Why Organic Food is Better For You and the Environment

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This week there has been a lot of talk about the benefits of organic eating. If you have been watching the news you will have seen many debates about whether eating organically is actually better for your health or not. This has been a long argued debate over the years and there are extreme opinions on both sides of the fence. When I heard of the scientific study “proving” that organic food was healthier than regular food it was music to my ears. However, after a bit of research I am a bit sceptical of the results.

The study in question can be found here. The results showed that organic produce had higher levels of the antioxidants which can contribute to good health than those that had been grown conventionally. They also contained lower levels of dangerous pesticides and other chemicals. The team who carried out the study have claimed that the significant health benefits are equivalent to eating another 1 or 2 portions of fruit or vegetables a day. There has been controversy however, with sceptics arguing that the methodology is questionable and that the results are being exaggerated.

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The study involved compiling the results of 343 previous experiments which found a significant difference in the composition of organic and non organic foods. This kind of analysis does come with many problems, the worst of which being the difference in methodology in the studies that are being compared. In the introduction of this paper the authors admit that there were “major research synthesis challenges” and that there could have been variations in soil quality and the crop varieties used in the studies. The sceptics have also acknowledged this claiming that the differences could be based on any number of factors and may not be due to whether the crops were grown organically or not.

So the debate rages on and many families are still left confused about whether they should be spending the extra money on organic food for their children’s health. For me the debate about the health benefits of organic food is not the end of the story. According to the Soil Association 44% of the people buying organic foods in this country are doing it , at least in part, for environmental reasons. Conventional farming was developed to fight food shortages and made food much cheaper to grow and buy. It is true that buying organically will probably cost you more money but the thing to consider is whether it’s really worth it at the sacrifice of the environment we depend on. Pesticides and herbicides cause soil degradation and pollute rivers and other water systems. As a country we spend billions of pounds cleaning these chemicals out of our drinking water which makes you worry about the quality of the water our wildlife is drinking. As well as this, the chemicals used in our food systems have been thought to be causing huge damages to the populations of our native bees. I don’t need to tell you how much danger we will be in if our bees become extinct.

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For me organic food is healthier as the vitamins I’m gaining do not come with a side serving of chemicals. The reactions to this article have me asking a question I find myself asking again and again at the moment. Why do we consider ourselves as more important than the environment we live in? How much more do we think the environment can take?

I’ll happily hand over the extra pound for my organic bananas. Will you?

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Related Article:

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Bees and Honey – A Vegan Perspective

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Find out more:

Clear differences between organic and non-organic food, study finds – The Guardian

What is organic food? – The Soil Association

The original study

Apple Pie Smoothie (Vegan/GF)

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Last week something marvellous happened. We got a break from the horrible hot weather and had a couple of days that were reminiscent of autumn! I will admit that I’m probably the only person in the country to be happy when I opened my curtains and found it was raining and a bit chilly. What can I say? As much as I love wearing floaty skirts and eating picnics in the sun, Autumn is my natural time of the year. The rain immediately had me craving cinnamon and I headed into the kitchen to see what I could rustle up.

I named this the apple pie smoothie because it contained the spices that I love sprinkling over apples before cooking them. I added some frozen bananas, a sweet red apple and a splash of coconut milk and had a gorgeous mid morning smoothie!

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Apple Pie Smoothie

Ingredients:

2 frozen bananas

1 red apple

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

a splash of coconut milk (the carton kind – I use Koko brand)

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Method:

Put all the ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth!

Feel free to change the amounts of the above ingredients depending on how you like your smoothies. The more banana and less milk you use, the thicker your drink will be. You can also adapt the spices to your own taste buds.

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Do you miss your autumn treats in the summer?

Our Government is Putting our Bees at Risk!

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This week David Cameron and his cabinet will be deciding whether to let banned pesticides be used on rapeseed fields across the country. It has previously been shown that these chemicals pose a major risk to our already struggling bees. Reintroducing the pesticides could have a devastating effect on the populations of honey bees which pollinate a third of the food we eat. This is just further proof that the Conservative party have more interest in helping wealthy companies than looking after their own people.

The company in question here is called Syngenta and is one of two companies in the UK which produce these deadly pesticides. Syngenta have asked for emergency exemption from the existing EU ban due to what they say is a lack of scientific evidence that neonicotinoids have any negative effects on bees. They argue that crops need to be protected from aphids and other insects and that there are no suitable alternatives to the pesticides they produce. Interestingly the scientists disagree with this analysis claiming that alternatives can be used. Considering that Syngenta makes billions each year from selling neonicotinoids, I’m more inclined to believe the scientists here.

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David Cameron needs to look at the reason the ban was imposed in the first place. Last year the EU banned the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops including rapeseed. These pesticides are used to treat the seeds directly rather than being sprayed on the top of crops. This means that every part of the plant is potentially dangerous and the nectar eaten by the bees is full of the chemicals. Studies have shown that ingesting the pesticides can cause high levels of mortality in populations of bees. It can also damage their ability to find their way back to the hive after feeding and can stop them from producing queens to survive the winter. As the pesticide has to be in the seed from the very beginning it also means that the pesticides are not used in response to pest numbers but are used constantly. There is therefore a constant danger. It is not just bees that are effected by these chemicals either. As they leach into the soil and water systems it has been found that they damage earthworms and creatures living in local rivers.

