Monday, September 19, 2011

To be, or not to be Organic

Do you remember when you first started seeing the word ORGANIC at the grocery store?  Did you understand what it meant?  It may have sounded like such a foreign word that you dismissed it, especially when you realized how much more expensive the item was compared to it's non-organic counterpart.  Today, the word ORGANIC is everywhere and not on just high priced produce.  From organic face wash and tissues, to organic beef and crackers, consumers have the choice in purchasing everything organic (and spending a little extra dough) or not.  But what are the health implications of not choosing the organic product?  Let's discuss.

What does "organic" really mean?  The word organic states that the product, whether it be produce or tissues, are grown/manufactured without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMO's), sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation.  Additionally, it stipulates that organic animals may not be given any antibiotics or growth hormones.  The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) has STRINGENT guidelines for becoming an organic food processor and they define it as the following......

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.

The real question is whether or not the organic product is a "healthier" version of the non-organic.  And herein is where the debate lies.  Many people (myself included) believe that organic products, ESPECIALLY produce, are healthier for your body than the non-organic.  As is the case with the "DIRTY DOZEN".  Many studies have shown that purchasing the non-organic variety of these 12 can contain extremely high levels of pesticides and synthetic fertilizer residue.  They have a very porous-type skin which easily soaks up the chemicals and is then is absorbed by your body after consumption.  I really love this list on what fruits and veggies make up the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean 15".  By switching over to organic for the Dirty Dozen, the Department of Agriculture estimates that you can reduce your exposure to pesticides by 80%-90%.  I would say that is significant enough to shell out the extra $$$$ for these fruits and veggies.

Another thing to think about regarding the whole organic trend is the nutrition-based science emerging to back up the importance of riding our bodies of these nasty toxins, especially our children's.  A recent study published in the Pediatrics Journal whose focus was the data collected from about 1,140 children that were participating in the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.  The researchers looked at the pesticide-byproducts found in their urine and concluded that children with higher levels of a very common pesticide, neurotoxic organophosphate, were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.  More specifically, 119 children in the study met the criteria for ADHD.

There are about 40 different strains of this dangerous pesticide, neurotoxic organophosphate, that are registered with the EPA and have been linked to colony collapse disorder (the disappearance of our honey bees), childhood leukemia, and a myriad of other health issues that will continue to plague our bodies unless we stop buying foods filled with pesticides.

My advice is to buy the organic variety when you can, especially the fruit and veggies on the Dirty Dozen list.  Remember that highly processed foods still contain a large amount of pesticides if their primary ingredient is corn or soy.  That said, junk food is still junk food regardless if it's organic or conventionally grown.  Don't be fooled by clever marketing.

The most important thing you can do is to become educated on this topic, continue to eat a variety of local fruits & veggies, and always buy what's right for you and your family.



  1. very good post! Important information for everyone to consider!

  2. Fantastic write-up Jill! -Tasha-