Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Balancing Act of Organic Foods

One of the great things about eating organically grown vegetables is that we are treating our bodies well while we are treating the earth well.  Organic vegetables are grown without the use of pesticides.  When pesticides are used to grow vegetables, as humans we are risk of developing a range of health issues. As for the earth, run off water from farms contaminates rivers and streams, impacting the wildlife and their habitats.  As mentioned, organic farms help alleviate these issues…but not without some consequences.

One such possibility in farming is outbreaks of E.Coli, is a bacterium responsible for many illnesses and several deaths in the U.S. over the last decade.  E. Coli is often transmitted through the fecal matter of animals.  The problem can occur on organic farms because of the practice of encouraging ecological diversity.  Avoiding the use of pesticides allows naturally occurring plants to grow alongside crops, and this diversity is better able to support wildlife such as mice, rabbits and even larger animals, which may carry E. Coli.

In 2006 a deadly E. Coli break out lead to changes on such farms that would prevent mice and other small animals from contaminating crops.  This included such actions as weeding out all plants on a farm other than the crop, removing any grassy areas surrounding a field, building fences, and even destroying nearby lakes.  There have not been any large out breaks of E. Coli poisoning since such action were taken, however, some think that these actions go too far and think some of them may even be unnecessary.  One good example is the food safety policy that encourages farmers to take steps to eliminate all wildlife in their fields.  Eliminating wildlife may reduce the chances for E. Coli, but without animals, the presence of mice can infiltrate a farm.

We do not have all of the answers we want now, but the government and several private companies are currently conducting research to determine which policies are best for food safety.  The ultimate goal is to find a way to balance our health with the safety of the environment.

~ Jessica

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