to go organic or not?

It’s a weighty question for many reasons, and one that for many people doesn’t necessarily have a clear answer and often simply raises more questions. It’s so much more expensive, is it really worth the price? Is it really, actually, better for you? Why does it matter if it was grown organically or not? I wash it before I eat it.
These questions are understandable, and the choice to purchase organic or conventionally grown produce is a very personal one, influenced by a number of factors and individual values (none the least of which are probably availability and affordability). Personally, I prefer organic when I have the choice especially for those higher-pesticide foods like strawberries, apples, grapes, and lettuce (among others). But there are some foods that I am more comfortable buying conventionally, namely those with thick outer skins that are not consumed.

Luckily, the decision to go organic has been made a little easier. The Environmental Working Group recently published it’s 2011 Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which lists the “top offenders” and those whose pesticide levels are low enough that you can feel better about buying conventionally. This, of course, says nothing about the impact pesticide use has on the environment or the health of people using them, but lists like this at least raise awareness of the problem; and we’ve got to start somewhere. Of course it would be fabulous if everyone could shop exclusively at year-round farmers’ markets, consuming only what was in season and grown within a few miles of their home using nothing but organic fertilizers, but this is far from reality.  In the meantime, we can make the wisest decisions possible within the limits that constrain us. And that’s a start.

Conventional Produce with Lowest Pesticide Levels

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  7. Mangos
  8. Eggplant
  9. Cantaloupe (Domestic)
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet Potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms
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4 thoughts on “to go organic or not?

  1. Appreciate this information, Kiyah! This exact question goes through my head during virtually every swing through the market. This is a good starting point for things I can “wonder about less.”

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  2. Bummer about strawberries! I’m sitting here devouring a bag of cherries my mom just bought and thanking my lucky stars they’re not on the list. But there is a carton of strawberries waiting for me on the counter. You know yesterday on NPR I read a story that said even some organic produce is made with pesticides. They pass for organic b/c they’re made from naturally-ocurring “things” like soil bacterias etc. Rule of thumb was go for stuff with least pesticide use…. whether its organic or conventional. Does that mean if conventional strawberries use a lot of pesticide than presumably organic ones would too? I can’t be kept from my strawberries!!!

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    1. I heard something about this…natural pesticides…and I’m going to investigate further. Are these soil bacteria any better than the chemicals that large-scale farms use? I don’t know, but I’m on it!
      And I’ve been thinking the same thing about cherries lately, because I’m seeing them all over in the grocery stores these days. I still hesitate to eat non-organic, because they have such soft skin, which we eat. Then again, I hesitate about eating non-organic foods a little longer than many people, so it might just be me!

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