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New study says organic food is not healthier--is that really true?

By Nicci Micco, July 30, 2009 - 12:00pm

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Nicci asks: What, if anything, do you buy organic?

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I would like to buy all organic produce, but I live in a small town, so my choices are limited. I routinely find spinach, celery, and green onions, so I always buy them. The only brand I have found is "Earthbound," but I like their products, so that isn't a problem.

Anonymous

03/01/2012 - 5:12pm

I am a firm believer that buying organic is healthier and better for all of us. It may cost a little more but well worth it. Just look at some of the articles people with cancer have written and see how they have beat cancer. Their life changes with organic foods along with exercise has helped them and so many others .I believe it is better to do the right thing and take care of the one and only body you have. It is sometimes amazing to see that in a store that some organic items can be cheaper then the non organic. You have to compare and shop carefully. It would be helpful if stores had the dirty dozen sign up to educate people more. I just carry mine in my purse.
Sandy
Shrewsbury, Ma.

Anonymous

02/29/2012 - 9:21pm

I eat organic to reduce pesticide load on the body and protect the soil as well as insects and animals.

Anonymous

02/21/2012 - 7:27pm

what about 'oranges' ? didn't see them on the do or do not lists...

Anonymous

02/21/2012 - 2:20pm

Organic is the best way to go...I loveshopping for organic and a BIG FAN too!

Anonymous

02/21/2012 - 5:58am

Love organic!

Anonymous

02/21/2012 - 5:57am

What is organic food?

Making a commitment to healthy eating is a great start towards a healthier life. Beyond eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and good fats, however, there is the question of food safety, nutrition, and sustainability. How foods are grown or raised can impact both your health and the environment. This brings up the questions: What is the difference between organic foods and conventionally grown foods? Is “organic” always best? What about locally grown foods?
What does “organic” mean?

The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Specific requirements must be met and maintained in order for products to be labeled as "organic".

Organic crops must be grown in safe soil, have no modifications and must remain separate from conventional products. Farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
What are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are plants or animals, whose DNA has been altered. These products have undergone only short term testing to determine their effects on humans and the environment.

In most countries, organic products do not contain GMOs.

Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and be given organic feed. They may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal-by-products.
Is organic food more nutritious than non-organic food?

The evidence is unclear. Some studies suggest that, on average, organically grown fruits and vegetables may contain slightly higher levels of vitamin C, trace minerals, and antioxidant phytonutrients than conventionally grown produce. However, other studies have found no nutritional differences between organic and non-organic foods.
The benefits of organic food

Organic foods provide a variety of benefits. Some studies show that organic foods have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally grown counterparts. In addition, people with allergies to foods, chemicals or preservatives often find their symptoms lessen or go away when they eat only organic foods. In addition:

Organic produce contains fewer pesticides. Pesticides are chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides. These chemicals are widely used in conventional agriculture and residues remain on (and in) the food we eat.

Why do pesticides matter?

Children and fetuses are most vulnerable to pesticide exposure due to their less-developed immune systems and because their bodies and brains are still developing. Exposure at an early age can cause developmental delays, behavioral disorders, and motor dysfunction.
Pregnant women are more vulnerable due to the added stress pesticides put on their already taxed organs. Plus pesticides can be passed from mother to child in the womb, as well as through breast milk. Some exposures can cause delayed effects on the nervous system, even years after the initial exposure.
Most of us have an accumulated build-up of pesticide exposure in our bodies due to numerous years of exposure. This chemical "body burden," as it is medically known, could lead to health issues such as headaches, birth defects, and added strain on weakened immune systems.

Organic food is often fresher. Fresh food tastes better. Organic food is usually fresher when eaten because it doesn’t contain preservatives that make it last longer. Organic produce is often (but not always, so watch where it is from!) produced on smaller farms near where it is sold.
Organic farming is better for the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution (air, water, soil), conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. In addition, organic farming is better for birds and small animals, since chemical pesticides can make it hard for birds and small animals to reproduce and can even kill them. It is also better for the people who harvest our food.
Organically raised animals are NOT given antibiotics, growth hormones or fed animal byproducts. The use of antibiotics in conventional meat production helps create antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. This means that when someone gets sick from these strains they will be less responsive to antibiotic treatment. Not feeding animal byproducts to other animals reduces the risk of mad cow disease. In addition, the animals are given more space to move around and access to the outdoors, both of which help to keep the animals healthy. The more crowded the conditions, the more likely an animal is to get sick.

