“You are what you eat!” This idiom has become the poster child for promoting health and awareness in food intake, connecting concerned mothers with other health conscious like-minded individuals. This phrase originates in 1826 from Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s words, “Der Mensch ist, was er ißt” which translates directly to “man is what he eats”. Throughout the past decades this phrase was immortalized by many including nutritionists and hippies and eventually made its way into everyday vocabulary.
This phrase clearly suggests and promotes the idea that putting unhealthy food into your body will make you an unhealthy individual. But what if it isn’t the actual food that is harming us? What if the harm comes from how the food is grown?
Farming must keep up with the exponential growth of the human population. To keep up with the challenge, small scale and family owned farms decrease in number and large factory farming operations become increasingly present. To increase crop yield these large scale, monoculture styled farms, use chemical pesticides to control pests. Pests can range from invasive insects that eat crops to weeds that take away nutrients from crops. Getting rid of pests on a farm allows the farmer to produce a higher yield of crops ready to be shipped around the country for distribution. So why would a farmer choose not to use pesticides if it means less work and more money?
Pesticides made with chemicals have the power to harm human health. A common pesticide, commonly known as Roundup, is comprised of glyphosate. Roundup has a multi-step system for farmers, called Roundup Ready; it includes genetically modified seeds that correspond with a specialized blend of chemicals to maintain the synthetically modified growth of the crop. Glyphosate is commonly used on soybeans, corn, cotton, and canola. Although Roundup aids farmers in growth, its components are harmful to humans. Glyphosate has been shown to cause birth defects, neurological disorders, fertility issues and cancer.
This is where organic farming comes into play. The term organic in farming means crops grown without the aid of chemical pesticides. Eating organic food means taking in the nutrients of the crop without an extra dosage of toxic chemical residue from synthetic pesticides. So if “you are what you eat” do you want to be a chemical called glyphosate?
Organic Food without the Hefty Price Tag
Even I have experienced the hike in the price of a crate of tomatoes from a regular supermarket versus an organic one. There are ways to buy organic while staying with in budget.
Explore farmers markets. There are outdoor farmers markets throughout New York City that sell organic food at an affordable price.
Buy food that is in season. The price of food increases when the crop is not in season in your area. Try buying fresh produce in bulk when the crop is at the height of the season and freeze it for later use.
Grow your own food! Utilize that extra rooftop space to grow your own organic veggies.
Written by Erica Prince, Environmental Leadership Intern