Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Jim Fain

Is an organically labeled fruit or veggie what all of us should be buying?

  Many people spend a lot more money than they would if they didn't buy organic. Many of these same people struggle to make ends meet and yet they buy expensive veggies, meat, starches and fruit just because they are labeled with that one magical word -- organic. Is this the best way to be sure of nutrition and health from our food?

  So lets start big on this topic. Last night on a 60 Minutes segment, I saw a concrete vault built deeply into the frozen permafrost near Iceland. The vault will withstand almost any catastrophe we can think of and we are currently filling it with seeds. Yes, it is a repository, sort of a library, of seeds from all around the Earth.

  The people who built the vault anticipate worldwide calamity and they wanted to have a way for people to replant their food source. Trouble is, the varieties of foodstuff from our gardens are already sharply decreased even when compared to 100 years ago. The earnest middle-aged man who headed this project said during the interview that just 100 years ago we had in America more than 7,000 named varieties of apples and now we may have as few as 35.

  Because of having to feed 6.6 billion humans plus our animal food sources, big agribusiness has had to become hyper efficient. This means reducing the numbers of choice so that quantity can be cheaply grown and produced. The consolidation of types of veggies, fruit, starches and meat makes it all more predictable and easier, cheaper and less subject to disease.

  We've never had more to eat, but we've never had fewer choices, either. What distinct flavors are we missing? What nutrition has been short changed?

  A few years ago we didn't know about phytosterols. Nutritional medicine didn't think they were important. Now we know just how important they are for the immune system, prostate health and cholesterol reduction. Does the organic label mean much?

  Certainly, a locally grown organic foodstuff is ideal, particularly if grown from heirloom seeds. But beyond that, the organic label has less and less meaning.

  Compare a locally grown heirloom tomato to an organically labeled tomato mass produced and shipped from South America. I know which one I would choose. For flavor, texture and nutrition, nothing beats close to home.

  If you are spending hard earned money on shipped-organic produce ... please rethink your position. To me a more local non-organic choice trumps anything shipped thousands of miles. Plus, there is the global pollution aspect of using all of those hydrocarbons to deliver your foreign tomato, even with the organic label.

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