Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Organic Produce: The Truth

Lately we are hearing more and more about organic food and its benefits both nutritionally and for the environment. Organic food sales are the fastest growing sector of the American Food Marketplace and since the mid-1990’s American families are more able to find organic foods in chain grocery stores rather then just at farmers markets or local farms.

However, when doing a cost comparison we know that organic foods are 10 – 40% more expensive than their non-organic counterparts. Is it really worth the extra cost to buy organic?

Environmental Implications:

Lets first take a look at the environmental implications. Some studies have shown that organic farming is less damaging to the environment because organic farms do not use pesticides and release these pesticides into the environment. Additionally, it has been shown that organic farms use less energy and produce less waste. However, there are critics of these studies. Critics state that organic farms take up more land to produce the same amount of food as a non organic farm and therefore could possibly destroy the rainforests and wipe out many ecosystems.

This information is conflicting so we cannot yet say with 100% certainty that organic produce is better for the environment.

Nutritional Implications - Pesticides:

There are many studies showing the negative side effects of pesticides on farm workers. Some of these side effects include cancer, birth defects, and miscarriage. You may wonder if you can remove the pesticides from fruits and vegetables by washing them thoroughly. Unfortunately, many pesticides can penetrate the skin of fruits and vegetables so washing them thoroughly will not remove all of the pesticides from fruits and vegetables.

There are also some studies that show that there is residual pesticide residue on organic produce, but that it is only 1/3 of the amount that is on traditionally grown produce. So, if you are buying organic produce do not think that you are eating produce that is pesticide free – the only way to have produce that contains no amount of pesticide is to grow it yourself.

However, we can safely say that by eating organic produce your family will likely intake less pesticides than if they were to eat traditionally grown produce.

Nutritional Implications – Nutritional Value:

Some studies claim that organic foods have a higher nutritional value, however there are also studies that show no proof that organic foods have higher antioxidants or a higher nutritional value. Again, the evidence is conflicting so we cannot yet say with 100% certainty that organic produce has a higher nutritional value than non organic produce.

The FACS of it:

If you can afford to spend more money on fruits and vegetables, and want to safe guard your family from the pesticides that can be found on non-organic produce, than it would be worth your money to buy organic. However, if you cannot afford organic produce take solace in the fact that it has not been proven with 100% certainty that organic produce has a higher nutritional value or is better for the environment.

My recommendation would be to buy organic when you can for the following produce (in order as listed) as these are the ones that contain the highest amount of pesticides:

Bell Peppers
Imported Grapes (by local if you can)

Click on the link to learn more about Organic Certification from the USDA

1 comment:

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