While everyone has come to know the word “organic,” when it
comes down to it, very few know exactly what it means. Somehow organic
has pervaded the public consciousness to mean “healthier,”
and that big green sticker justifies the price that is just a little higher
than the traditionally grown food next to it. It is important to understand
exactly what organic produce is and whether or not it is healthier for
you to consume on a regular basis than non-organic / traditional produce options.
What Constitutes Organic?
To put it simply, organic produce can refer to meats, fruits, vegetables,
or other crops grown without unnatural assistance. This means produce
grown without (most) pesticides or artificial fertilizer, polluted soil
or water, or genetic enhancers. For meat, the livestock must be raised
outdoors and fed organic feed without antibiotics or growth hormones.
To ensure these requirements are met, a government USDA official inspects
the farm and—if it meets the criteria—certifies it as organic.
There are different levels of organic that farmers can label their food
depending on the results of the inspection:
100% Organic: Made with all organic ingredients
Organic: 95% or more of the ingredients are organic
Made with organic ingredients: At least 70% of the ingredients are organic and there were no genetic
modifications to the food
<70%: These items can have the ingredients that are organic labeled on the side,
but may not be classified as organic.
Why Isn’t Everyone Growing Organic?
When you think about it, organic food is taking us back to a “simpler”
time. To grow organic, farmers are removing many of the scientific advancements
in farming that have been instituted over the years to produce more crops
The truth is, those new processes were not necessarily created to make
food better, but to make farming easier. Without hormones and antibiotics,
it’s harder to keep livestock big and healthy; without pesticides
it’s more difficult to protect crops; without preservatives, all
the food has to be shipped and sold faster. Raising organic food is a
costly and time-consuming process that will not necessarily yield a bigger
payoff. For those that care about the long-term health benefits that unnaturally
modified produce might have, organic seems to be worth the investment.
Why Choose to Select Food that Is Grown Organic?
One huge benefit is the use of fewer pesticides. It is important to be
aware that all food, organic or not, must keep pesticide traces well below
the USDA limit—and organic farmers
do use pesticides. The difference is that organic farmers are restricted
to an approved list of pesticides that use fewer chemicals and leave less
residue—no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Though consuming
traces of pesticides will cause immediate, obvious harm, it can do damage
over time. Going organic significantly reduces the risk of pesticides
affecting your body.
Organic farming is also better for the environment. Maintaining an organic
farm requires a lot of care and attention, which results in better soil
upkeep, reduced pollution, and sustainable farm land. Crops on organic
farms usually have high yield and are more likely to grow in the same
spot the next year. Additionally, the environmental impact is another
reason why many people buy organic.
Is Organic Produce Better for Me?
The short answer is: We don’t know yet. As of now, there are no conclusive
studies proving organic produce is more nutritious than that grown on
conventional farms. There is the obvious benefit of less pollution and
fewer pesticides, but that is more like avoiding a risk rather than giving
your body a boost.
It is important to know that if you are buying organic food because you
think it’s better for you, you are not wrong—but organic produce
doesn’t necessarily provide numerous advantages not found in more
traditional options. The best take away? Don’t use “organic”
as your sole criteria for determining nutritional quality in your produce.
This article contains general information about medical conditions and
treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as
such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis
of a physician.
If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should
consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.