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December 21, 2016

Organic—Is it worth it?

By Kyle Finneron

Organic is a term that I’m sure most people have heard by now. In the early days of organic foods there were only a few vegetables that were available in an organic capacity, but now the list has grown to an excessive level. As we speak I am drinking organic coffee, my dog has organic dog food and the majority of the foods in my cabinets and refrigerator are organic. Want organic bed sheets and pillowcases? Not a problem; they exist. This got me thinking—what really is organic?
According to the website organic.org, organic is defined as “… produce and other ingredients grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.”
Sewage sludge? I understand where most fertilizer comes from but the thought of any form of sludge near my dinner plate makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
After reading a description like that, one might think that everything that goes into/onto their body should be organic.
There is, however, one problem for most people: the price. Organic products do seem to be at a premium compared to conventionally grown produce. The question is, why?
This is a common economic thought process behind organic food: organic is better for you; better is more expensive; thus, organic is more expensive. But, does everything have to be organic? I hear a lot of people telling me how hard it is to eat [organically] healthy because it is so expensive. Anyone that has walked through the produce section has surely wondered, “Why are the organic peppers $4 more per package than the conventionally-grown counterpart?” This can even draw out some strong emotions. I once saw a grown man give a package of peppers the finger when he looked at their price tag. I wish I was kidding.
The question becomes, with so many food choices out there, do I have to buy everything organic, or are some items fine when grown by conventional means? Luckily, there is a list that has been created by the Environmental Working Group which refers to the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen.” It’s a list of the 12 most contaminated foods with pesticides, as well as the 15 least contaminated foods.
This does not mean that if you have an item from the dirty dozen list to throw it out or not eat it. Real, whole food is still better for you than a highly-processed sugar or fat-filled snack. This list will hopefully help you navigate the produce section and identify the products that might be worth the extra price.
In closing, remember the words of Michael Pollan: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Happy eating.

Dirty dozen
(most contaminated with pesticides)
strawberries
apples
nectarines
peaches
celery
grapes
cherries
spinach
tomatoes
sweet bell peppers (Don’t give it the finger and pay the premium!)
cherry tomatoes
cucumbers

Clean fifteen
(least contaminated with pesticides)
avocados
sweet corn*
pineapple
cabbage
sweet peas frozen
onions
asparagus
mangos
papayas*
kiwi
eggplant
honeydew melon
grapefruit
cantaloupe
cauliflower

*some corn and papayas sold in the U.S. use GE Seedstock. Go organic if you want to avoid GE Seedstock.

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9 Comments

  • Kyle write a very thoughtful articular and he is almost correct.
    Consider food grown in Mexico is, more than likely, grown on sewage sludge with absolutely no regulations that I am aware of.
    Processed Sewage Sludge (“biosolids”): A Major Source of Food and Water Contamination.

    • typo “article” . Your restrictions on comment makes it very difficult to give valuable information for your readers.

  • The land application of processed sewage sludge from municipal, hospital and industrial sources, plus storm water runoff, generally called “safe” by the EPA and your local State Environmental Agencies, is a lie when you consider “safe” means free from risk.
    High concentrations of phosphates (Phosphorus = P) are found in sewage sludge, which is referred to as “Class A and B Biosolids” by some and AB in Texas. Phosphate is excreted though feces and urine after the digestion process, and flushed into the sewer system. Other contributors of P come from cleaning (Trisodium Phosphate), which also ends up in the sewer.

  • Let us multiply just how many contributions by the US population X 365 flushes a year. (2016 US Population 322,762,018 X 365)*. In addition, any particulate phosphorous can be turned into phosphate by the anaerobic digestion phase of waste treatment. Now consider 25 years of, EPA CFR 40 503, dumping sewage on top of the ground on farms, forests and fields, and even consumer bags, and you get a health and environmental nightmare that cannot be stopped
    because of the money involved.
    Money.
    * Note: It is estimated that each and every person in the US poops about 3 – 5 times per day
    and flushes about 10 times per day.

  • Waste Water Treatment Plants (WWTP) cannot control the concentrations of, nor do they test
    for P, so it is common for a field to be over burdened with phosphates and effluent which go
    directly into surface and ground water. Commercial P applications can be controlled. Sewage
    Sludge or “bio‐solids” sources of P cannot.

  • Look at your algae blooms to figure out where excess phosphates end up.
    Q: What impact does phosphate have on the environment?
    A: Phosphate supports the growth of plants, including algae. When too much phosphate is
    present, excessive amounts of algae can develop. This may lead to undesirable water quality
    impacts, including reductions in aquatic life, poor taste, and odors in drinking water.
    Without any consideration of pathogens, let us add more chemicals to the mix.
    Read a little known regulation 40 CFR 261.30(d) and 261.33 (4), every US industry connected to
    a sewer can discharge any amount of hazardous and acute hazardous waste into sewage
    treatment plants.

  • When the sewage industry tells you “pre‐treatment of these industrial chemicals are strictly regulated,” read the EPA’s Office of Inspector General’s Report No.14‐P‐0363‐ 09/2014 where you will instantly see they are BALD FACE PREVARICATORS!
    (Just Google the Report number).

  • Now tell me what happens to those persistent hazardous chemicals when you heat them and mix them together in a digester and send them out to a farm, forest or even in consumer product bags, labeled as made from “bio solids.”

    Chemicals that are persistent in the environment, bio accumulate in people and/or wildlife, and
    are toxic, are called Persistent, Bio accumulative Toxic (PBTs). Because of these features, as long
    as they remain in commerce and may therefore be released into the environment, they will
    threaten the health of humans and wildlife. To make matter worse some algae blooms produce
    toxins such as microcystin (a hemotoxin), phycotoxins, domoic acid, brevetoxin that are all neurotoxins for fish, birds, and other wildlife.

  • Show me any studies that prove more than 80,000 chemicals used in industry will not find a pathway into food grown on it or in the water you drink.
    Farmers and Consumers are being badly used to dump their municipal, industrial, hospital,
    storm water, and household sewage on farms to save/make cities money, because of the cost
    to put it in a landfill. They are not given all the facts so they can make an informed decision.
    Money
    If you think this is “fake” information look it up and research it yourself. I think I would use sources that do not profit from the practice which DOES include the Federal Government (EPA)

    Craig

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