Why eating organic foods matter
By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
Traditionally, people in the Cordillera have been eating organic food. In fact, before the Industrial Age, people all over the world have been living organic – eating food they planted and harvested and drinking water straight from natural water sources and just living according to what nature provided and how nature behaved. Before we proceed, I would like to be clear that when I say “organic” food, I just mean it is naturally-grown, not necessarily “certified organic”. This is because the certification process in the Philippines for organic products is so complicated and so expensive for our small farmers that it is almost impossible to get this certification. Government should subsidize small farmers for this and take responsibility for making organic produce available to our people. Meantime that this is not so, how do I know that the vegetables I buy are naturally-grown? Well, I just get to know the farmers producing my food.
Does it matter if our food is organic? Surely, believe it or not, it matters. Why? How? Simple, dear reader. We eat organic foods because they are natural. By now, you are already aware that anything that tampers with nature is risky. Whether it is tampering with our flat nose or tampering with viruses or tampering with our environment or tampering with our food. When you have a nose lift, there is the risk of infection or the risk of a deformed nose if the procedure didn’t go well. If we tamper with viruses, then we get mutant viruses. If we cut the natural rainforest trees to give way to lemon trees, then we run the risk of soil erosions, river siltation and no water in the future and global warming which will also breed mutant viruses. If we tamper with plant growth by spraying pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and growth hormones, then we breed monster viruses, bacteria, etc. In other words, tampering with nature will ultimately tamper also with our health. It is because no matter how big the universe seems to be, we are one creation.
There are at least two ways by which our health is adversely affected when we eat foods that are not organic. For one, as everybody is aware, fruits and vegetables that are not organic are sprayed with pesticides, fungicides, herbicides. Did you notice the blue color in those good-looking cucumber and tomatoes? That is a fungicide. I was so dismayed when I saw the blue tomatoes and cucumbers and their leaves in the gardens of Ankileng and Balugan in Sagada. I could see these blue green color even from far away. If they spray these chemicals in these barangays, then you can bet that they also do that in other commercial garden communities all over the world. If these chemical sprays kill pests and fungus and weeds, don’t you think they are also poisonous to people? You bet, they are. But because we are much bigger than the worm and the weed, it will take a longer time to exterminate us. You have to accumulate enough of these poisons before you manifest illnesses. Pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are linked to all kinds of diseases from minor skin irritations to deadly cancer. So beware because adverse effects of these poisons are not felt immediately so it is difficult to see the connection but we are telling you now. There are already a lot of researches, including local researches, on this. Unfortunately, many are still like doubting Thomas- “Kita pati.”
Another way that our health is adversely affected when we refuse to eat organic is that we can eat in excess and out of season. The season for mangoes was the past summer months, not December. And mangoes naturally bear fruit after every two years, or if it bears yearly, the natural yield is not abundant every year. Why we have a lot of mangoes now is because modern science has developed chemicals that force mangoes and oranges and other fruit trees to bear so much fruit even out of season. It is easier perhaps to understand the folly of this practice when we compare it to people. It is like forcing a woman to bear a child every month and to bear ten instead of one. Isn’t that scary? God is wise and maybe the reason why He made fruits to bear only in season and in limited quantity is because they are too sweet. We can get diabetes and other diseases if we eat a lot of these sweets.
What else are we eating now in excess? Meat, eggs, fish, cow’s milk. We put hormones, antibiotics and other synthetic chemicals in these animals so we could produce more and more and fast, all for the sake of money and profit. Just listen to the advertisements of feeds and always it is “masmaraming kita.” Their bottomline is profit. Money. Plain greed, at the expense of our health and that of our planet. Well, our statistics in the Cordillera and all over the world show increasing number of diseases of excess – high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, kidney failure, allergies, etc, etc. In medical school, our textbook on diseases was so thick that I left it at our boarding house, instead of bringing it to school. So you are afraid of covid? You should be more afraid of high blood pressure and high blood sugar- just think of your community. How many died of covid versus how many died of heart attack or stroke or kidney failure? In your community, how many are sick with covid versus how many are sick with high blood pressure? In our small villages where everybody knows everybody, we know the statistics- that’s reality.
To make matters worse, all these excessive food production and food consumption is one big reason for global warming. Global warming is also wreaking havoc on our health. (More on this in a later issue.)
You can eat meat and eggs but choose organic. This way, your diet is naturally controlled. Even if you want to, if your pig or chicken has not yet grown, then no can do. Let that craving pass. Unless you want to eat that organic day old chick. Ewww.
Going organic is deeply rooted in our belief in and love for a Supreme Being which you can call by many names- Kabunian, Bathala, Father, Abba, Yahweh, God. I believe He won’t mind what name we call him as long as we believe that He loves us and that He provided everything that we need. “Everything we need” means our basic needs to be well and happy – food, water, air, clothing, shelter, sunshine, rain, soil, day and night, feelings, senses, etc. Believe it or not, God’s will is that we are well and happy. However, if your faith is weak and you don’t believe God gave us all the food we need in season, then it is easy to just spray all these toxic chemicals and eat any food.
The amazing thing is that these natural provisions are enough! As stated earleir, before machines were invented, all people in the past have been eating organic food – whether they gathered it from the forest and seas and rivers or they produced it through agriculture. If these were not enough, we would not be here today. We, Igorots, are still here and are all over the world. The Atis, the Dumagats, the Lumads and other indigenous peoples all over the world are still around and are showing the modern world today that life is healthier and happier pala if it is simple. I am so blessed and proud to have this indigenous organic heritage! It’s not too late, though, to start living natural. Starting now is better than not at all, for all our sake.***
“Happiness is not having what you want but wanting what you have.” – Rabbi H. Schachtel