On 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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