Maggots in canned mushrooms, drug residues in chicken, filth and insect bits in shrimp…sometimes there's just nothing good to say about the state of our food supply. But that's not the case on Food Day, a day devoted to celebrating healthy, sustainable food and what it can do for your health and the economy.
"We're in a period of great changes, many for the better," says Michael Jacobson, PhD, executive director of Center for Science in the Public Interest, the nonprofit behind Food Day. He points to new regulations requiring healthier school lunches for kids and big food-industry players, such as Walmart, which is selling more local foods, and McDonald's, which is selling healthier food. Not only that, he adds, but "farmer's markets are booming, and organic and sustainable agriculture are gaining traction among farmers and their customers."
Learn more about Food Day and how you can participate at FoodDay.org.
You may not know that's the case, however, based on the number of news stories lately casting doubt on the benefits of healthy food. Here are four myths you may be hearing—and why they don't portray the strength of the food movement today.
Myth #1: Organic food is no healthier for you.
Recent headlines may cause you to wonder if organic food is really worth it. The truth is, while there may not be huge differences in the nutrients found in organic and conventional vegetables, there are major health advantages to going the chemical-free route. The most recent evidence? A study published in the journal Pediatrics says "organic diets have been convincingly demonstrated to expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease."
Scientists have linked pesticide exposure to a wide range of ailments, including ADHD, autism, lower IQ, obesity, and even certain cancers. Buying organic meat also lowers your risk of coming into contact with dangerous infections from antibiotic-resistant, hard-to-kill superbugs. In addition, organic food is produced without the use of chemical or human sewage sludge fertilizers or genetically engineered seeds that have never been thoroughly tested for human safety.
The Truth about Organic Food
Myth #2: Farmers need biotech to turn a profit.
Two new reports that have come out in the past few months have totally debunked the idea that biotechnologies like genetically modified seeds and pesticides are helping farmers become more profitable, as companies like Monsanto and Dow like to claim. The first was a study in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe by Charles Benbrook, PhD, research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, who found that farmers have increased their pesticide use 7 percent since genetically modified seeds were first introduced in 1996, largely because herbicide-resistant weeds have rendered popular chemicals like Roundup completely ineffective. "Herbicide-resistant weeds are becoming a total nightmare for chemical farmers," Benbrook says. "Some farmers are starting to abandon their fields, which have become unharvestable because of the amount of weeds." Farmers are now spending, on average, $1,300 more per year on pesticides than they were five years ago.
The second comes straight from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), whose National Agricultural Statistics Service is finding that organic farmers, who aren't allowed to use genetically engineered seeds continue to earn higher profits than chemical farmers earn. According to the service's 2011 figures, the average organic producer had sales of $386,412. In 2007, the most recent comparable figure, the average value of sales for all U.S. farmers was $134,807.