They say you are what you eat, and eating organic food — food free of pesticides and other artificial chemicals — has become more popular in recent years. Does eating organically really do that much more for you than traditionally grown produce, or is it another way to make you spend more on your grocery bill every month? Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common myths about organic food, and whether or not you really should spend extra green for some organic produce.
Myth 1 – Organic Foods Have No Pesticides
One of the biggest myths surrounding organic food is that it remains totally pesticide free. While true that organically grown produce isn’t exposed to manufactured chemicals, that doesn’t mean no pesticides are used in their production. Some of the most commonly used natural pesticides — such as pyrethrum which is made from chrysanthemum flowers, and copper sulfate — can actually be more toxic than their manufactured counterparts.
If you buy commercially processed organic produce, you don’t know what kind of natural pesticides have been used on it. You can avoid pesticides by purchasing locally grown produce from a farm where you can speak to the farmer and find out exactly how your produce grows since some commercial farms use sustainable, healthy growing practices.
Myth 2 – Organic Is Expensive
Organic food might cost more in your grocery store, but it isn’t the most expensive way you can eat healthy food. In some cases, it can be more cost-effective than buying traditional produce — depending on where you get it.
However, a more cost-effective method to incorporate produce in your diet is to invest in a local produce co-op can provide you with plenty of locally grown and healthy produce at a weekly or bi-weekly rate. If the cost of a co-op is too much for you, spend some time browsing your local farmers market. You will find in-season produce for a more cost-effective price — and fresher than you would get at the grocery store.
Myth 3 – Organic Farming Isn’t Sustainable
Organic food has earned a bad reputation for being unable to match the crop yields of traditionally planted crops — but that couldn’t be further from the truth. A study completed by teams at Iowa State University found organic growing methods can produce similar yields to traditionally grown crops — and that the soil health is better in organic fields than in traditionally grown ones.
Continued soil health is essential to sustainable farming. Traditional farming and cultivation methods can be detrimental to the environment and can contribute to climate change.
Myth 4 – Organic Produce Is Mere Hype
Plenty of naysayers believe organic produce, and eating organically in general, comes as media hype to encourage more spending on groceries. For some plants — like the iconic dirty dozen — eating organic is safer and healthier. On the flip side, produce with thick or inedible skin like avocados and sweet corn, as well as plants grown underground like onions, don’t present the same risks.
It isn’t all hype — but you also don’t need to spend too much more on higher-priced organic sweet corn or avocados.
Myth 5 – Organic Food Is Healthier
Most people see organic food as healthier than traditionally grown produce, but research has found no discernable difference in nutrition between organic and traditionally grown fruits and vegetables.
The biggest difference lies in the introduction of pesticides to our diet. Eating food steeped in pesticides could potentially cause a variety of different health problems. For at-risk individuals — including children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, eating food treated with pesticides, even if cleaned before consumption, can create dangerous health problems.
Eating organic might add some more zeroes to your weekly grocery bill, but it can be a good choice for a number of different reasons. As an added bonus, local fresh produce also tends to taste better — both because of the fact it’s fresher and hasn’t had to travel as far, and it also has a smaller carbon footprint. If the food doesn’t need to be transported long distances or stored for long periods of time, it arrives fresher and tastier.
Organic food, or at least organic farming techniques, are the future of agriculture. If we can get away from the need for artificially manufactured chemicals while still producing enough food to feed our growing population, we could change the impact we have on the world around us. It might not be enough to reverse climate change, but every little bit helps and each little step adds up to help us create a world we might proudly leave to our children.