[By Jessica Lo]
Organic food has been rising in popularity over the years. There are increasing numbers of people who give non-organic produce the thumbs down despite the lower prices and greater availability on the market. What is the lure of organic produce? Is it simply a health fad with no basis or are we finally making a stand about what we are putting into our bodies? Let’s find out more.
The word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don’t use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease. For example, rather than using chemical weedkillers, organic farmers may conduct more sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards. These standards regulate how such foods are grown, handled and processed. Any product labeled as organic must be USDA certified. If a food bears a USDA Organic label, it means it’s produced and processed according to the USDA standards. The seal is voluntary, but many organic producers use it. Products certified 95 percent or more organic display this USDA seal.
THE ORGANIC UPSIDE
As with every debate there are two sides to the story, starting from the pros of eating organic.
Less exposure to pesticides. Conventional growers use pesticides to protect their crops from molds, insects and diseases. When farmers spray pesticides, this can leave residue on produce. Some people buy organic food to limit their exposure to these residues. According to the USDA, organic produce carries significantly fewer pesticide residues than does conventional produce.
Less food additives. Organic regulations ban or severely restrict the use of food additives, processing aids (substances used during processing, but not added directly to food) and fortifying agents commonly used in nonorganic foods, including preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings and flavorings, and monosodium glutamate.
Better for environment. Some people buy organic food for environmental reasons. Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil quality.
THE ORGANIC DOWNSIDE
It may come as a surprise to some but there are downsides to going organic, the first being the gaping hole in your wallet.
Cost. Organic foods typically cost more than do their conventional counterparts. Higher prices are due, in part, to more expensive farming practices.
Shorter shelf life. Because organic fruits and vegetables aren’t treated with waxes or preservatives, they may spoil faster.
Appearance. Also, some organic produce may look less than perfect — odd shapes, varying colors or smaller sizes. However, organic foods must meet the same quality and safety standards as those of conventional foods.
TOP 10 FOODS YOU SHOULD BUY ORGANIC
Given that cost is an issue when it comes to organic foods, we decided to make a shortlist of the most important foods to purchase organically. These are the produce that contains the highest concentrations of pesticides when grown conventionally. This way, instead of going fully organic, those who have to watch their spending can opt go organic for certain choice items.
- Nectarines – 97.3% of nectarines sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Celery – 94.5% of celery sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Pears – 94.4% of pears sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Peaches – 93.7% of peaches sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Apples – 91% of apples sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Cherries – 91% of cherries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Strawberries – 90% of strawberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Grapes – 86% of imported grapes (i.e. Chile) sampled were found to contain pesticides.
- Spinach – 83.4% of spinach sampled were found to contain pesticides.
Potatoes – 79.3% of potatoes sampled were found to contain pesticides.