Hi, everybody! This week I had a request to review the difference between organic and nonorganic produce. I had a good general sense of the difference, but I wanted to do a (reasonably) thorough review for you. Off I went to the Internet!
So what does it mean when an item is marketed as “organic?” First of all, you should know that the FDA doesn’t have a definition for the term “organic.” However, the USDA oversees the National Organic Program which DOES regulate organic crops and livestock. Briefly, organic food is produced without the use of “synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering.”
Ewww! So does that mean that NON-ORGANIC food can be produced WITH the use of this stuff? Yes. Yes it does. If you see this seal (below) on the food packaging, it is produced with at least 95% organic foodstuffs.
On the Web I found a few organizations that do a pretty good job of distilling the facts into easily digested summaries. One is the Environmental Working Group, an organization that sees itself as an environmental health research and advocacy group. They publish their “Clean Fifteen” and “Dirty Dozen” lists which list the fruits and veggies you can (more or less) safely eat from conventional sources, and which should be purchased organic. They also have a number of consumer guides available for download. I really like the one called “Good Food On A Tight Budget.” You can use the guide online, which has tabs for different food categories like Fruits, Vegetables, Protein and Dairy. You can also print the hard-copy booklet if that’s easier.
So is organic food better than nonorganic food? In spite of many studies being done, there is no evidence that organic food is more nutritious than conventionally-grown food. The decision to buy organic is therefore more about what ISN’T in your food than about what IS in there. Because organic farmers must not use synthetic pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and other chemicals, there is little chance of exposure to residues of these chemicals on the food you eat.
Speaking of chemicals… I wanted to say a few words about drinking water. It seems silly to me to concentrate on harmful chemicals in food and not mention the chemicals in drinking water. If you want to check, the Cleveland municipal water supply’s water quality report from 2012 is available here. I looked and was amazed at the amount of stuff they DON’T test groundwater for! No pesticides, no herbicides or lawn fertilizers you would expect to be in groundwater runoff.
I’ve been using Shaklee’s Get Clean tabletop water pitcher for years. I would highly recommend anyone NOT interested in drinking pesticides and fertilizers with their water look into purchasing one. It is certified by the Water Quality Association to remove lead and volatile organic compounds (not all pitcher filters are). It produces twice as much drinking water per filter as most other filters, and the only thing you discard is the carbon block. Everything else is reusable and made from BPA-free plastic. Check my website for more information or to purchase your own starter kit. I guarantee if you try it you will love drinking the fresh clean water 🙂
This post was really just meant to scratch the surface of the 0rganic-produce discussion. Please comment below with your feedback or any other questions you have. Do you think you will change your food choices based on this information?