Not too long ago, Dr. Mehmet Oz, a surgeon, author, and daytime TV personality, wrote an article that appeared in Time magazine[i]. In this article he presented his thoughts on the difference between conventional food products and fresh, organic foods. In his opinion, choosing organic over conventional isn’t worth the cost and even used the term “elitist” to describe those who disagree.
This is not the first time organic foods have been shoved under the bus. A Stanford University study in 2012 reported that its physicians and nutritionists found no evidence that organic foods are more nutritious.[ii]
Of course, even the term “organic” needs some definition as there is a huge difference between buying an organic tomato that was picked and shipped across many miles and an organic tomato from your own garden. If you can, it’s always best to buy (or grow) local.
But let’s put aside the idea of being “more nutritious” for a moment and consider something that is rarely talked about in these “organic doesn’t matter” discussions. Of course I’m talking about pesticides.
Why I choose organic
Pesticides are toxic substances that are intentionally released into our environment to kill living things.
Just stop and think about that for a moment.
Think about the fact that there are huge warning and danger signs over crops where pesticides are used. Think about the full body suits required when spraying these chemicals whether they kill weeds (herbicides), insects (insecticides), fungus (fungicides), or rodents (rodenticides). The ironic message sent is that it’s not okay to breathe, but somehow it’s okay to eat?
When Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962, she raised public awareness about the effects of pesticide use on our health and our environment. However, almost forty years after Carson drew attention to the health and environmental impacts of DDT, use of equally hazardous pesticides has only increased. And all the time there is more evidence surfacing that human exposure to pesticides is linked to health problems.”[iii]
Even the EPA points out the dangers of pesticides:
Laboratory studies show that pesticides can cause health problems, such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects that might occur over a long period of time (…) Some pesticides also pose unique health risks to children.”[iv]
If you want to dig deeply you’ll find a pretty gruesome picture of the problems, diseases, and issues associated with the use of pesticides. But just stop for a minute and let common sense settle in. Is this really what you want to be eating? Does it seem right to consume toxic chemicals designed to kill? So even if organic isn’t a huge nutritional boost, I choose it because of what I’m NOT eating.
But organic is so expensive!
I realize that not everyone can afford to buy all organic. But don’t let money because an excuse as there are plenty of ways to get real food on a budget. Here are some tips to get your started:
Here are some tips to help you out:
Check out the dirty dozen and clean fifteen.
This yearly list is put out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and it shows which foods are highest in pesticides (dirty dozen) and should be bought organic if possible and which foods are the least (clean fifteen) and can be bought conventional. It’s a great way to stretch your dollar while still making the best choices for your family. (Find it here)
Find a local farmer.
Some farmers may let you work at their farm in exchange for discounts on CSA (community supported agriculture) memberships. Also, don’t be afraid to haggle at your farmer’s market. Be a savvy real food shopper. (Find a CSA here.)
Check out Costco.
I’m amazed at some of the good, real food finds at this discount store. From organic strawberries that are a fraction of what I’d pay at my health food store to Kerry Gold Butter (from grass-fed cows). Be a detective and search out the good finds.
Grow a garden.
If you have the space and time, growing your own food it the cheapest and most nutritious way to get real food to your table. No worries about pesticides, taxes, or month-old food.
What do you think? Is organic worth it for you?