Shedding pesticides, food trends go au natural

By By Lori Koenick Staff Writer

Organic food is one of the fastest growing industries in food production. Just stroll around the Cabin John Giant; it’s hard not to notice the word “organic” popping up on products in every section of the store. 
“About five to 10 percent of our produce is organic,” said Mark Slepitza, a manager of the Cabin John Giant.
This craze is not just local. Even third world countries are starting to get in on the benefits of going organic. According to Gaithersburg resident and former Nicaragua Peace Corps volunteer Erin Kaufman, the “green revolution” is just beginning in Nicaragua, though, farmers still must use pesticides because they have to insure their crops will survive.
“Crops are their only means of income,” Kaufman said. “On the other hand, [the farmers] realize how big the eco-tourism scene is and they would start growing food organically to draw in tourists. It’s all for the import-export possibility. The switch to organic only comes with education and money.”
If one has the money to afford buying only organic produce and meats, the advantages of eating organic food are not likely to disappoint. According to Mom’s Organic Market employee Gary Sanford, the biggest benefit of organic food is that neither preservatives nor pesticides are used in the harvesting process. For produce to be organic-certified by USDA standards, the fertilizers must be organic too, so one is not eating anything artificial or synthesized. 
“The best part of [organic food] is what’s not in it,” Sanford said. “Everything you eat or take in becomes a part of you. The pesticides sprayed on conventional produce become absorbed in you, and pesticides are not natural. The body doesn’t know what to do with them, so the pesticides just get stored away in fatty tissue and stay there.”
Avoiding pesticides is a common reason people choose to eat organic. According to history teacher Cara Gadel, she grew up eating “all natural” foods and her current residence is “almost entirely organic.”
“My mom always looked for all natural foods with no pesticides or artificial ingredients before ‘organic’ was such a thing,” Gadel said. “Then I started pushing the organics during my senior year in high school.” 
Pesticides commonly found on food are neuron-toxins. According to D.C. health, nutrition and wellness counselor Lisa Wilson, neuron-toxins affect our nervous system by slowly shutting down our neurological system.  
These chemicals have not just invaded our grocery aisles, but also our public school lunch lines. The Citizens for Community Wellness group held a study on school lunches in Fairfax County schools and found that there were a total of 15,000 chemicals in school lunches during a one-month period.
Food served in MCPS is not organic either. According to Marla Caplon, the MCPS director of Division of Food and Nutrition Services, MCPS looks to purchase “fresh fruits and vegetables” to put on our lunch lines and they try to buy produce from local farms.
“We don’t specifically request our produce to be organic,” Caplon said. “Our meat items require preservatives to protect them from food-borne illnesses.”
School lunches are not the only place where these chemicals live. According to, the fast food restaurant Taco Bell recently faced a lawsuit claiming the use of false advertising when referring to the “seasoned ground beef” or “seasoned beef” in its products. An Alabama law firm claims that Taco Bell is not meeting USDA standards by serving beef with only 35 percent ground beef in it. The rest of the beef is allegedly made up of “fillers” or “extenders.” These can include any ingredients from cornstarch to maltodextrin to soy lecithin.
Meat and vegetables are not the only causes for concern; our nation’s milk supply is something to notice too. According to Wilson, any gallon of Giant or Safeway regular milk comes from cows “raised on factory farms in filthy, unhealthy conditions.”   The farmers pump the cows up with steroids, antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones to keep them “healthy.”
Despite benefits of organic eating, it often times takes some time to get accustomed to. According to freshman Marley Smith, it was not her choice to go organic.
“My mom made us switch [to organic] two years ago,” Smith said. “[Organic foods] are okay, and you definitely have to get used to the change.” 
Gadel agrees and said she did not always appreciate eating organic as a kid.
“When I was a kid, my mom would pack me and my siblings expensive, all natural lunches and we would get mad,” Gadel said. “We had all natural granola bars, while our friends had Hostess cupcakes. [My siblings and I] would always try to trade away our food.”
For some, what organic produce lacks in attractive façades, it makes up for in taste.
“The uglier [the produce] the better [tasting] it is,” Wilson said.
According to Gadel, if she knows she is eating conventionally grown fruit, she can notice a taste difference.
“Organic fruit is what I’m used to,” Gadel said. “It just has so much more flavor. [Eating organic] has made me pickier about my food.”
Organic foods are not scientifically proven to be healthier than conventional food, but eating organic guarantees that a person is not consuming any genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). According to Sanford, when a product contains GMOs, a consumer “truly has no idea what has been involved in producing it.”
Going organic is a choice that each person must make for him or herself.
“Eat as if your life depends on it, because it does,” Wilson said.