April 6, 2011

Buying organic

Living in a small town in Connecticut, organic produce is not always readily available throughout the year. Oh, how I envy those who live in warmer climates, who have farmers' markets open year round with fresh, inexpensive, varied and delicious organic produce every which way they turn. Well, I have reluctantly come to terms with it (yes, reluctantly) and am excited to see more local farmers' markets open in my area and begin to thrive. 

Although the organic movement, if we can call it that, is on the rise, there are still many consumers who don't know why that is. Why buy organic? Is it really worth the extra expense? To answer the first question, organic is best. There is no argument. It's better for the environment, keeping the herbicides and pesticides at bay as well as promoting healthier soil and farming in an ecologically conscious way. It's better for us, produced with no GMO's, or genetically modified organisms (this is another topic that will be discussed in the near-future so I won't go into detail here.) No pesticides or herbicides consumed, which have been linked to a number of health issues, including cancer, nervous system toxicity, hormone system side effects. It's healthier and tastier food, ridiculously more nutrient rich due to the purer soil. In meat products, there are no antibiotics or hormones. All good.

The second question is a little trickier. Sometimes it feels hard to justify when you're in the grocery store looking at red peppers and the conventionally grown are on sale and looking beautiful, priced at $1.99 / pound, while the organic are 2 for $4.99 - and they don't look nearly as nice. Ouch. But then I repeat the mantra, "organic is best." I buy the pair for $4.99, but as I don't like to pay full price for things, it's almost painful. But I know I'm doing better for me, my family and the environment. 

Okay, having said all that, it's not always in the budget nor is organic always an available option. Whole Foods is 30 minutes from where I live, which is not so convenient when I have an hour to buy groceries while the little one is in pre-school. To help with this dilemma, the Environmental Working Group, an environmental advocacy group, has put together a list of 49 fruits and veggies and ranks them from dirtiest (most pesticide contamination) to cleanest (lowest in pesticides.) Below is their Shopper's Guide to the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15. By not eating the Dirty Dozen, they state you can reduce your pesticide consumption by four-fifths. That's a big number. I just printed out the list and will be bringing it with me on my next grocery shopping trip.

When buying organic, look for the 'Certified Organic' or 'USDA Organic' label. Labels like 'All Natural' or '100% Organic Ingredients' don't cut it. 'All Natural' is completely misleading and '100% Organic' translates into 70% organic ingredients, which leaves 30% unaccounted for. Hmm.

If you want to see change - lower prices, more availability, etc. - buy organic when you can. It sends a clear message to those producing and selling our food products that we are demanding better. And I'm now stepping off of my soap box...


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