various clinics was, "Do you eat organic health foods?"
She proudly proclaimed a resounding, "Yes!"
My next question: "Do you eat organically grown lettuce and green peppers?"
"Every day," she responded.
I informed her that she needed to give it up for a year and recommended certain nutrients she should get in composite form. I took her off the entire organic movement. In one year, she was cured of the malady. I explained the reasons that I am explaining to you now, but a year and 6 months later, she was back in my office, complaining that her old malady had returned with a vengeance.
I asked her the same questions. Again, the response was positive. She had thought she was cured and went back on organic foods because, "They are so healthy for you!"
What is not generally appreciated by the general public is that the root systems of plants can absorb pathogens, especially E-coli, through the roots and deposit them in the leaves or the fruits of the vegetables themselves. Lettuce is a prime offender in this case. You cannot wash the microbes OFF the vegetables. The are INSIDE the fruit.
If you are a regular reader of the Update, a question that should be asked, that has been asked is, "What will happen to you when the hell breaks and you may not realize that you are marginal, as happened to my client above? In a marginal situation, she may not make it without medication. And medication will be hard to come by or not out there at all.
In 1997, Robert Tauxe, who was Chief of the Food-Borne Division of the Centers for Disease Control, was quoted for the Journal Of The American Medical Association (JAMA), stating, "Organic means a food was grown in animal manure."
But as of October, 2002, "Certified Organic," governed by federal law, is usurped by "Biodynamic" certified. See above. Let the buyer be warned about labels.
The JAMA article of 1997 says unequivocally, "Organically grown unprocessed foods . . without pesticides or preservatives," implicates organic foods as an increased source of food-borne disease.
Wow !! Did you know that? That's dynamite! Whew....
The television news program of June, 1998, "American Investigator," quoted Verlie Walker from the Food and Drug Administration, as saying in a warning to Americans most especially at risk (for food-borne illness), the main dangers are your organic products because they could be fertilized with manure.
I repeat, understand the meaning behind your labels, and now, with this little bit of knowledge---read your labels.
Ms. Walker further pointed out, "We do encourage folks to pay special attention to cleaning of their organic products," but evidently she did not realize what Avery had said--you can't wash off the pathogens once they are absorbed into the food.
John Stossel of ABC in 2000 reported on "20/20," that there is a potential bacterial risk in organic produce.
Diez-Gonzalez contends that no one should be surprised "if they have been following the media," that there is increased fecal contamination in organic food.
Avery wants to know how many more red flags have to be raised before stricter manure regulations are put in place.
The National Academy of Sciences' right arm, The National Research Council, in 1999, found that cancer risks because of pesticide residue is in theory lower than carcinogens that occur naturally.
Avery said, "We are still looking for the first cancer death victim from pesticide residues, but we have several examples of children killed by pathogenic bacteria on organic produce."
More on organic foods in the next Update.
One thing that appears from the research is that you will probably get less pesticides from organic foods, depending on the label you buy, and more manure. The latter also depends on the label.
I advise my patients--know the facts. Let the buyer beware. For good health, I advise supplements, the freshest food you can get in the purest state. Avoid polyunsaturated oils and garner those oils instead from the foods you eat, such as corn, flax seed, whole grains and nuts. Avoid soy in any form except miso, soy sauce and other fermented soy foods. Use these condiments in moderation. Use coconut oil, real butter and a little olive oil.