Growing our foods organically has proven to be one of the hottest, fastest-growing movements of the 21st century. Already, more than 4 million acres of American farmland have been dedicated to raising our food1 more sustainably, with an eye toward our health and our future. That’s four million acres farmed intelligently without the use of toxic pesticides or other toxic chemicals; four million acres nurtured with both ancient and modern techniques that are in balance with nature, helping to reduce the production of greenhouse gasses and reduce the threat of global warming.
As recently as 1990, when Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act, there were fewer than one million acres of organic farmland. In just twelve years, by 2002, that amount had doubled. Then the pace of progress picked up. Within just three more years, the amount of organic farmland doubled again. In 2005 we enjoyed, for the first time, certified organic farmland in all 50 states. It’s been exceptional progress, but we can do more.
Even Better News
If organic cropland continues to double – and it can! – we can hope to see a revitalization and renewal of our streams and our soil as we build a smart, sustainable future. I can remember drinking stream water in our National Parks when I was a child, because it was so pure. I can remember catching and eating fish from our local streams. Today, all of the streams surveyed by the USGS, and over 90 percent of fish tested in farming regions were polluted with pesticides. 2 We can reclaim our streams, our food, our future.
Delicious, nutrient-packed, healthful organic food is becoming more available every day – and with a few, focused, strategic, simple purchases we can make a huge difference together.
Almost every day someone asks me, “What are the most important foods to buy organic?” Every bite of food is either an investment in your body’s vitality or a debt your body is taking out – or a combination of both. To make your investments really count, for yourself, for your family, and for the planet, I’ve created Dr. Greene’s Organic Prescription – the top ten items (okay, 11) where I believe we can make the biggest difference.
Using Dr. Greene’s Organic Prescription
On the following pages you will find my top organic food choices for the health of your family and of the planet. I’ve put them in a suggested order based on their impact and on the ease of the choice. If you want to make only one organic switch for your family, choose number one. If you’ve already made that switch, and want to do another, move on to number 2, and so on.
You may have seen the Environmental Working Group’s excellent Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce3. They give you the USDA data on which fruits and vegetables have the highest pesticide levels at the time they are eaten. They did not attempt to sort which pesticides are the most worrisome.
Many people first exploring organic foods begin with fruits and vegetables in hopes of reducing their exposure to harmful pesticides. Choosing strategic organic foods can indeed quickly and dramatically decrease your family’s exposure to worrisome pesticides4. While this is very useful, fruits and vegetables are only part of the diet, and pesticides on the plate are only one part of the health story.
In creating my organic prescription, I’ve also taken into account reducing the negative effects of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, and chemical fertilizers. I’ve crafted this list with an eye toward our children inheriting a cleaner, healthier planet: decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, decreasing depletion of non-renewable resources, decreasing toxic chemicals in our air and water, and decreasing the uncontrolled spread of genetically modified organisms – all while converting chemically killed dirt into rich, living, productive cropland.
Meanwhile, let’s increase the nutrient value5 and taste6 of the foods your family eats. It all begins with #1.
Read more from this series
1 USDA Economic Research Service. Organic Production Data Sets, December 15, 2006.
2 Pesticides in the Nation’s Streams and Ground Water, 1992-2001, USGS Circular 1291, 2006.
3 Environmental Working Group. Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. 4th edition. 2006. http://www.foodnews.org/ accessed Feb 5, 2007.
4 Lu C, et al. Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children’s Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides. Environmental Health Perspectives. 114(2):260-263. February 2006
5 Benbrook CM. Elevating Antioxidant Levels in Food through Organic Farming and Food Processing. The Organic Center. January 2005.
6 Theur RC. Do Organic Fruits and Vegetables Taste Better than Conventional Fruits and Vegetables? An Organic Center State of Science Review. September 2006.