A surging interest in organic products over the past 15 years has made the organic business a multibillion dollar industry, but is organic food better for you than conventionally grown foods?
In order to be classified as organic, foods must be produced without the use of sewer-sludge fertilizers, most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, genetic engineering (biotechnology), growth hormones, irradiation, or antibiotics. Organic livestock must live in conditions that accommodate the natural behavior of the animals.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic food production allows farmers to lower input costs, decrease reliance on nonrenewable resources, capture high-value markets and premium prices, and boost farm income. Organic agriculture also has important environmental benefits, including promotion of sustainability and biodiversity, and reduced pollution.
A study conducted by the USDA shows that certain fruits and vegetables, most commonly apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, spinach, strawberries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, and red raspberries, were found to contain high levels of pesticides, even after washing. Foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products may contain antibiotics and heavy metals such as arsenic.
On the other hand, other foods such as asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples, and sweet pees were generally not found to contain pesticide residue.
So are organic foods safer or more nutritious for you to eat? No. According to the latest scientific evidence, organic food differs from conventionally produced food only in the way it is grown, handled and processed. And, of course, the higher price. Organic and conventional food must meet the same quality and safety standards.
If you choose to eat organic foods, look for the round “USDA Organic” label, which certifies that the product meets USDA standards and is at least 95 percent organic.