Organic/Non: To Buy or Not To Buy ~

In a world where sound bites and headlines are sometimes as far as we read to get our news (ok, I may just be speaking about ME), it is disturbing when headlines blare:

There isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods…” said Dena Bravata, MD, MS, the senior author of a paper comparing the nutrition of organic and non-organic foods, published in the Sept. 4 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

Nutritional content is not the MAIN reason people who want to buy organics, BUY them. One of THE  reasons is they don’t want chemicals/pesticides used in their growth and production. I found a few articles which I think stated it nicely, some exerts and links below. Breakin it down…

Christian Science Monitor Article on what the study missed: excerpt –

The problem with their research, as I see it, is that they asked the wrong question. No one has really seriously claimed that organic foods are more nutritious. And earlier studies on this very subject have already stated what the Stanford researchers were “surprised” to discover. To me, they missed the point. Their central question was kind of like asking if LED light bulbs are any quieter than conventional ones, or if fuel-efficient vehicles are any shinier than gas guzzlers.

Because while organic foods may not be more nutritional than conventional foods, they are definitely healthier. First, there are the pesticides applied to conventional produce. The study recognized this, but said that pesticide levels were all within safety guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency. However, an impressive number of studies question whether the EPA’s levels are strict enough.

Article from the on what the headlines left out:

Which brings us to the second point. Choosing organic fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry over the other stuff has only partly to do with nutrition, if anything at all… It’s what gets added to the apple or chicken that sends shoppers to the organic aisle.

Rules for organic farming stipulate that no pesticides be used. Whatever pesticides show up come either from the soil, where they may have soaked in years before, or from other farms, carried by the breeze. Organic crops are not Super Crops. They can’t evade pesticide droplets in a single bound, but they can certainly encounter far fewer. When they do, so do you.

There is also the higher price to consider. If we can’t afford organics, we have to ask ourselves if eating more produce, even if it is grown with chemicals, is better for us than not having them at all. I THINK the answer is yes? I try to buy mostly organic produce, and if I have animal products I look for the ones that are also organic so as not to have added hormones. I also look at the CLEAN 15 list to see if there are some fruits and veggies that are safer to buy non organic. But?

The best response I found and best sum up of WHAT TO DO with this information comes from (click for full article) an interview with MICHAEL POLLAN:

JON BROOKS: Let’s say you’re a consumer standing there at your grocery store and you have a choice between an organically grown piece of produce grown far away and a conventionally grown piece grown locally. All things considered, which is the best choice?

MICHAEL POLLAN: It depends on your values. If you’re concerned about nutritional value and taste, you might find that the local food, which is more likely to have been picked when it was ripe, is better. Because any food that’s traveled a few days to get to you or been refrigerated for a long time is going to have diminished nutritional value. That argues for fresh being more important than organic.

But if you’re concerned about pesticides – let’s say you’re pregnant or have young kids you’re feeding – then you might choose organic, because it will have on balance fewer pesticide residues. You may also be concerned with the welfare of the people picking and the farmers growing your produce, or you may be concerned about soil health — that would argue for organic too.

I tend to favor local food, whether it’s certified organic or not. Most of the local food available to us in the Bay Area, though, tends to be grown organically, even if it’s not certified. So it is possible to have it both ways. If you’re shopping at your farmers’ market, you’re getting food that’s very fresh, probably very nutritious, and probably grown without synthethic pesticides.

JON BROOKS: Anything else?

MICHAEL POLLAN: I would just encourage people to educate themselves and not take headlines at face value. It’s a complicated question, and we need to a do a lot more science. The absence of proof means that we either haven’t studied it or we haven’t found it yet, it doesn’t mean we won’t. In the meantime, there’s a precautionary principle: even though the case isn’t closed on low levels of pesticides in our diet, there are very good reasons to minimize them.

Eat more fruits and veggies yes, when you can, buy organic, when you can’t, make the best choices you are able. Don’t take a headline as gospel (If you are not so gullible as I, disregard my yelling :)! We need to keep reading and education ourselves and not always from the same paper or ‘news’ source just so we can be sure to hear all sides and then make our own well thought out decisions. Not always taking things at face value, just because it’s written down somewhere doesn’t make it so. Opinions and Facts and Conjectures – Oh My!

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