I have written on this topic multiple times and the bottom line does not change:
ANY VEGETABLE IS BETTER THAN NO VEGETABLE! Conventionally grown produce is good for you and you are encouraged to consume 4-5 cups of fruits + veggies a day. If you want to choose organic, go ahead but it is not necessary for a healthy diet.”
It is generally recognized that the health benefits of consuming any type of fresh fruits and vegetables outweighs any potential health risk.
When it comes to health benefits, there have not been any direct studies on humans to show that organic foods can prevent cancer or other diseases. So far, there is also not consensus that organic food is any more nutritious (higher in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients). There are studies to support both sides and there are a lot of factors that go into what makes produce have more or less of various nutrients. That is an entire article in itself!
Given this information, why would someone choose organic?
We know that organic foods have:
• Lower pesticide residues
• Lower amounts of food additives
• Better stewardship of natural resources like land and water.
• Better stewardship of human resources means being socially considerate of the working and living condition of laborers, needs of rural communities and health of consumers.
The US government monitors the organic label. It can be an expensive process for the farmer’s to go through in order to be able to make the organic claim. Therefore, many smaller farms that you might find in your area cannot afford to get the official organic claim. If you shop at farmer’s markets or coop where you can talk to the farmer, they can tell you if they use organic farm practices.
We know this about conventionally grown produce:
- The EPA evaluates the safety of pesticide use and determines safe intake levels.
- The FDA makes sure the produce sold in the US meets these safe levels and the USDA ensures dairy, meat, and egg products meet these safety levels. All imported products have to meet these standards as well.
- The amount of pesticides found in food products are usually found in concentrations much lower than the EPA deemed safe.
- The EPA even sets the upper limit with a margin of safety to ensure the levels are safe for vulnerable populations, like children, as well.
- Even products that test higher than the legal amount usually do not contain concentrations of pesticides high enough to pose a health risk.
HOW SHOULD I CLEAN MY PRODUCE?
On a related, but separate note, the FDA recommends that all fresh produce be thoroughly rinsed to remove any microbes or pesticide residues that may be on the produce. They also advise against using soaps and detergents to wash produce, as they contain chemicals not safe for human consumption. Produce rinses are expensive and no more effective than running water.
For more on pesticides and washing of produce, check out the handy dandy fact sheet from the California Environmental Protection Agency!
Next time we will discuss the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 List!
– Julie, with the help of Intern Lora!