A walk around anywhere in London town will provide as much evidence as you need that the world has gone mad over all things organic. I ate in a restaurant in London recently and everything on the menu was organic (except for the coffee, and that was only because they’d run out of the organic stuff)
What the hell is going on? Am I the only one laughing at the folks paying through their noses for organic foods in restaurants or outlets like “wholefoods” and “Planet Organic”?
Everyone seems desperate to be able to say that they eat organic, have gone vegan or drive a Prius. People appear more interested in bragging to their mates about these activities than they are in uncovering whether there is empirical evidence for any benefits.
As regular readers of this blog will know, there is no better way to take the temperature of a country on a specific topic than to have a look at what that country is searching for online.
Here are the most UpToDate online searches for Organic Foods:
organic definition science
organic definition biology
organic food definition
organic food examples
list of organic food
benefits of organic food
are organic foods healthier
is organic food really organic?
organic food facts
non organic food definition
It certainly seems like more folks are wanting to know some facts behind the Organic Food Movement, which is great. There is far more of a curiosity about organic foods than there was just a couple years ago when the Organic Movement took off, but we, as a society, are far from informed about the facts.
Myths About Organic Foods
1. Organic food is free of pesticides
A staggering number of people believe this pesticide myth to be true, but it just isn’t. Organic farms across the UK and USA use over 20 different types of chemicals and pesticides which are approved (at least in the US) by the US organic standards.
The only difference is that they are made from natural chemicals, not synthetic ones.
But, are these chemicals necessarily better for us?
Until very recently in America the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) had not tested the chemicals being used as plant and animal-based pesticides and, when they did, they found that most of the chemicals used (like copper sulphate and pyrethrum) were actually more toxic than their synthetic counterparts.
And since these chemicals were deemed “natural” they are applied far more liberally than the synthetic chemicals on normal produce.
2. Growing food organically is better for the environment
If the pesticides mentioned above are used, then this way of farming is no better for the environment. If no pesticides are used, then it is likely that up to 50% of the crops are unusable because the pests destroy the yield and it becomes unfit for consumption (nothing says “I’m eating organic” like finding a worm in your salad).
While this isn’t a major problem yet, it is only due to the small scale of this type of farming that it isn’t yet an issue. If the whole world farmed this way we would need almost twice the space that the current farms occupy, which would wipe out animal habitats, use twice as much water and cause twice as much wastage (keeping in mind that right now, as you read this, over 2 billion people are very hungry and over 1 billion are literally starving).
In fact, Dennis Avery, of the Hudson Institute’s Centre for Global Food Issues, estimates that modern high-yield farming has saved 15 million square miles of wildlife habitat, and that if the world switched to organic farming, we’d need to cut down an additional 10 million square miles of forest just to achieve the same yield. (still think organic is a good idea?)
3. Buying organic supports green companies and small farms
So, you think you’re supporting the little guy? This is not always the truth. A significant slice of the food with an “organic” label on it in your local stores is produced by a massive corporation (did you think they would sit back and lose market share?). Cascadian Farms, Back to Nature, and Morningstar Farms are brands owned by General Mills, Kraft, and Kellogg’s, respectively.
These companies are very well known for sourcing the cheapest product internationally. From an estimated $1 Billion spent at Whole Foods on organic produce last year, only 16% was grown locally. Add this to the C02 emissions from all the shipping and transporting of all these goods from around the world and organic food starts to look a little less green, don’t you think?
4. Organic food is better for us
Studies done by the AAP (American Academy of Paediatrics) suggested that there is currently no evidence that consuming an organic diet leads to improved health or lower risk of disease.
In 2012 a Stanford University study found that “there isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods” and that “paying more for the organic label is a waste of money” (ouch)
If you want great tasting food that is good for you, buy local, in season fruits and veg, it’ll be great quality and taste fantastic.
There have been fantastic local GMO (Genetically modified Organisms) crops that have been engineered to be more nutritious than their conventional or organic counterpart, which brings us to our next myth…
5. GMOs haven’t been tested and could be dangerous
I’ve heard GMO’s being linked to everything from shorter people to young women developing earlier.
People hiss and balk at the mere mention of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s). The very idea of agricultural biotechnology messing with our foods seems to drive people into a frenzy (at least the people who frequent Whole Foods and Planet Organic).
All this means though is that the food’s genetic material has been changed in a way that does not occur naturally, such as introducing DNA from another organism for the purpose of higher yields or resistance to insects.
Very few people know that this has been done with foods for a long time already. Have you ever wondered what a non-genetically engineered banana looks like?
Hundreds of independent studies across the world have confirmed that genetically modified crops are just as safe as other crops.
Elsewhere in Europe (known for its wariness of GMOs), a University of Perugia study published a review of 1,783 GMO safety tests, 770 of which examined the health impact on humans or animals. Researchers found Zero evidence that GMO foods are dangerous.
6. Treating food with radiation causes cancer
Too many people believe that subjecting food to radiation somehow makes it radioactive and therefore causes cancer when ingested. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) know this is not true. This scientific process has long ago been approved by both in order to decrease instances of severe food poisoning and increase a food’s longevity.
The radiation kills bacteria on food, and then passes right through, it does not get trapped in our banana and lurk there quietly waiting to poison and kill us (only stupidity does that).
The World Health Organization actually believes that irradiation is as important a discovery as pasteurization (which people were also extremely sceptical of at first, and some soon-to-be-dead people still are). However, the outcry from people who believe irradiation is inherently dangerous keeps it from being implemented on a grand scale in America. Likely allowing harm and even death to occur needlessly.
PS: Microwaving your food doesn’t cause cancer either, nor will it give you radiation poisoning or any such other nonsense.
