Is Organic Produce Worth It?

News of the recent study conducted by Stanford researchers has some consumers questioning whether or not purchasing organic produce is really worth it.

basket of a variety of veggies[source]

In my humble opinion, yes, it still is.

Though I had previously been led to believe that organic produce really does have more overall nutrition, even if that’s not the case, as this study indicates, that hasn’t been the driving force behind my choice to purchase organic.

To me, it’s what is NOT in my food that’s important.

To be certified “organic,” foods must be produced without:

  • antibiotics
  • artificial growth hormones
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • artificial dyes (made from coal tar and petrochemicals)
  • artificial sweeteners derived from chemicals
  • synthetically created chemical pesticide and fertilizers
  • genetically engineered proteins and ingredients
  • sewage sludge (<– um, what?!)
  • irradiation

As you can see, there’s potentially a lot more going into our bodies than just vitamins and minerals.

Did you know that 9 out of 10 broiler chickens in the United States had been fed arsenic, according to a 2011 industry estimate? Yes, you read that right, arsenic. According to Dr. Michael Greger, MD, the NIH, and the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service, there are “alarmingly high levels of arsenic contamination in the flesh of broiler chickens,” exceeding the EPA upper limit for arsenic in water by 6 – 9 times. [source]

So, if you want to avoid the probability of arsenic in your chicken, your best bet is to choose organic varieties.

In addition, 80% of antibiotics sold in the US are used by the meat and poultry industry to “fatten up” most of the beef, pork and chicken sold in US supermarkets. Other countries already recognize the danger this poses– the European Union banned the use of antibiotics in 1999– but to avoid them in the US, you should probably buy organic.

Not only do the chemical fertilizers and pesticides applied to conventional farms require fossil fuels to produce, scientists say they also have negative consequences for the Earth.

According to David Pimentel, an emeritus professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell University, each season, excess fertilizers leach into the water. “The runoff of un-utilized synthetic nitrogen fertilizer from conventional agriculture into both ground and surface waters and the atmosphere — where, as nitric oxides, it contributes to global climate change as a greenhouse gas – is a major problem in the U.S. and elsewhere,” Pimentel told Life’s Little Mysteries. “The ‘dead zones’ in the Gulf of Mexico are due to nitrogen fertilizer runoff from fields in the Corn Belt.”

Organic farms, by comparison, provide the nutrients needed for crop growth by enriching the soil with compost, manure and by planting “cover crops” in fields between each growing season, Pimentel explained. Cover crops, which often include legumes, not only physically protect fields from erosion, they also are associated with bacteria that can convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form plants can use, and they increase the soil’s content of organic matter, which functions to increase its water- and nutrient-holding capacity. [source]

In other words, organic farming is simply more sustainable.

In fact, many countries have drastically lessened their reliance on pesticides. “Sweden has been able to reduce pesticide use over a 10-year period by 68 percent and still get the same crop yields and the same cosmetic standards,” Pimentel said. Unfortunately, the U.S. lags behind. [source]

Each time you purchase organic produce, you’re “voting” with your dollars to support sustainable farming practices.

Though it may be unrealistic to always choose organic, thanks to high prices and limited availability in certain areas, I do think it’s a good idea to buy organic whenever possible, especially when it comes to the Dirty Dozen (the top 12 most contaminated produce).

According to the EWG, 98% of conventional apples tested positively for pesticide residue, and conventional celery samples contained up to 57 different pesticides. Ewww.

So, while I’m disappointed to hear that my organic produce may not be any more nutrient dense than the conventional stuff, these new findings won’t change my view on the benefits of buying organic. The Stanford study did conclude that organic produce was much less likely to have traces of pesticides–> which is what I think the majority of consumers are looking for!

I think we can all agree that eating less chemicals is a good thing.

Reader Feedback: Were you surprised by the conclusions of the Stanford study? How much importance do you place on choosing organic food?

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Comments

Emily

Organic goes further than nutrients for me, I care for the environment too. And like you say, conventional has so much else added. I liked Mark Bittman’s tweet on it: “Ridiculous Study Claims Organic Same as Conventional, irritates anyone capable of thought”. About sums it up!

Gabby @ the veggie nook

While I choose organic in part for the nutrition, it was never the main driving factor! I simply don’t want to support an industry that is ok with exposing our planet to harmful chemicals and practices. So while it may not be that much more nutritious from a purely nutrient standpoint, it is far more healthy for ourselves and the planet to choose organic when given the option.

Heather

I currently don’t eat organic, but this post may have just changed my mind!

tayler alexis

YES !! so glad you wrote this 🙂 i personally put a huge emphasis on organics ( im in an organic buying club here in miami beach called Annie’s and its all local & organic ! plus i shop at wholefoods) so its very reaffirming to here that my efforts to eat organic are worthwhile ! i hate when i see a news article that pops up and makes me wonder ! thanks for the clarification !

deb

I had no idea anyone ever claimed organic was more nutritious. I have been buying it solely for the avoidance of pesticides and other additives.

laura

Well said. I buy organic when I can, and try to really do it all the time, but man, it’s getting so expensive to eat. On the other hand, I can’t believe what we do to “food” in this country. It’s completely ridiculous. The whole system needs an overhaul. Yucko.

    Jeanne H.

    I like what Deb and Laura say. I have never bought organic thinking it was more nutritious. I eat it to avoid pesticides.

Morgan Torres

You don’t have to convince me! Thanks to the way you and I eat I can always taste the difference in organic foods.

Heather

this is part of the pushback from the anti GMO labeling fight in CA. first of all it wasn’t a new study, it was looking at previous research and the funding source says ‘none’. You always have to follow the money. Monsanto gives huge research $$ to Stanford. It’s just part of the onslaught that is coming to thoroughly confuse people. Of course organic food is better for us and for the planet – because it is what used to just be called simply ‘food’.

Kibby

Me too! The study is not changing the way I eat or choices I make when it comes to produce – ALWAYS ORGANIC. My husband and I were having the same discussion last night – yeah, it might not have the same nutritional profile, but the pesticides, chemicals, etc. – DON’T FREAKING WANT THAT IN OUR FOOD OR BODIES! Thanks for your input – I concur! Have a great weekend!

Sherry Guajardo

I LOVE this article. I never need confirmation on WHY it’s better to eat organic or not. I’ve been eating organic for several years and just recently started eating more RAW. I don’t have a microwave nor do I cook much at all. I’m 55 years old and I am hardly ever sick nor have I been to the Dr. in over 5 years. I have an excellent ” panel ” say the nurses when I go for check-ups. I believe whole-heartly that it is because of my organic eating habits and the choice I’ve made to exercise and NOT COOK. I don’t have canned foods, processed foods or flour products in my home. Thank you so much for this website, Ms. Detoxinista.

Rufina Rayo

Food prices have risen faster in recent years than ever before. As many of us are feeling the pinch, it is time to reevaluate some of our food purchases. The term “organic” has been thrown around in the shopping aisles like sprinkles on the jelly donut you’re trying to avoid. It seems like hundreds of new “organic” products have emerged, all with a price tag about 30% higher than the regular option. Is it really worth the extra money, or are we all being duped with a clever marketing campaign to get us to buy essentially the same thing for a lot more? *

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