“The gut flora with its unique composition is passed mainly from
the mother to the child. Let’s look at a very common scenario: If
a material grandmother of an autistic child had an abnormal gut flora
which resulted in arthritis in her case she passed the flora to her daughter.
Quite commonly for her generation, she opted not to breast feed her daughter
because it was not fashionable at the time. This deepened the damage to
the gut flora of the daughter who developed asthma, eczema, and/or a digestive
disorder as a result. In her generation most girls were put on a contraceptive
pill from late teens for quite a few years before they had children. The
Pill would alter her gut flora even further. Then she has a child to whom
she passes her deeply abnormal gut flora. This child develops autism.”
Growing food in rich soil an uphill battle. As long ago as 1938, a warning
bell sounded about the eroding mineral content in soil. A group of doctors
Document No. 264 to the floor of the United States Senate:
Vegetables were losing their power and people were at risk. A second warning
bell was sounded at the
1992 Earth Summit Report:
Minerals have two purposes in the human body – they build skeletal
and soft tissues, and they regulate processes such as heartbeat, blood
clotting, internal fluid pressure, nerve response, and oxygen transport.
Magnesium, for example, regulates more than 300 body functions. “Restless
leg syndrome” may be a magnesium deficiency because it helps regulate
sleep cycles and maintains normal muscle and nerve function. Magnesium
also keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and
keeps bones strong. Magnesium helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes
normal blood pressure, and is involved in energy metabolism and protein
synthesis. There is an increased interest in the role of magnesium in
preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular
disease, and diabetes.
Without minerals, nothing else works. Amino acids and enzymes don’t
work and so vitamins and other nutrients don’t get broken down and
In the normal order of things, a plant’s roots take up minerals into
the plant itself. Then those minerals transfer to us when we eat the plant.
But modern farming methods have virtually sterilized the soil.
Look in your garden shed an you will likely find you are using “NPK”
fertilizers. That’s nitrogen/phosphorus/potassium. Synthetic NPK
commercial fertilizers were introduced in 1908. You can get lush growth
on NPK, but not highly nutritious food. NPK is cheap, but incomplete,
like saying that the only colors in the rainbow are red, green, and yellow.
Many inorganic fertilizers do not replace trace mineral elements in the
soil which become gradually depleted by crops. This depletion has been
linked to studies which have shown a marked fall (up to 75%) in the quantities
of such minerals present in fruit and vegetables.
Soil also contains bacteria, fungi, plant and animal life in a state of
constant interaction and balance. Every one of these organisms needs dozens
of different minerals to survive and play its part in the ecosystem. Some
bacteria have a vital role in converting soil minerals into chemical forms
that plants can use. NPK fertilizers gradually change the soil pH toward
acidic conditions in which these bacteria can not survive.
Weak crops are more subject to insect damage, so they need more pesticides.
Pesticides and herbicides also reduce the uptake of trace minerals by
A raging debate is underway on why and to what extent excessive nitrogen
fertilizer use has degraded soil quality around the world. The problem
is unmistakable in many countries as average crop yield levels plateau
or even start to decline. Many in the organic camp believe that chemical
agriculture was an intermediary step, created when there was a big gap
between demand and supply and when many countries didn’t know the
science of agriculture.
Dr. Charles Benbrook of the Organic Center has documented that today’s
genetically modified crops are not making a positive contribution to the needs of a growing world.
And for those who sniff at the less than perfect look of an organic food,
“In terms of nutrient content per ounce or gram of apple, lettuce,
carrot, or grapes, smaller is better. There is also convincing evidence
supporting the conclusion that in some years for some organic crops, a
higher level of pest pressure, coupled with the lack of conventional pesticide
applications, forces plants to divert energy from growth to defense mechanisms,
which typically entail increased biosynthesis of plant secondary metabolites.
Many of these are potent antioxidants and account for a significant slice
of the unique health-promoting benefits - and flavors - of fruits and
Commercial food is typically harvested unripe. On the one hand, you get
longer shelf life. But on the other hand, Mother Nature has not completed
her creative process. These foods cannot yield the full nutritional potential
of the phytochemicals which would have been present at full maturity.
Combine all this with the fact farmers get paid to produce maximum yield
per acre, not maximum nutrition, and we begin to understand why what we
buy in the grocery store doesn’t have much nutritional oomph.
Most organic food found at local farmers markets has been picked ripe,
within 48 hours of coming to market. And organic farming is about more
than the NPK.
