You may have heard that ‘going organic’ is a healthy choice for the farmers, the environment, and your own health. But do you really understand why it’s such a positive choice? This series explores the benefits of making this important choice.
Reason 1: Glyphosate
You may be aware that organic food and products are produced without the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides or chemicals. Advocates of conventional farming (the type that does allow use of these artificial substances) argue that recommended levels of these chemicals are not exceeded.
This statement may be true for one chemical in one product but it does not consider the sheer number of potentially toxic chemicals that we are subjected to in modern society – in our food, our water, in the materials we use to make products and clothing, and in the air we breathe.
A chemical may be tested and found to be safe at a certain level, but it is unlikely that the full cocktail of chemicals contained in a product have been tested. Molecular biologist Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini has demonstrated that the full formulations of pesticides are much stronger than the declared active ingredient. Additionally, the ‘active’ ingredient may not be the most toxic ingredient in pesticide formulations.
Coupled with these issues, there is little consideration for variations in sensitivity between individuals, nor for the consequences of being exposed to so many different chemicals over the course of a day, or a lifetime.
Glyphosate is a chemical under hot discussion in the farming world. Being on the market in the form of the active ingredient in the widely used herbicide Roundup, virtually all conventional produce and food products contain traces of this chemical. As with all subjects of debate, there are many studies that claim Roundup herbicide poses no risk to humans.
However, in March 2015 the World Health Organization‘s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic in humans” (category 2A) based on epidemiological studies, animal studies, and in vitro studies.  
Advocates for organic farming believe that it is wise to err on the side of caution – who wants to risk a build-up of toxic residue that could lead to serious health problems? It is much safer to ban ‘questionable’ chemical ingredients and to find a proven safe alternative than to live by the mantra of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
The links between glyphosate and a wide range of health concerns and conditions are becoming increasingly evident. Dr Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has found strong links between glyphosate use, and the rise in celiac disease. She explains that the villi in the gut are destroyed by glyphosate, which reduces the person’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals and can result in gut problems.
Glyphosate has been highlighted as a potential endocrine disruptor and has shown a strong correlation with the increased incidence of many diseases, from cancer to dementia, to autism  . The World Health organisation lists the adverse health effects caused by glyphosate as airway, skin, and mucous membrane irritation, abdominal, pain, nausea, vomiting, shock, dyspnea, respiratory failure.
For consumers who are not convinced about the safety of food production methods using synthetic chemicals such as glyphosate, the only ways to currently drastically reduce exposure are by choosing certified organic produce and products, growing your own, or by getting food from a local farmer who you know is not using these chemicals.
For those who are not sure how to start shifting from a conventional to an organic diet, or who have concerns around personal budgeting restraints, a good place to start making changes is by focusing on the ‘dirty dozen’ – a list of the twelve foods in New Zealand that have been identified as having the highest pesticide residues  
 “Food Matters – Life matters!” article. Organic NZ magazine. May/June 2015. Thanks Google images for both pictures