April 16, 2007
I know I'm not alone in this. I'm at the market, and see both conventional and organic strawberries (or squash!) Which do I pick?
I know that organic is good. Organics are produced to certain production standards. Organic produce is grown without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers and without ionizing radiation or food additives.
Yet sometimes when you're on a budget, it is hard to know when it is important to pay more for organic. And some regions may have more variety and cheaper organic prices than other regions.
Organic food production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. Organic foods are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation to maintain the integrity of the food.
Many pesticides were approved before extensive research had linked them to cancer and other diseases. By not using the chemicals in the process we can prevent the toxins from entering the soil, air and water systems. In addition to no toxic chemicals, some organics have better nutrients and better flavor. Organic farming methods are more water conserving, build healthier soils, and work in harmony with nature. In addition, buying organic supports smaller farms and their communities.
Organics are especially a good choice for children. EPA guidelines were determined using a 154 pound male as an average, not a small, 20 pound toddler!
Pediatrician Dr. Green (at Stanford University) gives the following lists as a guideline when selecting organics to kids. Of course, if you can do all organic, even better!
12 most contaminated foods (choose these organic!)
12 least contaminated
The Organic Consumers Association gives a list of why organic milk is a wise choice for children. However, The Cornucopia Institute has examined and rated the quality of various organic dairies. Some are indeed better than others in terms of farming practices and ethics. Take a look at their scorecard and see how your favorite brand compares.
Many find the new abundance of store-brand organics a mixed blessing. It is nice to see more affordable options in organic foods, but some people are concerned about the specific origins of their ingredients and they want to be sure that high standards are maintained. The magazine VegNews has an article this month on private label organics.
As the magazine says, buying organic is not just deciding what to have for dinner. It's a political choice, an environmental choice, and a health-based choice."
No wonder all these decisions at the grocery feel so overwhelming!