Organic: To Buy or Not to Buy

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Those shiny red apples and bright orange carrots stare at me, daring me to buy them. “Hey we’re organic. We’re better than those other apples and carrots.” they boast. I turn, drawing near, reaching out, when all of a sudden my eyes dart to the price tag. All of a sudden the reverie is shot down.

Ugh is organic really worth the extra price? Read on to find out!

What does Organic even mean?

Organic means that a food was grown without the use of synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, sewage sludge, and dyes, and must not be processed using industrial solvents, irradiation, or genetic engineering. Animals that produce organic eggs, meat, or dairy products cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones, must be fed organic feed, and must have outdoor access.

These strict standards were laid out by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP). The farmland used for organic produce must have been free of prohibited chemicals for at least 3 years or more to be certified. A third-party certifier inspects all the organic farms to make sure that the organic guidelines are being met.

What are different labels you may see and what do they mean?

100% organic: made with 100% organic ingredients 

USDA organic or certified organic: made with at least 95% organic ingredients. The other 5% may be foods that were processed with additives from an approved list.

Made with organic: made with 70% organic ingredients, and the remaining 30% of the ingredients are processed without using prohibited practices such as genetic engineering (we’ll talk about that in another post). The USDA organic seal cannot be on the package.

Is Organic food better for you than conventionally grown produce?

There is little evidence to support the claims that organic foods are more nutritious than conventionally grown produce. Studies show that overall, the two groups have similar nutrient profiles. Yes there have been studies showing that a few nutrients were higher in some fruits and vegetables, however there are many factors that influence the nutrient profile of produce such as soil quality and amount of sunlight and water received, variety of plant, processing, ect.  Organic cannot be the only thing that you judge nutritional quality by. 

Other issues to consider when buying Organic:

  • Environment: Many people buy organic food, because they believe it is better for the environment. Organic farming practices strive to increase sustainability, reduce pollution, and conserve both water and soil quality.
  • Price: There is no doubt about it. Price is a huge factor when it comes to organic products. The higher cost comes in part due to more-expensive farming practices. For me personally, this is the biggest issue. As a poor graduate student it is hard to justify the higher price. 
  • Pesticides and antibiotics: Organic food has been found to have less pesticide residue than it’s conventionally grown counterparts. However, pesticide residues on both organic and nonorganic products have not been found to exceed safety thresholds.
  • Taste: Some people claim that organic tastes better. This is just something you will have to test out for yourself.:)

Bottom Line:

I predict that the debate surrounding organic products will be around for a long time, and at this point all I can tell you is I would rather you eat conventionally grown fruits and vegetables than nothing at all. Especially those shiny-less red apples and boring orange carrots.

USDA. https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/organic-standards



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