The Ground Beneath Organics
The promise of organic farming is that it increases biodiversity, ecological
services, food security, and can mitigate climate change by reducing and
sequestering green house gas emissions. Organic can restore marginal and
unproductive lands and produce higher yields and more nutritious food
by increasing the soil’s organic matter and nutrient content. Organic
can reduce water usage, help crops withstand drought and reduce erosion
by increasing the soil’s capacity to absorb and hold water.
The core values of organic farming are the use of organic fertilizers,
crop rotation and planting of flowers like marigolds for pest control,
restoration of soil nutrients, seeds collected from real living plants
(not modified by gene splicing in the lab), animals born to a parent (not
cloned in the laboratory), and animals raised humanely and on a natural
diet. Food produced organically is a source of health, not a source of
pathogenic bacteria from the industrial waste fertilizers and feedlot
cattle just up the road.
There is a vast and dynamic array of conventional and organic farming systems.
According to Professor Benbrook, is nearly impossible to define with precision
what any organic or conventional system encompasses. Generally speaking:
|Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth.
||Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.
|Spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease.
||Use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce
pests and disease.
|Use chemical herbicides to manage weeds.
||Rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.
|Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to spur growth
and prevent disease in conditions of vast overcrowding.
||Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive
measures - such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing
- to help minimize disease.
Natural Farming Yields More Food
"To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most
efficient farming techniques available," says Olivier De Schutter,
the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the 2011
report, "Agro-ecology and the right to food."
This United Nations report shows that developing nations can double food
production within a decade by shifting to natural agriculture and away
from use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Kenya has made use of
insect-trapping plants and Bangladesh has used ducks to eat weeds in rice
paddies, for example. According to the report, eco-farming projects in
57 nations have shown average crop yield gains of 80 percent by tapping
natural methods for enhancing soil and protecting against pests. Recent
projects in 20 African countries had resulted in a doubling of crop yields
within three to 10 years. Those lessons could be widely mimicked elsewhere,
the report said.
“Agriculture is at a crossroads,” according to the study by
De Schutter. "We won’t solve hunger and stop climate change
with industrial farming on large plantations." The U.N. is looking
to depress record food prices and avoid the costly oil-dependent model
of industrial farming. “The cost of food production has been very
closely following the cost of oil,” he said. Developed nations would
have a harder time making a quick shift to natural farming because of
what he called an “addiction” to an industrial, oil-based
model of farming. Still, a global long-term shift is needed.
The report also said natural methods could also make farms more resilient
to the projected impact of climate change including floods, droughts and
a rise in sea levels that the report said was already making fresh water
near some coasts too salty for use in irrigation.
Organic Standards in a Nutshell
National Organic Program – Organic Production and Handling Standards
• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 X more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene
True free range hens eat a natural diet – all kinds of seeds, green
plants, insects and worms, usually along with grain or laying mash. Factory
farm birds never get outdoors and are fed a cheap mixture of corn, soy
and/or cottonseed meals, with additives.
The practice of pumping up poultry with salt water is basically a hidden
tax of up to 15 percent that extracts about $2 billion from American consumers
You think you’re buying 7.5 pounds of chicken; if 15 percent is water
weight, you’re really getting less than 6.5 pounds of chicken and
more than one pound of added water.
Refined salt is a major promoter of high blood pressure, stroke, heart
disease, and other ailments.
Air chilled organic chicken is a better choice.
- Land will have no prohibited substances applied to it for at least 3 years
before the harvest of an organic crop.
- The use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge is
- Soil fertility and crop nutrients will be managed through tillage and cultivation
practices, crop rotations, and cover crops, supplemented with animal and
crop waste materials and allowed synthetic materials.
- Preference will be given to the use of organic seeds and other planting
stock, but a farmer may use non-organic seeds and planting stock under
Crop pests, weeds, and diseases will be controlled primarily through management
practices including physical, mechanical, and biological controls. When
these practices are not sufficient, a biological or botanical substance,
or synthetic substance approved for use on the
National List may be used.
- Animals for slaughter must be raised under organic management from the
last third of gestation, or no later than the second day of life for poultry.
- Producers are required to feed livestock agricultural feed products that
are 100 percent organic, but may also provide allowed vitamin and mineral
- Organically raised animals may not be given hormones to promote growth,
or antibiotics for any reason.
- Preventive management practices, including the use of vaccines, will be
used to keep animals healthy. Producers are prohibited from withholding
treatment from a sick or injured animal; however, animals treated with
a prohibited medication may not be sold as organic.
- All organically raised animals must have access to the outdoors, including
access to pasture for ruminants.
- All non-agricultural ingredients, whether synthetic or non-synthetic, must
be included on the National List of Allowed Synthetic and Prohibited Non-Synthetic
- Handlers must prevent the commingling of organic with non-organic products
and protect organic products from contact with prohibited substances.
