Friday, February 01, 2008

A Green Foodie's Manifesto

Food and its preparation are consuming- lame pun intended- for me and something I'm passionate about. I have been feeding my family mostly organic since 2005 at which time the impetus for making the switch was Sam's arrival. Since then, numerous people in my life have questioned my rationale for this choice so I've gathered my thoughts and a bit of research to share.

Much of my pregnancy reading mentioned the importance of feeding infants and children organic. For the last year, I've also been trying to incorporate seasonal food into our diet too. The two compliment each other and my values. Both approaches are environmentally responsible and healthful.

Food & the Environment:
Organic food is good for the environment because it's produced without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals that pollute the earth in the process. Buying organic also supports businesses selling goods produced by more environmentally responsible means. As more consumers choose organic options, the economics of the equation become more favorable for us all. Simply put, organic food will become cheaper and more attainable for us as demand for it grows.

Local, seasonal food means less carbon emissions resulting from transportation. Calculate the carbon footprint of those New Zealand kiwis and you'll know just what I'm talking about.

Food & Good Health:
In terms of healthfulness, I believe eating organic foods mitigates a yet unproven health threat. I'm generally not a conspiracy theorist, but I'm uncertain about whether factory and conventional farming practices leave toxic residues behind in the finished product. Look at how Alar was used on apples for decades before it was proven to be a human carcinogen and the EPA subsequently banned it. Conventional chemicals used in farming today may be more of the same and given the option, I choose to not be the guinea pig in case that unfortunate truth is proven in the future. Additionally, there are some studies that show organic foods are actually more nutritious.

Eating local, seasonal food is a healthy alternative to the year-round repertoire because it introduces dietary variety. This ensures no nutrients are missed in our diet. If not challenged to make the most of our local produce, how else would I have become so adept at preparing butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash?

With all the information that's out there, Bob and I decided to practice the precautionary principle and choose organic whenever we can. It takes more time and money, but it's a choice I feel grateful to be able to make.

There are, of course, exceptions to organic eating in our house because we are reasonable people with two young children. (And everyone knows life can be challenging enough without climbing up on one's organic high horse.) First, I try not to lose sight of the big picture. Making major dietary improvements like eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats is step one in improving any diet. Making the switch to organic is step two and should be done in a reasonable and thoughtful fashion. Sometimes I have to remind myself: it's better to eat conventional fruits and vegetables than organic cookies. Also, if I limit us to eating only organic, we'll miss out on many healthy foods that I simply can't find in the organic variety. Eating organic as much as we can takes away the mom angst I feel when Sam comes home from school with lips stained the color of Red #5. I'll do my best to control the food served when it's under my roof and when the kids are out, well, I won't feel so bad about what they eat. After all, nobody likes a soup nazi- especially not an organic one.

In my next post, I'll address some of my tactics for making this choice a feasible one for a young family. Until then, throw me some comments. What's your take on going organic?
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