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ORGANIC FOOD:
A CHOICE FOR OUR CHILDREN

Raising a family on a budget can pose challenges at times. Watching pennies and doing "the right thing" for our families can sometime seem in conflict. For example, in the case of organic foods and fibers, which can sell at a significant premium to their conventional counterparts, it's understandable to question if the benefits are really worth the extra cost. Looking beyond the price of an organic product and considering its true value may shed light on the subject. When considering products for your children, organic may indeed be a far better value.

Organic Defined

Organic refers to the way agricultural products--food and fiber--are grown and processed. It is an ecological system that relies on healthy, rich soil to produce plants that resist pests and diseases. Organic farming prohibits the use of toxic and persistent chemicals in favor of innovative practices that work with nature, instead of against it, such as crop rotation, cover crop planting, beneficial insect release and composting. In the case of livestock, no antibiotics or synthetic hormones are permitted. Organic production also prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Organic practices mean:

* No pesticides to contaminate our soil and water or injure farm workers

* No fertilizer run-off to contaminate rivers, lakes and oceans

* A healthier and more sustainable environment for us all

Pesticides In Our Food and Environment

Chemicals used in conventional farming pose many risks to human health. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with evaluating pesticides and setting "acceptable risk" levels of exposure. EPA's tests have largely been conducted on fully grown adult men or non-human animal species, exposing them to one chemical at a time. Evidence now shows that chemicals in combination--the way we are usually exposed to them in everyday life-may exponentially increase health risk.

Additionally, many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Now the EPA considers 60% of all herbicides, 90% of all fungicides, and 30% of all insecticides as potentially cancer-causing.

Why Organic Especially for Children?

Due to their fast-growing speedy metabolisms and less varied diets, infants and children are more vulnerable to health and developmental damage. In 1993, a congressionally mandated study by the National Academy of Sciences expressed concern that existing methods of risk evaluation for pesticide exposure were failing children. More recently, the Consumers Union and Environmental Working Group have released studies confirming that children are overexposed even if their exposure is within legal limits.

The Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 mandated a review of agricultural chemicals in light of this new information about risk assessment. But the process is slow. While advocates fight to change the system, buying organic products, if you can afford them, and supporting organic agriculture may be your best protection.

Why Does Organic Cost More?

Organic products do tend to cost more than their conventional counterparts. To some extent, this is changing as production capacity and demand for organic products increase, improving production efficiencies and lowering prices at the checkout. In addition, many involved in organic farming are striving for a sustainable agricultural system--one which is ecologically sound as well as economically viable. Paying farmers a fair price for their products is an important tenet for many involved in organic agriculture.

An Opportunity to Support a Healthier Tomorrow

Our children are our most treasured resource and we have the opportunity to protect them. By reducing toxic exposure, organic products can help us raise healthy, strong children. Through nurturing the soil and keeping toxic and persistent chemicals out of the environment, organic agriculture can help us pass along a healthy and safe planet for future generations. The cost may be a little more, but the value for you and your family may be far greater.


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