Of course Syngenta were not going down without a fight and there were claims that they had done their own studies on populations of bees outside the lab and found that the chemicals had no effect on bee colonies. The question I’d like to ask is if these studies have been completed, where are the reports? I personally would like to read and analyse the studies before being sure that they were accurate. Another objection they had was that the scientists were only looking at the worst case scenario. In this case the worst case scenario is so bad it doesn’t bear thinking about but again, a company like this only thinks with their bank accounts.

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This month Obama instigated assessments into the effects of neonicotinoids on bees in the USA. It seems the rest of the world is beginning to wake up to the dangers of a life without bees and yet again David Cameron is taking us backwards. If you agree that these disgusting chemicals should not touch our crops then please sign this petition!

My Cupcakes – Pear, Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cake

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I came across one of my favourite stalls at this week’s North West Vegan Festival and knew I would end up parting with some money! My Cupcakes is a vegan and gluten free bakery which, as the name suggests, mostly sells cupcakes. Before today I have tasted many a beautiful cupcake from sticky toffee to stawberry shortcake. I can also vouch for their lemon curd (which is to die for) and their giant chocolate chip cookies. This time I approached the stall apprehensively knowing that not only was I on a strict budget but whatever I bought would have to survive the long train journey home.

Then I spotted the pear, pecan and chocolate chip cake. It was beautiful and only £1.50 a slice. The lady behind the stall told me she’d already sold out of 2 loaves and I wasn’t surprised in the slightest. It turned out I didn’t have to worry about getting it home safely as I was hungry on the train home and I’m afraid I chose the cake over the Nakd bar I had in my bag!

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I’m a great believer in taste being more important than beauty but this was definitely an attractive looking cake! The chunks of pear were visible and they didn’t skimp on the chocolate chips either. The three components gave the cake a wonderful texture with the almost gooey pear, the soft chocolate chips and the crunchy pecans. The level of sweetness was just right so it was not sickly in the slightest. There was also a layer of thick crunchy icing on the top which finished it all off perfectly. I did hope the pear would come through more strongly but I loved the cake anyway.

Next time I see My Cupcake I’ll definitely remember to look at the other options as well as the beautiful cupcakes and their swirls of creamy icing! My Cupcake can be found at many vegan events. Check their Facebook page for more information.

The North West Vegan Festival – 7th June 2014

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My Cupcakes proves that veganism is not all about lettuce leaves!

This weekend I travelled to Lancaster to visit the North West Vegan Festival. I’d been looking forward to this one for a while and the impressive list of sponsors heightened that excitement. The Festival was slightly bigger than the LABL fairs I’ve recently attended with one room for food stalls and the other for non food. This was a brilliant idea as it showcased all aspects of the vegan lifestyle and meant charities and animal friendly companies didn’t have to fight for attention amongst the cupcakes! As I had a work appointment in the afternoon I didn’t spend as long as I usually would at these events but I still got to meet some great people and came home with some beautiful things.

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I spent a lot of time in the non food room and my first purchase of the day was one of these cute Vegan necklaces! I went for the different coloured beads with Vegan in the middle but it was a tough call. The metal stamped necklaces were beautiful too.

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I haven’t fully transitioned into using all vegan cosmetics as I find it very expensive to replace the left overs from my non-vegan days. With the prices of these beauties though I could stock up! The soaps were all completely vegan and palm oil free and the fragrances were magnificent. I came home with a cinnamon bar which was my favourite of the bunch.

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Harpers Bizarre was a stall I’ve never come across before although apparently they were at the Liverpool Fair! Their candles are made with soya wax and are 100% animal free as you’d expect but the fragrances were amazing. I used to use Yankee candles all the time but I think I’ve found an excellent replacement! Their scent catalogue is huge and they also sell Bargain Basement candles which are one off designs. I came home with a House of Red candle from the bargain section which smells gorgeously sweet. Check out the rest of their range here.

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One of my favourite cupcake sellers, Captain Cakeman was at the festival and he provided me with gluten free cakes as usual! This time I came back with a rose cupcake (on the left) and a violet one (on the right).

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 Last, but not least, I found my other favourite cupcake shop! My Cupcakes is a vegan and gluten free stall which sells more than just cakes! I’ve tried their lemon curd, cookies and donuts in the past and everything has been delicious. This time I resisted the cupcakes and bought a huge white chocolate chip cookie and a slice of pear and pecan cake. Look for a review coming soon!

Despite the terrible weather I loved my trip to the North West Festival. It was nice to see more literature and non food stalls available and there was a lovely atmosphere as there always is at these.

You can see the full album of photos on the Facebook page here. Pop over and “like” us!

Did anyone else go to the festival? What did you think?