23 Feb 2012
It’s not that I don’t see its value or believe the “organic” claim, I just no longer worship at its altar. For a period of time it seemed that the message was that as long as you ate organic you were eating healthfully and the only way to truly eat healthy WAS to eat organic. While organic certainly has its merits (no pesticides in the case of produce, no antibiotics in the case of dairy or meat), it has its own set of “flaws”. My feeling is that the best way to improve overall health is not to “up” the ratio of organic to conventional food, but to “up” the quantity of real food (ie. minimally altered food (whether organic or not) to processed food.
So what are these organic “flaws”?
- Higher price: I am all for paying more for better food, but the label “organic” in most cases will cost you more. I tend to be pretty adamant about buying organic meat and dairy, but am more likely to allow some conventional produce into my kitchen.
- Out of season: I’ll take a locally grown strawberry from my farmers market (that may contain trace amounts of pesticides) over an organic one grown in Chile any day.
- Shipped long distance: By the time the produce gets to me it may have been picked days or weeks ago. So you may be trading off trace pesticides for diminished nutritional value based due to an extended time from farm to table.
- Conventional version may already contain minimal to no pesticides: Though the lack of pesticides is not the only characteristic of organic produce, it’s probably the one most consumers would give for buying organic. However some produce (especially the thicker skinned fruits and veggies) does not generally require heavy pesticides to begin with. For example, I rarely spend the extra money on organic oranges, avocados or pineapples.
- The organic claim for food grown outside the US, carries a risk of not being organic: The US is more rigid about enforcing the standard, China – less so. So if I am going to buy organic, I try to stick with domestic production.
- Packaged organic foods may still be highly processed and filled with sugar: Just because the flour and sugar in a box of cookies are organic does not mean they’re “good for you”. If you’re going to indulge, indulge in whatever makes you happiest but don’t buy the organic chocolate chip cookies, thinking you’re eating a health food, if your goal is to cut back on sugar!
So by all means eat organic when you can, but choose wisely – spend your organic dollars on those foods where you feel there is a real difference, and for the rest, go conventional and focus on the “real”.
MichelleCheck out my latest posts here