There's been a lot of discussion lately about buying organic. There are even services that offer to deliver local, organic fruits and vegetables straight to your doorway to encourage organic purchasing (e.g. L.O.V.E. Delivery and Farm Fresh To You). But what does "organic" even mean? And what are the real benefits of going organic?
My science-minded father has a good time shaking his head at "organic" produce and chuckling, "Everything's organic." (The joke refers to the chemical term "organic": noting something that is characteristic of, pertaining to, or derived from living organisms; of or relating to animal or plant constituents having a carbon basis.) But "organic" in the context of food is actually a term that is defined by the USDA to refer to foods that are grown where the use of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and other chemicals is avoided or restricted.
So why buy organic?
A. Buying organic can be a way of "going green". The United States uses approximately 350 million pounds of pesticide a year (agricultural, home, and commercial use) link. The chemicals used end up in rivers and streams, as well as ground water, and affect animals, fish, birds, and people. The EPA classifies more than 40% of the pesticides used in agriculture, home, and commercial use in the United States as "likely, probable, or possible carcinogens". In a world of Brita filters and bottled water paranoia, how are we okay with pouring chemicals into our active fresh water supplies - not to mention poisoning fish, flora, and fauna?
B. Unlike most propaganda will tell you, organic food isn't more nutritious than non-organic food link. The important factor about eating organic foods is that they are far less likely to have chemical residues, which is really important when considering some of the fruit and veggie crops that are usually heavily treated with pesticides. Vegetarian Magazine offered a list of these crops, so I'm sharing it here:
The above fruits and vegetables are things you should try to buy organically. Apparently, again according to VM, sweet potatoes, onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwifruit, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, and honeydew melon are not as dangerous non-organically, which I assume means these crops don't receive the same pesticides or, if they do, they are far less affected.
A note on meats:
The USDA has standards for organic meat products which require commonly used agricultural chemicals to a) not be used at all, or b) for a 'wash out' period to be observed before meat and milk from a 'treated' animal can be sold. Health risks associated with meats are generally associated with the fat and cholesterol contents of the meats, not their chemical residues. The USDA regulations do not require that the "organic" animals be treated well.
So what was the point again? Oh, right. To buy organic or not. Personally, I do. The food may not last as long, but since I buy in small quantities - just as much as I need for the next couple days - I end up healthier, happier, and hipper with the green wave. The USDA, in answer to the question "Is organic food safer to eat?" answered "For the most part, yes." The choice, however, is up to you.
All that said, be wary of falsely labeled organic products. If the product is USDA approved organic, it will have a label noting its affiliation. If the label simply says "organic", it may still be organic, but it is not USDA approved.
Have a peace. :)
13 hours ago