It is amazing to see how the organic food section of all grocery stores are growing bigger and bigger. Even Walmart is getting in on the act. Not so long ago you would be hard pressed to find organic produce but now the demand has become larger as people want to feel assured that their food is safe and natural. There are many pros and cons to buying organic making this a personal lifestyle choice. Some people may want to purchase everything organic while others will only purchase select items.
The USDA has defined organic as Foods that are grown, harvested, and processed according to national standards that include restrictions on amounts and residues of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Organic foods also cannot be treated with sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. They may use pesticides derived from a natural sources. When you see the USDA label that says "certified organic" you can be assured your product meets these specifications. However, if you see terms such as "free range," "hormone free," or "natural" they may not meet the standards as these labels are not regulated by law.
The Pros to buying organic
1.) No chemicals. The obvious pro to buying organic is decreasing exposure to pesticides. This is even more important for pregnant women, infants, and young children. According to the EPA web site, kids' immune systems are not fully developed, leaving them at greater risk from some pesticides than adults. Because of this, the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act set tougher standards to protect infants and children from pesticide risks.
2.) Possibility of higher nutrient content. Some research studies have shown that organic foods have higher nutrient content than non organic. More research is needed in this area, but it does make sense. The pesticides and herbacides work in a way to disrupt the plants abililty to produce protective compounds which are the same compounds that provide us disease fighting benefits. As more research comes out we can see if there are significant impacts on nutrient levels.
The Cons to buying organic
1.) Bugs. Yep, I'm sure if you regularly buy organic produce you have seen a few little green worms running around your broccoli or salad greens. Sometimes these little buggers stick so tight they don't come off with regular washing. These are not harmful if eaten, but it can make some people squeemish.
2.) Cost. This is probably the biggest con to organic foods. The cost is anywhere from 50 percent to 100 percent more than non-organic. Just the other day I saw a very small container of organic blueberries for $5.99. This is tough for some people to handle. To get your biggest bang for your buck, the Environmental Working Group, a non profit organization, suggest going organic with the "dirty dozen" which contain the most amounts of pesticide residues. They include:
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Grapes (imported)