- In a processed product labeled as “organic,” all agricultural
ingredients must be organically produced, unless the ingredient(s) is
not commercially available in organic form.
Is It Really Organic?
The organic standards are subject to an ongoing political fight to dilute
them. In great part because of a lobbyist for Kraft Foods, foods eligible
to use the USDA Organic seal need be just 95 percent organic now instead
of 100 percent. But think of it this way: organic foods have 95 percent
less carcinogens, pesticides, hormone disruptors, and neurotoxins. A lot
of people think that is worth paying a little extra for.
The list of what the un-organic 5 percent may contain has grown from 77
to 245 substances (as of early 2010) since it was created in 2002. Companies
must appeal to the Organic Standards Board every five years to keep a
substance on the list, explaining why an organic alternative has not been
found. The goal was to shrink the list over time, but only one item has
been removed so far.
Food labeled “made with organic ingredients” must contain at
least 70 percent organic ingredients.
There is organic, and then there is what some describe as “green
washing” that happens when a conventional agribusiness company buys
up a smaller organic one. Dean Foods, for example, owns Horizon which
is sold at big box discounters as well as Whole Foods. In fact, two thirds
of organic milk and cream and half of organic cheese and yogurt are sold
now through conventional supermarkets. As
The Cornucopia Institute documented, many of these large industrial “organic” farms
and dairy operations reflect the same abuses and problems of the conventional
food system: extremely energy intensive, systematic abuse of workers,
reduced food quality, and damage to biodiversity. The Organic Consumers
boycotted Horizon, calling it an industrial-scale dairy feedlot that provided their cows
little or no access to pasture.
Who polices organic food from oversees? In 2008, news broke that frozen
vegetables imported from China, sold at Whole Foods under their in-house
brand label “365 Organic,” were highly questionable. The USDA
does not inspect imported foods, so how do we know that what comes from
China is truly organic, and not just a label slapped on the package? Linda
Greer, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, has
been to farms in China: “I wouldn’t buy something organic
from China with the idea it is really organic because we have had a difficult
time tracking things.” And the “carbon footprint”
- the fuel required to ship food oversees - goes against organic principals.
There is also the issue of trying to piggyback on the organic movement
by using the word “natural” and charging organic prices. “Natural”
has absolutely no regulatory criteria; anything can be called natural.
The beef at one market is completely grass-fed - that’s natural.
The beef at another market that is “grain finished” is also
called natural, but is, in fact, not. All cattle start out grass fed,
but the last few months most end up in a commercial feedlot eating an
unnatural diet of genetically modified soy and corn that dramatically
changes their nutritional profile for the worse. These feedlot animals
are given synthetic hormones and antibiotics - many of which have been
linked to breast and prostate cancer in humans. There is nothing natural
But “natural” sounds good, so food manufacturers want to use
it. In April of 2008, the FDA told a trade magazine that it did not consider
high fructose corn syrup to be natural, only to reverse itself three months later after HFCS maker
Archer Daniels Midland protested.[28,29]
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has pressured Whole Foods Market
and its supplier, wholesale giant United Natural Foods, Inc., to respect
workers rights and put a priority on selling organic, as opposed to so-called
“natural foods” saying:
“The organic community has built a $25 billion ‘certified organic’
food and farming sector. This consumer-driven movement, under steady attack
by the biotech and big-food lobby, with little or no help from government,
has managed to create a healthy and sustainable alternative to America’s
disastrous, chemical- and energy-intensive system of industrial agriculture.
“However, the annual $50 billion natural food and products industry
is threatening to undermine the organic movement by flooding the marketplace
with conventional products greenwashed with ‘natural’ labeling
... routinely produced using pesticides, chemical fertilizer, hormones,
genetic engineering, and sewage sludge. ‘Natural’, ‘all-natural,’
and ‘sustainable,’ products are rarely backed up by rules,
regulations, or third party certification.”
In August 2009, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey admitted “We sell a bunch
of junk,” and bowed to OCA pressure with a promise to sell
significantly more organics in 2010.
You Might Be Surprised Who Owns the Organic Companies
Did you know that Clorox bought Bert’s Bees in 2007? Horizon Organic
is owned by Dean Foods. Kashi is owned by Kellogg’s. Back to Nature
is owned by Kraft, which is owned by Philip Morris (tobacco). Cascadian
Farms is ultimately owned by General Foods. Seeds of Change is owned by
M&M Mars Candy. Toms of Maine is owned by Colgate. Coca-Cola owns
40% percent of Honest Tea. Unilever owns Ben & Jerry’s.
