A reader asks the following question:
“Does it really matter if I choose organic?”
Please join this discussion and post your comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Here’s the answer . . .
Organic vs. Conventional Depends
First, this type of discussion depends on what you are actually asking about – nutrition, toxins, cost, environmental factors, etc. Each has a slightly different answer and definitely a different basis and reason for the answer. So, I’ll do my best to explain organic vs. conventional from the areas of my expertise.
Organic vs. Conventional & Nutrition
There has been a lot of controversy in this area of research. Part of this is because there is a limited number of studies and the results haven’t been clear. Looking at the studies in general though, most show there is additional vitamins and minerals in organic foods. These same studies indicate organic foods contain less protein but higher quality protein in terms of amino acid composition.
But, there are studies on organic versus conventional foods have found fewer statistical differences between their nutrient content, and in some cases, greater amounts of some nutrients in conventional foods.
Research outcomes can be different because there is a difference in environmental circumstances. Growing food requires sun, rain, temperature, crop rotation, etc. These will all effect the final chemical composition of the foods. So, great environmental conditions may produce better health benefits regardless of the farming methods.
Overall, I think even the studies showing the fewer statistical differences is enough to choose organic foods whenever your finances will allow.
Organic vs. Conventional & Toxins
Definitely an area of research with agreement is the level of contaminants in organic and conventional foods. The stringency of the federal organics legislation makes it illegal for most synthetic pesticides to be used in organic production. Sewage sludge is also prohibited. Organic foods consistently test for less potentially toxic residues. Of course, this makes sense – if it isn’t sprayed or genetically modified, it’s less likely to have toxic residue.
Organic vs. Conventional & Cost
If you shop at a farmer’s market, Community Supported Agriculture, or cooperative you may find the price difference between organic and conventional minimal. If you are shopping at a mainstream grocery chain most likely you will find organic foods to be higher priced. If you want organic grapes from Chili in the middle of winter, you are going to pay a premium price.
Let your pocketbook guide your purchases but remember, if you shop locally and seasonally you will get the lowest costs.
Organic vs. Conventional & Environment
This is an area that I’m not an expert to write about; I can only tell you my opinion. I purchase organic whenever possible because I feel it’s better for the soil, the water, the next crops, the farmhands, the air, nearby livestock, etc. to not be exposed to unnatural chemicals. I just don’t want it around me and I don’t feel comfortable forcing anyone or anything else to be exposed to it either.
Organic vs. Conventional – How To Choose
If you have to pick and choose where to spend, here is my suggestion. Prioritize your proteins first. High quality protein is the building blocks for your body. You don’t want it full of hormones, antibiotics, and chemicals. Next, prioritize your fats. Whether animal fat, vegetable oil, nut or seed oils, fat is where toxins are stored so we don’t want to add to our toxin burden. Finally, prioritize your produce. I recommend following the Environmental Working Groups information as they test organic and conventional foods for residue every year.