Updated: Oct 15, 2020
Going organic has grown in popularity in recent years. And for good reason!
According to cancer.gov, in 2016 alone it was estimated that “1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people will die from the disease.” Cancer is among the leading cause of death worldwide, and with these statistics it feels like each and every one of us have been affected by it in some way. Disease prevention, as well as general avoidance of toxic substances that can cause anything from allergic reactions to hormonal imbalance and reproductive issues rank highest among the reasons that many people choose to go organic.
So to help with that, let's look at what that organic label actually means and why it is so important to go organic:
The USDA National Organic Program defines organic as:
“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 meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.”
There are different levels of organic, and the USDA has created three different categories or organic labeling:
100% Organic=the product was made with 100% organic ingredients
Organic=the product was made with at least 95% organic ingredients
Made with Organic Ingredients=the product was made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients and the remaining 30% cannot be made with GMOs (genetically modified organisms)
In other words, any product that displays the certified organic seal means that the product you are buying is made with organic ingredients and cannot be produced with or exposed to antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, synthetic ingredients, GMOs, or radiation. This also means that anything without the organic seal, can, legally, contain these contaminants that are detrimental to your health. Scary! But everything is FDA Approved, right? When consuming food or using a product that is not certified organic, or certified by another agency like those I discuss here, you are exposing yourself to a number of toxic chemicals that studies have shown to be carcinogenic or to cause a number of other health issues. Many people believe that going organic is not necessary since the FDA must approve all of the products are on store shelves and would never approve something that could cause cancer . . . right? It might come as a surprise to many people that the FDA regulations are frighteningly lax in many of their regulations. The FDA does not monitor or regulate food additives that have been proven by some studies to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). This means that even when there are conflicting studies about the safety of a substance, the FDA will regard it as GRAS and therefore does not need to be regulated at all. In other words, FDA approved foods can contain ingredients that have been proven in some studies to increase your risk of cancer and other diseases.
For example, it is stated in a 1983 study done by the National Research Council Committee on Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer that “there has been no requirement to perform tests to determine carcinogenicity for most substances added to food” and that “of the additives that have been tested, those shown to be carcinogenic when administered orally to laboratory animals are generally prohibited from use. However, there are some exceptions. For example, Congress has passed special legislation (P.L. 95–203) preventing the FDA from restricting the use of the artificial sweetener saccharin, even though it has been shown to induce tumors in test animals (U.S. Congress, 1977).”
Surely there have been more recent studies that prohibit ingredients that cause tumors in lab rats from being added to human food? For the most part, no. In a 2007 report from the FDA reported that they will continue approve aspartame as safe for human consumption, even though a study done in Bologna, Italy found it to be carcinogenic. This is just one example of many that can be found which show the FDA allowing additives in food and medicine that are potentially, and proven, to be detrimental to our health.