Is Organic Food Worth the Cost? Yes, but not All!
Updated: Apr 1
There has been a lot of hype in the last few years about going organic with fruits, vegetables and meats. Given the additional cost of organic foods, is it worth the money and does EVERYTHING we eat need to be organic?
Food labeling is critical, especially for consumers. With so many food products labelled ‘organic’ or ‘certified organic’ confusion can arise as to what the difference really is. We have broken it down to help explain what it means for a food to be organic and which source is more reliable to ensure the food is certified organic.
For a food product to be ‘organic’, it must not use any synthetic pesticides (herbicides, fungicides, insecticides) genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) or ionizing radiation. The same approach applies for animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. They must be free from antibiotics or growth hormones and no GMO feed.
What is GMO food? GMO, genetically modified organisms, is a plant, animal, or other organism that had their characteristics changed through the modification of their DNA.
The 9 main crops (88-95%) in the US are GMO: soy, corn, cotton, canola, sugar (sugar beets), Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, and alfalfa
70-80% of processed food contains GMO's: ketchup, potato chips, cereal, cookies, bread (to name a few)
If NOT organic, the animals you eat also eat GM crops
Have you eaten any GM foods lately? There is no labeling requirement for GM foods! The word 'natural' does not mean GMO-free. A complete list and a shopping guide can be found online at www.nongmoshoppingguide.com.
Going organic can help reduce exposure to chemicals that may disrupt our bodies' natural rhythms. Organic practices also help to support the planet through utilizing more sustainable methods such as repurposing manure as an organic fertilizer, as this contributes to the health of the soil and eliminates the use of chemicals.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, found that even after properly washing produce, pesticides remained.
‘Certified Organic’ is a registered trademark which has its own strict standard that has been approved by the government. This ensures trust and reliability that what you are buying matches the product quality that it is claiming to be. However, there has been much debate on these standards as certain corporations and farmers have found loopholes to get around this, as in the case of Driscoll Strawberries and their ability to user ‘starters’ (baby plants) grown in fumigated soil if no organic starts are commercially available.
To label a food ‘organic’, there is no certification or standards required. This means foods can feature the word ‘organic’ in their title and not contain a single organic ingredient.
As a health coach, what really matters to me is how the food was grown. Some smaller farms use all organic practices but haven’t gone through the full organic certification process yet because it can be expensive for a small business. Get to know your local farms and stands and the farmer's market and ask about the farm’s practices.
Is organic worth the cost?
Purchasing organic products on a regular basis may simply not be financially feasible for many, so I only buy organics based on what is listed as the Dirty Dozen on the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ (aka Dirty Dozen and Clean 15). This annual list ranks pesticide contamination on 48 popular fruits and vegetables. The guide is based on results of more than 35,200 samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.
The 12 foods with the most pesticides are called the Dirty Dozen, while the top 15 foods with the least pesticides are called the Clean 15. These lists are a great idea to take with you on your shopping trips to know when to buy organic and when it’s ok to buy conventional. Below is a summary of what was listed for 2020. For the full report, visit the EWG website.
The Dirty Dozen (2020)
Buy these organic whenever possible
The Clean Fifteen (2020)
Conventional is okay to purchase (not organic)
Sweet Peas (frozen)
* Per the EWG, a small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from Genetically Engineered (GE) seed stock. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid Genetically Engineered produce.
The Bottom Line?
It really depends on your priorities. As a health coach, eating a balanced diet while remaining conscientious about how your food choices impact the health of the planet and farming communities, is key. For me, I am growing my own fruits and vegetables using self-watering garden containers. Not only do I save money, but I get to eat my own vegetables which is rewarding. Here is a picture of our first round of crops!
To learn more about organic foods and how to incorporate them into your diet and meals, check out our health coaching programs online. Your first consulting session is complimentary!
Interested in starting your own garden? Contact me to learn more about these fantastic self-watering garden containers. They are super easy to maintain – self-watering, no electricity, no weeding, no chemicals, all you need is a garden hose, potting mix, fertilizer, and your favorite veggies or fruits to plant.
By purchasing through First Wave Wellness, we can offer you (1) free organic fertilizer package with each garden container you purchase. Sign up now and get your special discount code. Happy Gardening!