Organic. We hear that word thrown around all the time. Sometimes in a positive
way. Sometimes not so much. What is organic? Well, in the wise words of my
organic chemistry professor, organic means something living; something that is
made of carbon molecules, and has nothing to do with how food is grown.
Nevertheless, it has become a diet, a lifestyle for some people.
When we talk about organic farming in terms of produce, it means these fruits,
vegetables, and grains have been grown without most chemical fertilizers and
pesticides. That being said, it is harder as a farmer to produce as many crops
when farming organic. They also have to have certified organic farms that
undergo regular checks to make sure they are compliant with the United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations.
So, where does the idea “organic is healthier” come from? Organic farming has
been considered healthier because when you buy products, they have not been in
contact with fertilizers or pesticides. However, the FDA does regulate the amount
and timing of products that can be used on conventionally grown produce so they
do not have any potentially harmful effects on them. Also, when plants are
grown, the more stress they are under (be it pests, environment, etc.), the more
nutrients they produce as they grow. This is another reason organic can
sometimes be taken as healthier because they do not have the fertilizers or
pesticides helping them grow. We cannot measure the amount of nutrients in one
piece of produce versus another, and conventional plants can still undergo large
amounts of stress as they grow, too. We don’t know that an organic product that
had stress from pests necessarily has any more nutrients than a conventionally
grown plant that was grown in a harsh climate.
The point to this is that there is not currently research that points to organic or
conventional produce as being better. Maybe down the road we will find that
organic foods are better for us over long periods of time. For now, the choice is
completely up to you; if you have the feasibility to buy all organic and would like
to, absolutely do. However, if you are not able to afford it or do not see a point to
it, just consuming fresh produce is a wonderfully healthy start.