Kudos to Philip Howard for keeping track of the shifting landscape of who
owns who in the “organic” arena. Howard is an assistant professor
at Michigan State University’s
Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource and, among other things, studies the hidden impacts of consolidation of
the food industry.
Keeping the Organic in Organic
After hearing that Clorox acquired Burt’s Bees, people called the
company and accused it of selling out. The new Burt’s Bees Chief
Executive John Replogle told people: “Don’t judge Clorox as
much by where they’ve been as much as where they intend to go,”
he said. Clorox promised to learn from Burt’s Bees and go green.
But consumers are skeptical that mainstream, large companies will hold
true to organic principals and content. The boycott of Horizon dairy products
is a case in point about principals. Boca Burgers is a case in point about
content - their veggie burgers used to be made of organic ingredients
and were gluten free. Now Kraft owns that company; organic ingredients
are out, gluten is in.
The USDA created the National Organic Program in 2002. By then, major food
companies had bought up many of the small, independent organic companies.
That corporate firepower appears to have pressured the government to expand
the definition of what is organic; the manufacturing of processed foods
often require ingredients, additives, or processing agents that either
do not exist in organic form or are not available in large enough quantities
for mass production.
People on the organic side of the fence are concerned about dilution of
the organic label. In 2003, Arthur Harvey, who grows organic blueberries
in Maine, successfully sued the USDA, arguing that the fledgling National
Organic Program had violated federal law by allowing synthetic additives.
“The big boys like Kraft realized they could really cash in by filling
the shelves with products with the organics seal,” Harvey said.
“But they were sort of inhibited by the original law that said no
His victory was short-lived. The Organic Trade Association, which represents
corporations such as Kraft, Dole, and Dean Foods, lobbied for and received
language in a 2006 appropriations bill allowing certain synthetic food
substances in the preparation, processing and packaging of foods which
bear the USDA organic label, creating conditions for a flood of processed
Joe Smillie was a founding member of the Organic Trade Association of North
America. Today he is a member of the Organic Standards Board and a Senior
Vice President of Quality Assurance International, which is involved in
certifying 65 percent of organic products found on supermarket. As he
sees it, advocates for the most restrictive standards are unrealistic
and are inhibiting the growth of organics.
“People are really hung up on regulations,” Smillie said in
2009. “I say, ‘Let’s find a way to bend that one, because
it’s not important.’ . . . What are we selling? Are we selling
health food? No. Consumers, they expect organic food to be growing in
a greenhouse on Pluto. Hello? We live in a polluted world. It isn’t
pure. We are doing the best we can.”
And therein lies the rub. People who buy organics spend the extra money
because they do want organic food to be healthy food. They want companies
held to a higher standard than Joe Smillie may think is okay. Yet we do
live in a polluted world where money talks.
It’s Our Choice
So what can we do about it? Yes money talks - and we can use that to
our advantage. We as consumers have a lot of buying power. Companies listen.
When nobody buys their products, they stop offering those products. Wars
are not won by fighting back, as a rule - that just leads to more war.
Wars are won by choosing a different path.
We all have the opportunity, and the ability, to choose what we buy. If
we cannot afford organic vegetables, then at the very least we can afford
vegetables that are grown in the ground, not chopped up in a can together
with chemicals and flavor-enhancers. If we cannot afford organic or grass-fed
beef, then at the very least we can buy meat that looks like a piece of
meat, not something processed into slices or inserted into frozen lasagna.
Nobody forces us to buy potato chips or candy bars or sodas.
We have the choice of what foods we put into our mouths. Let us choose
wisely, for ourselves, for our families, and for our future generations.
RESOURCES for good and healthy food:
www.arizonafarmersmarkets.com - find out the location and times of various farmers’ market in
the greater Phoenix area.
www.WeDeliverQuality.com - Topline Foods, a food delivery service
www.naturesgardendelivered.com - an Arizona organic delivery service
www.gardens.com/go/browse/csa/Arizona - Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) in Arizona provide regular deliveries
of local, organic food
www.organicconsumers.org - a research and action center for the organic and fair-trade food movement,
maintains a comprehensive Web archive of articles about genetically engineered
foods, cloning, food safety, organics and globalization.
www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx - a program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium designed to raise consumer awareness
about buying seafood from sustainable sources; they offer a downloadable,
pocket-sized, region-by-region guide to eco-friendly seafood.
