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Is Organic Worth the Cost? The Debate Rages On

The organic vs. conventional debate rages.  We got a lot of comments on our last piece about this hotly debated organic vs. conventional foods topic.

Do you buy organic foods?  Leave a comment — let us know!

Is organic farming BETTER than conventional – do the foods have more nutrients?  More flavor?  Less pesticides?

And, at the end of the day, are they better for us?

So we’re back with some more info.

Data suggests adults eat around 2 servings of vegetables TOTAL per day.

And we’ve had people say to us “I can’t afford organic produce, so I can’t eat more than I'm already eating each day.”  But our goal is to first get people to eat MORE produce, whether organic or not.

At this time it is not clear what affect ingesting pesticides has on the body.

Research hasn’t suggested a particular health concern, but we also haven’t been eating much of them until more recently with different farming practices.  After all, they are pesticides.  I'd hate to learn down the road about some negative health outcome because of them.

With that said, a nonpartisan organization, The Environmental Working Group, poured over 50,000+ USDA and FDA tests of different pesticides.

They came up with a list of produce that is likely to be more contaminated than those that are not.  They called it the “Dirty Dozen”

Very simply, if you’re going to spend more on organic foods, you should focus on THESE 12 that are most commonly contaminated (they are in order from highest to lowest, but they suggest buying organic for any 1 of these 12)

   1. Peaches (most contaminated)
   2. Apples
   3. Sweet bell peppers
   4. Celery
   5. Nectarine
   6. Strawberries
   7. Cherries
   8. Kale
   9. Lettuce
  10. Grapes (imported)
  11. Carrot
  12. Pear

*NOTE: The entire list of 47 foods can be found here:

Then again, we also have the other issue of the environment, the workers themselves dealing with pesticides, and so on.

There are a lot of factors in this organic vs. conventional debate – more to come as we continue to learn.

Post a comment — is organic worth the money in your mind?

5 Responses to Is Organic Worth the Cost? The Debate Rages On

  1. Scott Tousignant January 26, 2010 at 6:20 am #

    I have an open mind on many of the debates regarding what's really the healthiest way to eat. I don't think there's one person who has all the answers and all the facts on all the debatable topics that we are presented with.
    I certainly don't know all the facts in the debate between conventional vs organic vegetables and fruits. I learn as much as I can, have an open mind for both sides, and go with what makes sense for me and my family… which may not be the same for every other family out there.
    My concern is that not enough real hardcore facts have been presented on organic farming. Are their 'natural' chemicals that they use any safer than conventional farming? How well regulated are they? Do they all follow similar guidelines?
    Currently I'm on the conventional side of the fence simply because I feel that I haven't been presented with enough facts to help me make the switch.
    The most important fact is something that you've mentioned in this post and that is simply that we are not eating enough fruits and vegetables… and when we do, many of us don't take the necessary time to wash our fruits and veggies before eating them.
    For now… I say do whatever you can to meet your daily requirement of fruit and veggies and then make your decision on whether you should choose organic or conventional. Don't allow the confusion to stop you from eating these great foods.
    Bottom line… we're getting fatter as a nation and the debate between conventional vs organic is not making things any easier when the debate that is really going on in many peoples minds is, "Should I have McDonald's or Burger King tonight?"
    Scott Tousignant

  2. David Grotto, RD January 26, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    Hey Chris:
    I've emailed EWG to ask them how old their data was regarding the dirty dozen and how often they update the list. I haven't heard back from them. Recent industry reports reveals little to no pesticide residues on the fruiting bodies of California strawberries.  It will be interesting to see.
    Dave

  3. Heather January 27, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    I think the problem is that we are generally ignorant about where our food comes from and how it's made (I include myself among the ignorant). We need to know how the present industrialized farming technique is different than traditional farming methods, and how each affects the end product and its nutritional value to humans. This also means we need to look past the headlines and studies and see who funded them. Was it the food industry, who has a motive for certain results? I feel like we live in an age where corporations, because they are legally treated as individuals, are allowed enormous say in the way products are regulated (or more likely, unregulated). There is confusion and skepticism in the organic debate because they *want* it to be unclear! 
    In my opinion, better food is going to be more expensive. Organic foods are more expensive because they are produced with more labor, less short cuts, and generally have to travel father than non-organic. It's just like grass-fed meat vs. corn-fed meat. Or solid hardwood vs. faux hardwood floors. Doing it right is more expensive.
    Is organic worth the money? When it comes to fruits and vegetables, I think it is. If it's organic AND local, even better. I agree with the author that we need to skip the processed middle-of-the-supermarket first and foremost. Doing just that alone would *guarantee* a major drop in the obesity epidemic! After ridding your diet of the ingredients you can't pronounce and all that HFCS, if you can afford synthetic-chemical-free (aka organic) versions of foods, go for it. I think we also must keep in mind that the word "organic" is not synonymous with "healthy." Somewhere I once read, "organic ice cream is still ice cream."

  4. Jenny January 28, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    I buy organic as often as I can mainly b/c I want to patronize those companies that are trying to make a difference with respect to the environment,  fair labor policies, etc..  After reading Michael Pollan and watching the Food, Inc. documentary, I'm committed to supporting local farmers and businesses.  

  5. Tracy January 29, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    I would like to comment on organic foods.  To be certified organic, the ground must be pesticide and herbicide free for 3 years.  But you also must consider the spray drift from neighboring fields.  I know about this first hand.  I grow a large garden in South Dakota and sell my veggies.  I do not use any pesticides or herbacides.  The customers love it even though I have never been certified organic.  Last year my garden was destroyed from neighboring fields.  They sprayed their crop with round-up and the wind was blowing 12 mph and blowing right toward my houses and garden and all of my trees.  My garden died, I lost all of it.  They did pay for my loss but it didn't make up for our empty freezer this winter or the loss of customers for the year.  What I'm trying to say is, even though it is certified, it still may have some small amount of pesticides or herbacides from spray drift.  The drift can and will carry for miles, and it doesn't have to be windy for it to drift.   There are laws and rules for spraying, but some people just don't care.  A lot of my trees (some fruit) showed damage from the spray, but I'll have to wait until spring to see if they will pull through it.  So just because they say it's organic, it can still have something on it.  It depends on how much spray drift they get.   Growing veggies pesticide and herbacide free doesn't take much more time than using it.  You use soap and oil sprays instead of the pesitcides.  I don't think it's worth the money you pay for it in the stores.  My veggies are priced comparable to the prices in the 2 grocery stores in town for the regular grown veggies, not the organic.  I do a pretty good business for a small town and we live 12 miles out of town. 

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