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So Is It Organic Or Not? And Does It Really Matter?

Jeff Linamen

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Is it really organic?

How can you tell if it’s organic?

What is organic, anyway?usda-guts-organic-standards

The word organic doesn’t mean the same thing to me as it did back in the 1970’s when my aunt started organic gardening in her backyard. She had a small garden, so using manure and compost to fertilize, constantly aerating the soil and hand-picking insects from the plants instead of using pesticides, was time consuming but manageable.

Imagine trying to do that on a large scale farm.

Organic refers, not to the quality of food produced, it refers to how it is produced. Organic fruits and vegetables are supposed to be grown in clean, uncontaminated soil using only clean, organic fertilizers (non-chemical) and without the use of any pesticides. They also cannot be treated with preservatives. Organic animal products can’t be raised using medications, antibiotics or growth hormones. Also, organic foods cannot be genetically modified (GM or GMO). Producing foods organically is also considered much better for the environment.

Sounds pretty healthy, doesn’t it?

The way the use of the word organic is used and regulated, leaves most of us confused and often misled.

The USDA uses four different categories in organic food labeling: 100% Organic; 95% Organic- labeled Certified Organic; 70-95% Organic– labeled, Made With Organic Ingredients; and 70% Organic– labeled, Contains Organic Ingredients. You should be suspicious of any products labeled or displayed in stores with any form of the word organic, that is not accompanied by the USDA seal.

We have to ask ourselves, if it’s not 100% organic, is it still worth the increased cost?

Common sense tells us that foods without pesticides; and animal products that were produced without antibiotics and hormones should be healthier for us, right?

Unfortunately, studies show that pesticide residue, though lower in organic products, still exist in them, To date, there is no proof that any of the pesticide residue found in organic or conventionally farmed foods affect our health. There is also no proof that antibiotics used on animal products interfere with the affects of human antibiotic effectiveness.

It is important to know that there are no claims by the USDA, or any evidence that supports the existence of any increased nutritional value or quality in organic foods. All studies indicate that they are comparatively the same.

I’m frustrated to know that there have been very few attempts to even study and compare the health of people eating only organic foods versus conventionally grown foods. The data just doesn’t exist.

It’s also important to note that people frequently become confused by the terms: organic, fresh, natural, sustainable and locally grown. Each word or phrase can mean a totally differently thing. Though the use of any of these descriptions are intended to suggest a healthier and more nutritious  product– that proof doesn’t exist.

So is it worth it?

All currently available research shows no measurable health benefits to consuming organic foods over conventionally grown foods. So is it really worth paying the average additional 40% to 120% increase in cost?

Without clear data supporting it, it really just becomes a personal preference. Many people can’t afford to spend the extra money on a chance that organic is better for you.

Some people claim that organic foods taste better than conventionally grown foods. Yet in my own personal research, I have not found any noticeable differences.

Organic produce isn’t always ‘as pretty‘ as conventionally grown produce and may contain natural imperfections that end up equaling waste. This might also be a deciding factor in the value, particularly when purchasing produce by the pound as opposed to individual item-pricing.

One last thing to consider is that organic foods are not supposed to be treated with any preservatives, leading them to spoil much quicker. This can be problematic for individuals that find it difficult to make frequent trips to the market.

Whether you  decide to buy organic or not, Americans as a whole, do not eat enough fruits and vegetables.

Whichever you buy, the Mayo Clinic website highly recommends washing all produce thoroughly because all of it can contain dirt and bacteria, not to mention possible contamination from handling, no matter how it was produced.

The decision is yours.


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