Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why I'm Not Organic, Even Though I Am...


I cringe every time I hear this word. It's everywhere. It's the latest buzz in healthy and responsible food consumption. I, personally, don't go out of my way to look for anything specifically labelled "organic". Not only are organic items often are more expensive, but mostly because I find the word so overused, it has lost any valuable meaning.

This past spring, while looking for the best mixture of soil to add to my garden, I found an assortment of bags all labelled:

"Organic Dirt".

I certainly hope so. I wasn't thinking it was recycled plastic or shredded truck tires. Of course it's organic. It's DIRT! What else would it be?

When I was pregnant, I craved iron-rich foods. Growing two babies and supplying my own body with it's needs requires a #@&$%-ton of iron. I would have been quite happy to occupy a field of spinach with a cow spinning on a rotisserie within arm's reach. But, as I live in the city, I bought my beef and spinach supply in bulk at the supermarket. One day, I found organic labelled spinach packaged in a gigantic container and thought, "Lunch!" I didn't realize that despite a vigorous washing, the extra included nuggets of protein remained. (Yes, I'm talking about bugs.)

There's nothing appetizing about lifting a fork of salad-dressing covered spinach to my mouth and seeing (thankfully before it was inserted) a green, lady-bug type insect crawling on my fork. The goal here, people, is to get the food in. Reversing the process by grossing me out is just plain counterproductive.

Organic is defined as living, carbon-containing compounds that are capable of decay. All plants and the fruit they produce fit this description, as do humans and animals. Trees, birds, and the weed infested grass that is my lawn. All organic. All of it.

But organic has a whole new meaning when it's used as a tool to market food. Organic food is produced without synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers; it cannot be genetically modified; it cannot be processed using irradiation, industrial solvents or food additives. In fact, this was the way farming was done pretty much everywhere until the 1940's.

I still can't justify spending more money for a label when I can take the less expensive produce home and, with the exception of a few fruits and vegetables, simply wash the pesticides off. It also means I don't have to scan every bite for something squirmy and unwelcome. As much as I would like to say, "Good idea," I'm still having a hard time embracing the whole organic thing.

One of the kids I watch has Organic Parents. I have been instructed not to feed Organic Girl any dairy products of an unorganic nature because Organic Parents don't want Organic Girl exposed to hormones. I have no objections to this, what I see as a reasonable request.

But Organic Girl likes milk. Milk is good for Organic Girl, building strong teeth and bones plus supplying vitamin D, something us northern folk don't get nearly enough of. I don't have to pay inflated organic milk prices because I can give Organic Girl my unorganic milk with a clear conscience...

...because I can read.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has very strict standards that requires all milk to be tested at several points between the dairy farm and the store shelf. Hormones and antibiotics are not found in ANY type of milk available for sale in Canada because the use of hormones, particularly Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, is illegal in Canada. If a cow is ill and requires antibiotics, the animal is separated from the herd and any milk that animal produces is discarded.

The only difference: Cows that produce milk for the organic market may not be given antibiotics at all. Regardless if your milk says 'organic' on the package or not, you cannot buy milk containing antibiotics or hormones in Canada.

So why promote milk as organic in the first place? So the supplier can make the consumer feel good about being gouged twice the price for the exact same thing.

Which is actually very unorganic.

My personal experiences with organic anything has done nothing to prove it is a better choice for me or my family. I doubt I will ever become a proponent of the organic food movement, especially after I saw this little laughter nugget in the kids' Hallowe'en treat bag.

Imagine! Potato chips made from ...(gasp!)... potatoes! I shudder, wondering what else is wriggling around inside that package. It won't go to waste. At least I can spoil Organic Girl with a treat and have the approval of the Organic Parents.

The rest of us are rummaging through the treat bag for the unorganic Doritos.

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