The popularity of organic food has grown exponentially, despite its high price tag, and sales don’t seem to be wavering. Health conscious grocery stores have popped up all over the world, smaller grocers are offering organic options, and more food companies and restaurants are touting their use of organic ingredients.
But is organic food really as good as it claims to be? Or is it just the latest trend in food? Unfortunately, the experts say that there really isn’t enough evidence to say it isn’t or is healthier than non-organic food. With that said, it becomes merely a personal decision—let’s consider two main arguments from both sides:
One of the biggest arguments used to debunk eating organically is the lax guidelines that surround the certification and labeling of organic products. In 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture set strict guidelines ensuring that all organic foods are grown and processed in accordance to their standards. If you buy a product that is labeled “USDA organic,” you can rest assured that it contains at least 95% organic ingredients.
However, many people are still wary of organic products—especially given the complexity of organic labeling. For instance, the USDA still allows companies to label their packaging in ways that could be misleading for the uninformed. Products with at least 70% organically produced are allowed to claim their product is “made with organic ingredients.”
In short, if you choose to eat organically, it is important to do your research and understand the nuances of certification and labelling.
An Issue of Safety
In general, fans of eating organically claim that the biggest advantage is the reduction of pesticide residue. The science exists to back up their claim—one large-scale study concluded that organically grown crops contained almost “one-third as many pesticide residues as the conventionally grown versions.”
However, even though the science is there, it may not really mean much. The Environmental Protection Agency has set levels for what they deem to be unsafe levels of pesticide residue. As it turns out, conventionally grown crops containing larger amounts of pesticide residue are still considerably below that amount.
Those who eat organically often argue that the real issue with pesticides, regardless of the amount of pesticide one normal crop contains, is how they will affect us over time. Researchers are still trying to figure that one out.
All in all, the jury still seems to be out on whether organic food is truly healthier. Keep in mind that the two arguments discussed above are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this topic. From the chemicals and toxins the plants release themselves, to the manure used in organic farming—not to mention the environment aspect—there are still plenty of factors to consider when going organic. If you’re thinking of making the switch, consider your own health goals and values, and then conduct research to see if eating organically aligns.