Organic Foods Q&A: What does it Mean and Why Should I Care?

What does “Organic Food” mean?

Simply stated, “Organic” foods have been certified by The USDA National Organic Program as being produced without synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, genetic engineering, radiation or sewage sludge

Why does it matter if I eat synthetic pesticides?

Synthetic pesticides are toxic and created to repel and kill living organisms (insects, fungi and other “pests”)
. Many pesticides are dangerous to our health have been linked to a variety of health issues relating to the brain and nervous system, cancer, hormone imbalances, and skin, eye, and respiratory problems.

If pesticides are designed to kill, why would we want to ingest them? I’ll have my salad without a side of cancer thank-you-very-much.

The more organic foods we eat, the fewer harmful pesticides and other chemicals will be making themselves at home in our vital organs and the less likely we are to develop any of the collection of diseases or harmful side-effects related to pesticide consumption.

Where can I buy organic?

Great news! Almost all major grocery stores carry organic. My favorite’s are Trader Joe’s (especially for the budget conscious shopper) and Whole Foods. Another great resource is your local farmer’s market. 

Isn’t organic usually more expensive? What if I can’t afford to buy organic?

Depending on where you shop and what you buy, organic foods may be slightly higher in price than conventionally produced foods. Because organically produced foods must meet stricter regulations the process tends to be more labor intensive.

Looking to save money? Check out the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce containing “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean 15.”  The Dirty Dozen are the 12 fruits and vegetables that  have the highest amount of pesticides and the Clean 15 have demonstrated to contain the lowest amount.  The lists below will help you determine when to splurge and when to skimp when it comes to organic.

EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Dirty Dozen- Buy organic!

 1. Apples

 2. Celery

 3. Strawberries

 4. Peaches

 5. Spinach

 6. Nectarines – imported

 7. Grapes – imported

 8. Sweet bell peppers

 9. Potatoes

 10. Blueberries – domestic

 11. Lettuce

 12. Kale/collard greens

Clean 15 – Lowest in Pesticide

 1. Onions

 2. Sweet Corn

 3. Pineapples

 4. Avocado

 5. Asparagus

 6. Sweet peas

 7. Mangoes

 8. Eggplant

 9. Cantaloupe – domestic

 10. Kiwi

 11. Cabbage

 12. Watermelon

 13. Sweet potatoes

 14. Grapefruit

 15. Mushrooms

 SOURCES:

http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/food/organics.htm

http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/pesticides/index.cfm

http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/food/organics.htm

http://www.ota.com/organic/faq.html