www.locavores.com - how to meet the challenge of eating locally
www.eatwild.com - author Jo Robinson explains why grass-fed is best, plus lists of pasture-based farms
www.eatwellguide.com - type in your ZIP Code, will point you to farmers in your area growing
pastured chickens or organic produce or grass-finished beef
www.heritagefoodusa.com - the sales and marketing arm for Slow Food USA; buy pork, beef, turkey
www.localharvest.org - the best organic food grown close to you
www.cornucopia.org - through research, advocacy, and economic development, works to empower
farmers and consumers in support of ecologically produced local, organic
and authentic food.
www.michaelpollan.com - journalist who exposes the darker sides of industrialized food
“Animal Factory - The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and
Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment,” by David Kirby
“This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader,” by Joan Dye Gussow
“Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating From America’s Farmers’
Markets,” by Deborah Madison
“Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods,” by Gary Paul Nabhan
“Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables,” by Farmer John Peterson and Angelic Organics.
“Holy Cows and Hog Heaven: The Food Buyer’s Guide to Farm-Fresh
Food,” by Joel Salatin
“Righteous Porkchop - Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory
Farms” by Nicolette Hahn Niman
 Maryse F. Bouchard, PhD; David C. Bellinger, PhD; et al.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate
Pediatrics, May 2010  Netherwood T, Martín-Orúe SM, O’Donnell
AG, Gockling S, Graham J, Mathers JC and Gilbert HJ (2004).
Assessing the survival of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract.
Nature Biotechnology 22(2):204-209.  Michelle Greehalgh,
Haitian Farmers Reject Monsanto Donation.
Food Safety News, June 7, 2010 
New Evidence Confirms the Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods. Charles Benbrook, et al; The Organic Center, 2008  Food Standards Agency,
Organic Review Published. July, 2009 
www.organic-center.org/science.nutri.php?action=view&report_id=157  Marian Burros,
Is Organic Food Provably Better?
The New York Times, January 16, 2003  Ibid  Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD.
Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Medinform Publishing, September 209 reprint, Chapter 4.  Ibid, chapter
5 – Genetics  Dr. Sam Epstein,
American Beef: Why is it Banned in Europe? Cancer Prevention Coalition.  David Kirby,
Animal Factory – The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and
Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment. St. Martin’s Press, 2010  Environmental Working Group.
EWG’s 2010 Shoppers Guide to Pesticides  Medical News Today:
Restless Leg Syndrome Linked To Magnesium Deficiency. December 7, 2009 
Magnesium. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health  Felicity
Not on the Label. Penguin. 2004. page 213 
Soil Minderal Depletion-Can a Healthy Diet be Sufficient In Today’s World?  ibid  Xiao-Bing Yang, Guang-Guo Ying, et al.
Influence of Biochars on Plant Uptake and Dissipation of Two Pesticides
in an Agricultural Soil.
J. Agric. Food Chem., June 14, 2010, 58 (13), pp 7915-7921  R. L. Mulvaney, S. A. Khan,
T. R. Ellsworth.
The Browning of the Green Revolution. University of Illinois, March, 2010  Charles Benbrook, PhD.
“Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First
Thirteen Years.” The Organic Center, 2009  The Organic Center.
“Nourishing the Planet” Interview with Chuck Benbrook, July 2010  Steve Nugent, PhD.
The Missing Nutrients, page 4  Press release.
UN expert makes case for ecological farming practices to boost food production. United Nations News Centre. March 8, 2011 
Food Manufacturers and Organic Industry Lobbyists Circle the Wagons, The Cornucopia Institute, November 19, 2009 
http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/whole-foods-market-responds-to-wjla  Laura Crowley.
HFCS is natural, says FDA in a letter. Food-Navigator/usa.com. July 08, 2008.  Press Release:
Corn Refiners Welcome FDA Clarification that High Fructose Corn Syrup Can
Be Labeled Natural. Corn Refiners Association. July 8, 2008  Organic Consumers Association.
Whole Foods and UNFI: Undermining Our Organic Future - the “Natural”
threat to Organic.  Kati McLaughlin,
Frank Talk From Whole Foods’ John Mackey.
Wall Street Journal, August 4, 2009  Brian Gaar,
More organics in store for Whole Foods: Amid news of quarterly sales increase,
CEO says company will renew its focus on healthy eating.
American-Statesman, August 5, 2009  Louise Story,
Can Burt’s Bees Turn Clorox Green?
New York Times, January 6, 2008 
www.bocaburger.com/products/nutrition-info.aspx?product=5928333445 Accessed August 1, 2010  K Kindy, L Layton;
Purity of Federal ‘Organic’ Label Is Questioned,
Washington Post, July 3, 2009
FOOD 201 - Is Organic Really Better?