Let’s Turn Our Attention to Detoxing
Every time a friend, colleague or family member says that they are in desperate need of a detox due to poor diet or hard drinking, I very nearly have an aneurism (though I usually manage to keep my feelings to myself).
What the algorithms tell us people are searching on Detox:
body detox drinks
what comes out of your body when you detox
foods that detox your body
how to know if detox is working
best detox cleanse for weight loss
detox cleanse drink
DIY detox drinks
how to drink detox water
detox drinks at home
apple cider vinegar detox drink
detox drinks Walmart
are detox drinks safe
detox drink for flat belly
best detox products
how to detox body for weight loss
how to remove toxins from body home remedy
full body detox kit
what to expect when you’re detoxing
how to clean your blood from viruses
simplest foods that detox your body
20 foods that detox your body and mind
vegetarian detox recipes (this one is my favourite)
Using the word detox to promote drinks like tea, or types of foods and other products is essentially meaningless (it’s time to give it a rest).
Anyone with a functioning liver, kidneys and digestive system doesn’t need any help removing toxins. Most are broken down or excreted within hours. There is no evidence that juices, smoothies or electrical appliances make the slightest difference to this.
One cannot detox one’s body by drinking lots of water or soup. A detox of one’s liver or kidneys is not needed and if it was required, due to poisoning, could not be achieved by abstaining from alcohol or drinking any concoction that is either green or tastes bad, or both.
I do have to admit to feeling a type of guilty pleasure when someone I know boasts about how much money they have spent on detox products. These types of people should have money taken from them as a type of gullibility tax. However, the companies and people who push these false claims should be held accountable and revealed to be the snake-oil sales people they are.
The Experts (qualified experts)
Recently, the Unilever-owned “Pukka Herbs” was told by the UK Advertising Standards Authority NOT to use the term “Detox” to advertise one of its teas, given that there is “no scientific evidence that it removes toxins”
“Let’s be clear,” says Edzard Ernst (emeritus professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University) “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t. The respectable one”, he says, “is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.” (I love this guy)
“If toxins did build up in a way your body couldn’t excrete”, he continues, “you’d likely be dead or in need of serious medical intervention. The healthy body has kidneys, a liver, skin, and lungs that are detoxifying as we speak. There is no known way – certainly not through detox treatments – to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better.”
With celebrity advocates from Gwyneth Paltrow (who is also an antivaxxer) to Oprah Winfrey, detoxing has become big business. Rich Peppiatt (journalist and filmmaker) puts it best, “Much of the sales patter revolves around “toxins”: poisonous substances that you ingest or inhale. But it’s not clear exactly what these toxins are. If they were named, they could be measured before and after treatment to test effectiveness. Yet, much like floaters in your eye, try to focus on these toxins and they scamper from view”.
In 2009, a network of scientists assembled by the UK charity ‘Sense about Science’ contacted the manufacturers of 15 products sold in pharmacies and supermarkets that claimed to detoxify. The products ranged from dietary supplements to smoothies and shampoos. When the scientists asked for evidence behind the claims, NOT ONE of the manufacturers could define what they meant by detoxification, let alone name the toxins.
Yet, inexplicably, the shelves of health food stores are still packed with products bearing the word “detox”, it’s astounding. People claim to feel better and to lose weight after a week of detox juices and leaves. Yes, you feel better because you’ve stopped eating crap and drinking alcohol and you’ve lost weight because you’re starving yourself. The headaches are not the toxins leaving your body, those headaches are from your body letting you know that you need to eat actual food.
It’s akin to some new contraption promising weight loss “if combined with a healthy diet”. For example, you could slap yourself for 5min a day, and “combined with a healthy diet” you’d also lose weight, but not from the slapping.
My all-time favourite detox ritual though, has to be the colonic irrigation. This practise would have us believe that there are evil pieces of compact poo hiding out (sometimes for years) somewhere deep inside your poop-shoot, causing you to feel run down and ill.
The cure is a hose inserted into your rectum, up which warm soapy water is injected filling your lower bowels. One then has the need to expel this water, which has now become soiled (not by the invisible evil compact poo, but by yesterday’s low-fat chai tea and vegan burger).
One is sometimes afforded a viewing to a transparent pipe through which the expelled water passes. The person administering the procedure typically points to the offending chunks as they move by and like a tour bus guide, offers her “expert” opinion on the significance of each structure.
Fortunately, no evil poo has ever been discovered and tested, though countless tests have been carried out in search of these critters. The patient is left feeling “refreshed and rejuvenated”. Well of course they are, so would I be if I was finally able to expel a gallon of hot soapy water that had been pumped into me. I’d feel fantastic and leave the rooms skipping like a schoolgirl on her snack break.
I think we all deserve to just take a big breath and say enough with all the nonsense. Some of the most obvious ways of living well are instinctive.
Whether you’re trying to get into shape, change your personal image or trying to meet that someone special, there are ways to do it without buying into nonsense that is sure to make you feel foolish later on.
Want to feel better during the week? Stop getting drunk every night.
Think you should lose some weight? Do some more exercise (but don’t try to be skinny if you’re not built that way).
Want clearer skin and a healthier complexion? Stop eating sugar and smoking, both are poison.
Want to be in touch with yourself and reality? Meditate in place of talking rubbish to the boys at the pub.
You’ll notice that the answer to none of the above is eating organic foods, detoxing or sticking a pipe up your bum.
My 93-year-old grandmother’s advice is wonderful in its simplicity and still more accurate than almost everything available today. She says, “get more sleep, eat if you’re hungry, drink if you’re thirsty and if it smells rotten, it probably is…”
Thanks for reading..
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