Organic farming and locally grown produce

Organic farming refers to the agricultural production systems that are used to produce food and fiber. Organic farmers don’t use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Instead, they rely on biological diversity in the field to naturally reduce habitat for pest organisms. Organic farmers also purposefully maintain and replenish the fertility of the soil. All kinds of agricultural products are produced organically, including produce, grains, meat, dairy, eggs, fibers such as cotton, flowers, and processed food products.

Essential characteristics of organic systems include:

Design and implementation of an "organic system plan" that describes the practices used in producing crops and livestock products
Detailed recordkeeping systems that track all products from the field to point of sale
Maintenance of buffer zones to prevent inadvertent contamination by synthetic farm chemicals from adjacent conventional fields

Organic vs. Non-organic Produce

Organic produce:

No Pesticides

Grown with natural fertilizers (manure, compost).
Weeds are controlled naturally (crop rotation, hand weeding, mulching, and tilling).
Insects are controlled using natural methods (birds, good insects, traps).

Conventionally grown produce:

Pesticides used

Grown with synthetic or chemical fertilizers.
Weeds are controlled with chemical herbicides.
Insecticides are used to manage pests and disease.

Locally Grown Fruits and Vegetables

What is local food? Unlike organic standards, there is no specific definition. Generally local food means food that was grown close to home. This could be in your own garden, your local community, your state, your region or your country. During large portions of the year it is almost always possible to find food grown very close to home at places such as a farmer’s market.

Why people buy locally grown food:

Financial benefits: Money stays within the community, and strengthens the local economy. More money goes directly to the farmer, instead of to things like marketing and distribution.
Transportation issues: The average distance an American meal travels from the farm to your dinner plate is over 1500 miles. This uses a lot of fossil fuels and emits carbon dioxide into the air. In addition, produce must be picked while still unripe and then gassed to "ripen" it after transport. Or the food is highly processed in factories using preservatives, irradiation, and other means to keep it stable for transport and sale.
Fresh produce: Local food is the freshest food you can purchase. Fruits and vegetables are harvested when they are ripe and thus full of flavor.

Small local farmers often use organic methods but sometimes cannot afford to become certified organic. Visit a farmer’s market and talk with the farmers. Find out how they produce the fruits and vegetables they sell. You can even ask for a farm tour.
Fruits and vegetables where the organic label matters the most

According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that analyzes the results of government pesticide testing in the U.S., the following 12 fruits and vegetables have the highest pesticide levels on average. Because of their high pesticide levels when conventionally grown, it is best to buy these organic:

Apples
Bell Peppers
Carrots
Celery
Cherries
Grapes (imported)

Kale
Lettuce
Nectarines
Peaches
Pears
Strawberrie

Non-organic fruits and vegetables with low pesticide levels

These conventionally grown fruits and vegetables were found to have the lowest levels of pesticides. Most of these have thicker skin or peel, which naturally protects them better from pests, and which also means their production does not require the use of as many pesticides.

Asparagus
Avocado
Broccoli
Cabbage
Corn (sweet)
Eggplant
Kiwi
Mango

Onion
Papaya
Pineapple
Peas (sweet)
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Watermelon

Does washing and peeling get rid of pesticides?

Rinsing reduces but does not eliminate pesticides. Peeling sometimes helps, but valuable nutrients often go down the drain with the skin. The best approach: eat a varied diet, wash all produce, and buy organic when possible.

Source: Environmental Working Group

Anonymous

02/19/2012 - 7:46pm

Anything that I might eat the skin of, like apples, pears, etc. Berries. I don't go out of my way to buy packaged stuff that is claimed to be made from organic ingredients like crackers or cookies. I don't see it making much of a difference there.

Anonymous

12/26/2011 - 1:45am

i buy everything organic if possible.

Anonymous

11/12/2010 - 1:20pm

I have an intense dislike for chemicals of any kind. Lawn chemicals, farm chemicals, etc. I buy anything I can thats organic and I buy as much locally as I can. I don't buy processed food like canned foods. I try to stay away, as much as possible, foods with additives. I rarely eat meat of any kind. I don't care what the "experts" say, my health has improved dramatically. I use almost half the insulin I used to need and my triglycerides have dropped from 250 to 108, my kidney function has improved and is stable, I have more energy. BTW, I'm 72 and have been a diabetic for over 30 years. I am an expert on my own body and I say eat as healthy as you can.
Harold Highland
highlandhouse333@sbcglobal.net

Anonymous

10/07/2010 - 10:58am

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