Aside from the price tag, what’s the difference between organic and conventional foods? Is organic worth it? We believe the answer is a resounding YES. Wherever possible, you should choose organic products not only for you but for your dog as well! Read on to learn why…
What is Organic?
According to the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) “Organic” is a labeling term for “products that have been produced using cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity in accordance with the USDA organic regulations.” Organic agriculture must maintain or enhance environmental quality and may not use synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation or genetically modified organisms (1).
Organic vs. Natural
While it may sound nice, the word “natural” has no regulated definition. In other words, even though a product may claim to be “natural”, it may have been made using agricultural or manufacturing practices that are far from what you would expect to be natural (for example, genetically modified organisms can be considered “natural”). If you want to be sure your product has been made in a truly natural fashion, you better make sure that it is organic!
Why go organic?
- Reduce your exposure to pesticides and other toxins
According to the environmental working group (EWG) 2015 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ nearly two-thirds of over 3,000 produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013 were contaminated with pesticides (2). Researchers also found that pesticides were detected on fruits and vegetables after they had been washed and even peeled. Pesticides have been linked to cancer and other illness and the only way to know your products are free from pesticides is to ensure they are organic.
- Avoid Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) contain genetic material that has been artificially modified using biotechnology in order to express new properties (i.e. disease resistance, chemical tolerance, increased growth, etc). Unfortunately, the effect of these modifications on our health and the environment is not well known. In fact, studies with certain GM foods have shown that they may show toxicity to several organs and systems (3). As regulations do not require companies to disclose the use of GMOs, the only way to be avoid them is to choose organic products, which do not allow GMOs.
- Eat a healthier diet
Organically grown plants have been found to be higher in important vitamins and minerals (including vitamin C, phosphorous, iron, and magnesium) and lower in heavy metals (such as lead) than conventionally grown ones (4). Organic produce has also been shown to have higher polyphenol content and antioxidant activity (5). Overall, ounce for ounce, organically grown produce delivers more health promoting phytonutrients which, improves overall well being of everyone in the family, furry ones too!
- Eat a tastier diet
In addition to improved nutrient profiles, there is evidence to suggest that organic food also tastes better (6). Studies show there are discernible chemical differences in organically grown fruits and vegetables vs. their conventional counterparts, which may certainly impact flavor and aroma profiles. However, the practice of allowing fruits and vegetable to attain a higher degree of maturity in organic farming also helps improve the flavor of organic fruits and veggies. Whatever the reason, eating an organic diet may just taste better!
- Improve air, water and soil quality
Organic agriculture aims to maintain and improve the environment in order for future generations to enjoy the same (if not better) Earth that we do today. In order to achieve this goal, organic farmers take care not to contaminate the air, water or soil such that the plants they grow have the best possible chance to flourish. Without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, the plants are left to grow naturally, and as a result, must be given the best possible environment to do so. For this reason, organic farming has a minimal or even positive impact on Mother Earth.
- Support farmers and preserve biodiversity
Organic agriculture favors small farms and unique heirloom crops grown in poly-culture as opposed to large mono-cultural farms. By extension, organic agriculture therefore supports local and family owned farms as well as promotes cultivation of diverse and heirloom varieties of plants and vegetables. So by choosing organic you are directly supporting your neighbors while at the same time ensuring sustain variety in the produce aisle.
So if you want a healthier life for you and your family members (especially the furry ones) as well as a healthier planet choose organic!
1. USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (http://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/About%20the%20National%20Organic%20Program.pdf) accessed 9/3/2015
2. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php, accessed 9/3/2015
3. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 49(2)
4. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 87(15): 2757–2762
5. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 7(2): 161-173.
6. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 23(6): 561–568