There are two different stacks of strawberries in the produce section, but one is two dollars more. Why? And is it worth the price? As if the grocery store wasn’t already an overwhelming place for the decision-making challenged there’s yet another choice we have to make. But when it comes to some foods, organic versus conventional is an important one. The latest dirty dozen list just came out. These are the foods in the produce section that have the highest concentration of pesticides on them. If you’re debating between going organic or not, this is a good place to start. But first here are a few answers to some general questions about organic….
What does organic mean?
Organic means that the food was made without pesticides, there are no synthetic ingredients in the fertilizer, and no bio engineering, genetic modification or radiation was used. When something is genetically modified that means its genes have been altered. Scientists add new genetic material into the mix to make plants and produce (even animals) last longer or become resistant to a certain pesticide.
Are the pesticides and chemicals used in conventional farming harmful?
All of the chemicals and pesticides that go into growing conventional produce ends up in the food. And when we eat it, those chemicals and pesticides go into our bodies. We are talking about agents designed to kill things here. Now consider this. Our bodies are a combination of chemical reactions. Everything from digestion to PMS is chemistry happening inside us. What happens when we add a new chemical (er, several) into the equation? That’s the thing. We don’t exactly know. Studies are being done to see just how these chemicals can interfere with digestion and absorption of the nutrients in produce.
Why is organic so much more expensive?
Organic farming just takes a lot more work for a lot less produce. Organic farmers have to do a lot more weeding by hand and also lose a higher percentage of their crop to pests and run the risk of a total loss. Organic farms also have their crops on a rotation in order to keep the soil healthy and nutrient rich. Conventional farming has gone the way of clearing land and planting large fields of cash crops every season of every year without ever giving the soil a break. You’re able to grow more food year round this way, but it depletes the nutrients in the soil because there’s never a time to replenish. That means fewer nutrients in the food that comes from it and the taste isn’t quite the same either. For instance that tomato isn’t quite as juicy and sweet. Then there’s also the costs associated with being certified organic, which can be quite high.
Then why does conventional fruit look brighter and bigger?
You know those strawberries you get at the grocery store that are the size of your fist and bright red, but when you bite into one it’s not sweet? Conventional methods breed larger strawberries, apples, you name it. They also use chemical ripening agents to bring a fruit to its peak artificially. It’s cheaper and easier when you don’t have to wait for nature to take it’s course.
How do you know you’re getting organic?
The sticker on your produce has a PLU#. If the number starts with a 9, then it’s organic. If it starts witha 4, it’s conventional meaning conventional farming methods were used including pesticides, etc. And if it starts with a 7, it’s local.
What foods have the highest level of pesticides?
As a good rule of thumb, anything that’s porous, fragile or grows 100 percent underground is more vulnerable to pesticides. So things like peaches, berries and potatoes will have a higher pesticide count than say a cantaloupe that’s fruit is protected by a tough skin. Try picking up the organic version of these when it’s available and just see if you can taste a difference.
The Dirty Dozen
- Bell Peppers