Organic Or Not
Posted by Kimber Harding
September 2, 2015
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There are a lot of mixed messages and opinions when it comes to organic produce, making it difficult to form our own opinions – especially when it can impact our health and finances. So what exactly does an organic label on my produce mean? Why is it more expensive?
Is organic actually better for me? For this month’s Health Hub we will lightly skim the surface of this extremely deep and complex issue to help clarify and reduce some confusion.
To be labeled organic, farmers must follow a set of
certification standards defined by the USDA (including soil and water quality, fertilization, and pest control methods), as well as be able to pay for the annual certification. These organic farming standards are mainly for ecological balance and conservation of resources and biodiversity - which
is a fancy way of saying it’s good for environmental health. In short, organic farming practices are believed to be better for the environment than conventional farming.
Organic produce is generally more expensive to buy at the store than conventional produce due to the expensive farming and handling practices required – unfortunately some of this cost is passed on to the consumer. However, many local farmers will even practice organic farming standards but do not pay the organic
certification fees to the USDA, so ask your local farmer about their practices.
Currently there is
no evidence that organic and conventional produce differ in their nutrient content. The main health concern – and most debated - is regarding the use of
pesticides. For produce growing plants a pesticide is a chemical used to protect from insects, weeds, diseases, and fungi. Now do not assume that just because organic produce has different health and safety regulations that non-organic produce
doesn’t have them at all. The FDA and EPA both play a role in ensuring that “residues of pesticides in foods
are not present at levels that will pose a danger to health”, for ALL produce. Contrary to popular belief, organic farmers do in fact use pesticides; they are just more limited in the types and amount they can use. Both organic and nonorganic produce can have residue from
pesticide and other spray treatments. Although neither will ever make it to the shelf of your grocery store if it exceeds government safety thresholds, it is always a good idea to wash and scrub your produce.
Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen
If you are
interested in purchasing organic but can’t afford to buy everything organic you may consider the “Clean 15” and the “Dirty
Dozen”. These lists, created by the Environmental Working Group, are intended to help us know which kinds of produce tend to have the highest (dirty
dozen), and lowest (Clean 15), amount of pesticides.
Regardless of your personal choice between organic or conventional produce, the experts still agree on one thing – Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is important in
promoting health and preventing disease.
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