To buy organic or not?
My husband and I used to disagree on how much I should be spending on our monthly grocery bill. Usually the main topic of discussion was my frequent purchasing of organic produce. He insisted I needed to just buy “regular” fruits and vegetables to save money…
I never backed down on this issue and instead chose to cut other areas of our budget so that I could continue to purchase organic foods as often as I was able to. So should you be purchasing organic foods all the time? Not necessarily. Here is a little lesson in “Organics”.
What does “organic” even mean?
To some, the word “organic” simply means foods that are twice as expensive as non-organic foods. While this may be true in most cases, there is a little bit more being the word.
USDA certified organic foods are those that are grown and/or processed in a manner that is in accordance with federal guidelines that address “soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives”. (www.usda.gov)
Produce that is grown on soil that has not had any prohibited substances, such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, applied for three years prior to harvest are considered USDA certified organic foods.
Buying organic, not only allows us to minimize our exposure to pesticides but also minimizes the amount of these pesticides our environment is exposed to. Organic farming is more environmentally friendly as well.
What’s the big deal with pesticides?
The word ‘pesticide’ is a broad term. It typically refers to a range of substances such as very limited, low-toxic types that are allowed in organic farming to the highly toxic chemicals that are allowed to be used in conventional farming.
Obviously pesticides are used to keep pests from killing all our crops. BUT…given the amounts and combinations of pesticides often used in conventional farming, we don’t have enough evidence to fully understand the health effects these have on our bodies.
There can still be pesticides on organic produce but there are much less and the “safer” types than you would find on conventionally grown non-organic produce.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that traces of 29 different pesticides are found in the average American’s body. (Whoa.)
The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the majority of pesticides now in use are probable or possible cancer causes. (That is big news in my opinion.)
Studies have also suggested a link in exposure to pesticides and these additional health risks:
- ADHD in kids
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
Should I only buy organic?
Not necessarily. One of the most common complaints about organic food is the cost. Why does eating organic foods have to be more expensive? I could go on and on about how I feel the government is trying to keep us all sick and dying…but I will try to stay on topic this time.
Believe it or not, even the most budget-conscious shopper can still buy organic.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) creates two yearly lists of fruits and vegetables based on the amount of pesticides used in growing the listed crops; the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen.
The Dirty Dozen is a list of fruits and veggies you should always try to buy organic when possible. The foods on this list contain the HIGHEST levels of pesticides when grown conventionally.
The Clean Fifteen is a list of fruits and veggies with the LOWEST levels of pesticides found and these are typically ok to buy as a non-organic option.
Using these lists, you can still buy organic while sticking to a budget! You should never feel guilty about purchasing conventionally grown produce for your family. Fruits and vegetables are a necessary part of every diet and provide us with essential nutrients and vitamins, so if you can’t buy organic, you should still buy them.
Remember, buying conventionally grown produce is better than buying nothing at all, but buying organic is always the best choice.
Sources 1. Brown TP, Rumsby PC, Capleton AC, et al: Pesticides and Parkinson's disease--is there a link? Environ Health Perspect 2006, 114:156-164. 2. Sanderson WT, Talaska G, Zaebst D, et al: Pesticide prioritization for a brain cancer case-control study. Environ Res 1997, 74:133-144. 3. Zahm SH, Blair A: Cancer among migrant and seasonal farmworkers: an epidemiologic review and research agenda. Am J Ind Med 1993, 24:753-766.