Hello, readers! I was asked to give a talk to some parents at my kid's school, so I thought I'd share this with you, too. I've broken it down into 5 Scary Reasons and 5 Fun Reasons because the truth is both fun and scary. And because unless we are willing to stare our fears down and face them, it's almost impossible to have fun!
- Fewer toxins will go straight into their bodies. The recent Stanford study that journalists reported in headlines like "Organic Foods Are Not More Nutritious than Conventional Foods" also had some other interesting findings: Organic foods, as you would expect, have much fewer pesticide and other residues on them. Hello! That's the whole point of organic! All those thousands of chemicals that farmers put in foods, and now biotech companies put INTO the seeds foods are grown from, are harmful to kids. The first studies on GMOs coming out of Europe (BECAUSE AMERICAN SCIENTISTS HAVE NOT BEEN ALLOWED TO STUDY THEM!!!) show that GMOs are causing incredible health problems in animals, from digestive distress to fertility problems and miscarriages, as well as tumors and cancers. If your kids are not eating organic foods, they are eating GMOs right now. Untested on humans. Oh, yeah, your kids are the test. And by the way, this is what "less government regulation" is all about.
- Fewer antibiotics will be used, so the strength and power of antibiotics won't be diluted when our kids they really, really need them. Antibiotics are used in factory animal farming because--lo and behold--it's cheaper to feed them than food, and they make the animals fat real fast! Farmers can buy 50-pound bags of antibiotics at an Agway without a prescription! And then what happens is both the animals and humans who eat those animals become resistant to the very antibiotics that could save their lives. The germs become resistant, leading to hard-to-treat antibiotic-resistant infections like MRSA.
- Fewer toxins will go into the environment surrounding your children. There is only one truly definitive, beyond-a-doubt-scientific-and-medical connection and known cause of childhood leukemia: lawn chemicals. Seriously?! How much does it cost to apply chemicals to your lawn? How much does organic food cost? How much does it cost to treat a child and, for God's sake, hopefully, save the child's life once he or she is diagnosed with leukemia?! These are the economic connections we need to be making. Forget the price of a gallon of milk or a dozen eggs (which are artificially subsidized by the government and industry to make them appear much cheaper than organic). It's the price of the health of your child.
- Your kids will be more likely to grow up healthy and reproduce safely, providing you with grandkids! Many of the chemicals in use in farming today are known to be endocrine and hormone disruptors. Both types of chemicals seriously affect both the reproductive systems and the sexual development of children. The simplest way of saying it is that these chemicals have the potential to make your boys into girls and make your girls sterile. Endocrine disruptors also lead to obesity and diabetes.
- Chemical foods lead to reductions in IQ in children. While it may not be as definitive as the childhood leukemia and lawn chemical studies, I have seen quite a few studies that show a connection between pesticides and insecticides and reduced IQ. Remember, many of these chemicals are neurotoxins to living creatures, and our children are small living creatures. Let's keep them safe AND smart!
I would like to suggest that rather than only looking at behaviors and the junk food we put into our bodies, we start also looking at how that junk food is grown, and what's in it by default.
Speaking of junk food, let's switch to the fun stuff...
- Organic farming preserves the childhood ideal of happy farm animals. When I interviewed chemical farmers for my book, they called that fantasy of happy animals "Old MacDonald farms." They scoffed at the fantasy...made fun of it. But let me tell you, every farmer I have ever met who has switched from chemical farming to organic farming has told me, "And my animals are happier and healthier!"
- Organic makes it safe to garden and teaches kids to love vegetables. It's one thing for a kid to eat something strange from a plate...it's quite another for that child to plant a seed, watch it grow, and then pick it from a plant and eat it raw, right there in the garden! If you haven't tasted fresh-picked peas and green beans, you haven't truly lived! Suddenly, kids love vegetables.
- Buying organic foods teaches kids how to read labels and the economic power of shopping. I play a game with my first-grader. She's only allowed to ask me to buy things if they have the USDA Organic label. It's amazing how that one "game" has transformed our food-shopping expeditions from a series of agonizing fits to loads of fun.
- Eating organic makes kids feel good about their choices. With a little bit of education, they understand that their choices have a huge impact on the world around them--the farmer who grows the food, the environment, the oceans! They realize that they are helping others all the time with everything they eat. And that is teaching responsibility, which is one of the hardest but most important things to teach (I believe).
- Organic food tastes better! This comes directly from the mouth of my 15-year-old, who has rebelled and returned. She has tasted the dark side of food and eaten a diverse menu of items in many places. We were in a fancy hotel in Washington, DC, eating the fruit from the fancy fruit plate when she turned to me and said, "Mom, you've ruined it for me." See, the truth is once you start eating organic food, you taste nonorganic food in a whole new way. You start to be able to taste and smell the chemicals, the artificialness, the garbageness of most food. You naturally gravitate to clean and pure foods. Sometimes, I even think I can feel the happiness of the food.
The rest is up to you.
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com