What’s the big deal about organic food? What makes organic worth the price? What does organic produce mean, anyway?
These are questions I often get asked.
What is Organic?
As defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic foods are those grown WITHOUT the use of pesticides, petroleum- or sewage-based fertilizers, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering and irradiation.
What If It’s Not Organic?
If it’s not organic, than it’s most likely grown WITH pesticides, petroleum- or sewage-based fertilizers, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering, or irradiation.
When eat fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue, we are also ingesting poisons which have been designed to kill insects, weeds, small rodents and other pests. These poisons accumulate in our bodies and may make us very sick. Pesticides can suppress the immune system, our first line of defense against disease. A 2001 study by the Center for Disease Control found that Americans have a variety of chemicals in their bodies, which may lead to health problems, including cancers.
The chemicals in Aiden’s food affect him differently than an adult.
We forget that children are not miniature adults. Their bodies are still developing. In fact, what may be acceptable for one child, may cause a problem in another. Picky eaters usually ingest more chemicals than other children, because the food they willingly eat is junk food.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the standard for “acceptable” pesticide residue for fruit and vegetables. (I want to know what makes it acceptable.) While the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has done it’s own analysis of 87,000 government tests conducted between 2000 and 2007. EWA developed “The Dirty Dozen” list of the most pesticide contaminated produce.
The produce was given a score: 100 is the highest pesticide load and 0 the least.
What Are The Dirty Dozen?
The Dirty Dozen are the top 12 fruit and vegetables with the highest pesticide load. They were peaches (100), apples (93), sweet bell pepper (83), celery (82), nectarines (81), strawberries (80), cherries (73), kale (69), lettuce (67), imported grapes (66), carrots and pears (63). It only makes sense that these should be the first organic fruit and vegetables you purchase.
It’s interesting that most items on the lower end of the pesticide list, the outer layer is thrown away. Those with the lowest pesticide levels were onions (1), avocados (1), frozen sweet corn and peas (2), pineapples (7), mangoes (9), asparagus (10), kiwi 13), cabbage (17), eggplant (20), papaya (20) and watermelon (26).
To avoid as many pesticides as possible, you’ll want to eat organic produce. A good place to begin is to avoid The Dirty Dozen and purchase organic instead.
When you eat fruit with an outside covering which is not consumed (the husk of an ear of corn is discarded and so is the peel of a banana), some of the pesticides are thrown out with the outer layer…but not all. The majority of pollutants are absorbed into the plant and can’t be washed away. Still, a thorough washing will remove some of the pollutants. Also, all produce has been touched by an average of 20 people before you purchase it. That’s the people who harvest, transport, stock the market as well as customers. So always wash your produce.