Do you guys still get confused over the whole organic vs. non-organic debate, despite the countless amounts of articles and information out there on the subject? We do. Sure, we know about the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen and all that, but we’re still constantly ruminating over it because as much as we’d love to buy all of our produce in it’s most natural form, it’s just too dang expensive.
With this in mind, we decided to come up with a trusty little questionnaire, where we have a conversation with ourselves. Nothing new there! We did some research and decided to come up with a quick n’ dirty guide to the most commonly asked questions regarding organic produce. We decided to save the meat and dairy for a different post, so let us know if you find this helpful!
Before we get to it, let’s just get this out there one more time:
PLU Sticker– The ‘Price Look Up’ sticker can tell you whether the product is organic or not. The four digit number beginning with a 4 identifies a conventionally grown product (not organic). A five digit number that begins with a 9 identifies an organic product and if it begins with an 8 it contains GMO’s. However, companies are not required by law to distinguish whether the product is organic or not. Therefore, these are not always reliable since companies will not take that extra step to tell you that their product has been genetically modified.
We found this to be an easy way to remember: “9 is fine, but hate the 8!”
COOL- The “country of origin” sticker tells you where the produce came from, as required by law in the US. There are some exceptions, but if it’s not specified, you can always ask
What does “organic” mean?
Produce that is grown without fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or radiation is considered to be organic.
When should I buy organic? When is it alright to skip organic in the interest of savings?
A good rule of thumb is this: if you have the option of buying an organic and imported food item and a local but non-organic one, go with the latter. Here’s why: oftentimes, small, local farmers use fewer pesticides than a major grower. In fact, local produce that isn’t certified organic is often partially organic, but not up to USDA standards. Also, if your berries are traveling from Mexico/Chile/wherever else produce is imported from, they lose some of their nutritional value along the way.
What about the “dirty dozen?”
Even though it’s better to buy local, there is one caveat: when it comes to the top of the dirty dozen list, try to go with organic, even if it means not buying local.
Is organic produce more nutritious than conventionally grown?
There is a difference in the nutritional makeup between organic and non-organic produce, but studies are generally inconclusive on whether one is healthier than the other. We can definitely say that organic soil is richer, so there is a great difference in the mineral content, and the foods grown in it have a greater content of minerals such as calcium, chromium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. The vitamin content can also vary depending on how the produce is treated after it is harvested. If it has to be picked early, frozen, and transported half way around the world, the vitamin content will decrease.
Which method of farming is better for the environment?
The organic method of farming is more beneficial for the soil, water supply, and biodiversity because it doesn’t use the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides often used in the conventional method. Synthetic pesticides are toxic chemicals introduced into the environment in order to kill living things such as weeds and insects that pose a danger to the plants being grown. However, in addition to killing the “bad” weeds and insects, these chemicals can seep into the water supply and also kill the beneficial insects such as worms and microorganisms that keep the soil healthy.
Can pesticides be washed away?
Pesticides can be washed away with water or a specialty rinse when it comes to fruits and veggies with a thick skin, such as mango, kiwi, avocados, and any other item on the clean fifteen list. Porous produce such as strawberries will absorb pesticides and retain a significant amount of residue even after scrubbing.
Are there any negative long term affects of eating conventionally grown fruits and vegetables?
There has been no conclusive research that shows the negative long term effects of human consumption of pesticides, but most of these studies have been done on animals. However, the negative effects of exposure to pesticides have been shown in farmers, and the EPA (environmental protection agency) even distributes a safe limit of pesticide exposure that humans can withstand. Sounds like it’s better to stay safe and try to avoid pesticides when we can, at least until there is some evidence that says otherwise!
(Source: Environmental Working Group)