By Bents Dulcio
The produce section of the grocery store floods you with many colorful options. Apples or oranges? Blackberries or blue? Why not throw a melon in there, too? In recent years, consumers have been forced to ask themselves another difficult and often confusing question: organic or conventional?
Some things you may ask yourself while strolling through the produce aisles are:
· What’s the difference between conventionally and organically grown produce?
· Does organic mean healthier?
· Why is this stuff so expensive?
According to the USDA’s website, organic is a term used to let consumers know that the food they are purchasing has been produced by approved methods. For a product to be labeled organic it must exclude production methods like genetic engineering and ionizing radiation. Also, organic foods must be produced following the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.
100% organic, certified organic, and “made with organic”
Not all organics are created equal. Organic labels can be misleading; just because something says organic does not mean all of its ingredients are.
Foods labeled 100 percent organic are just that; 100% percent of their ingredients were produced in accordance with USDA’s standards. These foods include a USDA organic seal.
If a product is labeled “organic” that means that at least 95% of its ingredients are organic. These products also include a USDA organic seal. Products may include a “made with” organic label if at least 70% percent of their ingredients are organic. They do not include the USDA organic seal.
Is organic a healthier option than conventional?
In 2012, Stanford University conducted an analysis of 237 studies that had been conducted in regard to the perceived benefits of organic versus conventionally grown foods. Researchers found little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods.
However, Researchers did find organic foods had a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional produce, though organic produce is not necessarily free of pesticides.
The High Cost of Shopping Organic
Many consumers equate the high cost of organic foods with better quality and taste. In some cases, this may be true, but the main reasons for such expensive products are:
· High demand and limited supply.
· Alternative pest control methods to pesticides are often expensive and time consuming.
· Prices associated with a USDA organic certification
· High cost of organic farmland and facilities compared to conventional.
· Organic farming materials (i.e. green manures and legumes) cost more than conventional materials.
· Conventional farming methods are more effective at garnering higher yields of crop than organic farming practices.
Should I purchase organic or conventional?
Read the labels, make sure you know what you’re buying. Remember the differences between “organic” and “made with” organic. Many consumers purchase organic not because of health benefits, but the potential effects of pesticides on the environment. Ultimately, the choice is yours. Fortunately, here at Always Fresh we offer both organic and conventionally grown produce.