Environmental Health, Lifestyle, Nutrition , ,

“Is it organic?”

No those aren’t transformers you’re not about to be Michael Bay-ed. Last week we talked about the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists of produce with the most and least amounts of pesticide residue found on them. And as promised, let’s take a closer look at what exactly that USDA organic label provides (does peace of mind count).

Below is a very useful breakdown from the Mayo Clinic.

What is organic farming?
The word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to meet the following goals:
• Enhance soil and water quality
• Reduce pollution
• Promote a self-sustaining cycle of resources on a farm

Materials or practices not permitted in organic farming include:
• Synthetic fertilizers to add nutrients to the soil
• Sewage sludge as fertilizer
• Most synthetic pesticides for pest control
• Irradiation to preserve food or to eliminate disease or pests
• Genetic engineering, used to improve disease or pest resistance or to improve crop yields

Organic crop farming materials or practices may include:
• Plant waste left on fields (green manure), livestock manure or compost to improve soil quality
• Plant rotation to preserve soil quality and to interrupt cycles of pests or disease
• Cover crops that prevent erosion when parcels of land are not in use and to plow into soil for improving soil quality
• Mulch to control weeds
• Predatory insects or insect traps to control pests
• Certain natural pesticides and a few synthetic pesticides approved for organic farming, used rarely and only as a last resort in coordination with a USDA organic certifying agent

Me again. So what are those benefits? Organically grown crops have been shown less likely to contain pesticides and 48% less likely to test positive for cadmium (toxic heavy metal). The jury seems to be out on whether organic compared to conventionally grown impacts the level/quality of nutrients in the produce. As mentioned last week it’s a good idea to give produce a good rinse before consuming; it may also be a good idea to peel/remove the outer layer of conventionally grown produce that made the Dirty Dozen to limit pesticide ingestion. This may in turn then decrease the level of nutrients the produce provides. Next post, let’s explore the research on pesticides.




  • Matthew Johnson

    I always worry about attempts to move towards organic produce. It always seems like yet another dividing factor between the rich and the poor because poor people likely won’t be able to afford expensive organic foods; however, not being able to afford organic food, doesn’t mean that people deserve poor health. It’s important to think of more systemically equitable change to make food more equitable. Food inequity is a pervasive issue that we often don’t talk about other than thinking about people going without food. However, food inequity extends beyond starvation to food quality and nutrition.

    • Laurie Hursting

      Luckily, according to the bulk of the research so far organic versus conventionally grown food is not different nutritionally. Food quality though, I think that’s a matter of perspective. About to write a post about the specific pesticides used for both. It’s a common misconception that organic foods are not treated with pesticides at all, they are but they have to be naturally derived. Does this necessarily make them better? We shall see