Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Organic Gardening - Good For You and the Planet, Too

Each month, I’m a guest on a local radio talk show in mid-Missouri. I share the latest food and health research, promote gardening and take questions from callers – the best part.

Recently, I reported a study showing that children who eat organic diets have significantly lower exposure to toxic pesticides commonly used in agricultural production. That’s important because children’s small bodies are more susceptible to the biological effects of even minute levels of pesticide and herbicide residues.

Just then, an older gentleman called in to say that pesticides weren’t causing him any problem, so why should he be bothered learning about organic gardening methods or pay more for organic produce at the market?

Great question!

I explained that the smartest gardening and food choices go beyond personal health. Maybe at 60, 70 or 80 years of age, you’ll feel that pesticide residues on your strawberries won’t impact your longevity. But growing practices matter a lot for our children, grandchildren and the planet they’ll inherit from us.

If we can think beyond our own bowl of berries, we’ll see how organic gardening and food production helps protect farm workers and their families, wildlife and waterways from toxic chemical residues and runoff. Organic growing practices promote healthier soils and prevent erosion, too. Plus, organic gardening methods are more energy-efficient because the majority of commercial pesticides and nitrogen fertilizers use nonrenewable fossil fuel for production. Organic production methods don’t permit the use of fertilizers that are manufactured from natural gas or fossil fuel.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal concluded that organic methods were more important for some crops over others. For example, “…most of any chemical residue on a non-organic banana or orange gets thrown away with the peel.”

However, Chris McCullum, Ph.D., a registered dietitian who researches food, nutrition and environmental health issues, says that when she visited Costa Rica several years ago, she learned about the contamination of local water supplies due to pesticides used in banana cultivation.

In other words, as Maryland-based dietitian and organic advocate Amanda Archibald explains, the decision to embrace organic growing methods “is more than skin-deep.”

Focusing entirely on the individual over our collective society is a recipe for disaster. Just ask environmentally conscious dietitian Emma Steen, from Portland, OR. She embraces organic gardening because it “contributes to an overall safer and healthier ecosystem.”

New research compiled by the American Dietetic Association’s Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Practice Group shows that produce cultivated in an organic system contains higher levels of health-protecting antioxidants, too.

If you ask organic farmers and home gardeners why they grow food organically, some share negative past personal experiences with chemicals; others say they don’t want to harm the environment or hurt their children. Whatever the reason, we need to remember this: Children are our future. Let’s garden to protect and promote their full potential!

To view this article with photos go to For free registration as a Learn2Grow member go to

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