The ‘Why’ and ‘Which’ of Organic Produce

by Red Pill Mama · 2 comments

in Environment,Health+Wellness,Nutrition+Food

This really should be Red Pill Papa’s post since he’s the ‘food guy’ — and he certainly gets credit for introducing us to Amy Nelms of, who was generous enough to share the great information on which this post is based — but credit given, we’d now like to share with you the best summary we’ve seen to date of reasons to buy organic, plus a list of the most and least contaminated produce items (which can help you decide when you really should buy, or maybe can perhaps get away with not buying, organic).  Many of us already buy organic, but Amy’s summary (gleaned from other duly attributed sources*) provides some information that I, and maybe you, haven’t yet come across.  It’s great stuff.  So here we go (with a good bit of paraphrasing and editorializing, as I tend to do):

Ten Reasons to Buy and Eat Organic Food

1.  Keep chemicals off your plate – Pesticides are poisons designed to kill living organisms (of which we are one).  Supporting organic agriculture is a way to prevent any more of these harmful chemicals from getting into our air, water, food supply and growing kids’ bodies.

2.  Protect future generations – That’s why you’re reading this, right?  I didn’t know this, but children are four times more sensitive to exposure to cancer-causing pesticides in food than adults.

3.  Protect water quality – Pesticides pollute public water supplies for more than half the country’s population.  Yikes.

4.  Organic farmers work in harmony with nature – This is a point best understood with a full reading of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but suffice it to say, conventional non-organic farming practices lead to the erosion of three billion tons of topsoil in the U.S. each year.  That is just not the way it’s supposed to work.

5.   Save energy – Here’s a doozy: more energy (i.e. fossil fuel) is now used to produce synthetic fertilizers than to till, cultivate and harvest all the crops in the U.S.

6.  Help small farmers – While many large-scale farms are converting to organic, most organic farms are, as you would imagine, small, independently owned and operated family farms.  In 1997, 50% of U.S. farm production came from only 2% of farms.  Giving the 98% of little guys your business is, as I like to say, casting a vote: for, among other things, local economies and healthier and more environmentally beneficial practices, and for decreased lobbying power by the big agribusinesses.

7. Support a true economy – I certainly do believe that what we don’t pay for in price gets paid in other ways, and here’s a great example of that: while organic foods may come with a higher price tag in the grocery store, our tax dollars are paying for hazardous waste clean-up and environmental damage caused by conventional farming (and I’ll add two more: we are also paying, in a number of ways, for the health costs of chemical-laden food, such as tax dollars to support Medicaid and Medicare, which cover treatments for individuals with illnesses directly and indirectly caused by the food they eat; our tax dollars also pay for subsidies to large politically influential agribusiness entities).

8.  Promote biodiversity – Again, this is something best understood by reading in depth, but it has been the planting of large plots of land with the same crop year after year that, while tripling farm production between 1950 and 1970, has contributed to the loss of soil quality and a complete disruption of the natural, nutrient-producing symbiosis and co-existence of multiple types of crops (and animals, too).

9.  Nourishment – Organic farming nourishes the soil, which in turn nourishes the crop that we eat.  There are numerous studies showing that the actual nutrient levels of produce have decreased over the years (here’s one) as farms have adopted methods to produce quantity (and profit) over quality.  Organic produce is simply better for you.

10.  Flavor - It just tastes better.  I tried this with baby carrots recently, and while the organic carrots might not have been as ‘pretty’, they were so much juicier and more ‘carroty’ than the non-organic ones.  No doubt about it.

A Helpful List For Choosing Which Organic Fruit & Veggies To Buy:

Now, fruits and vegetables have different levels of innate protection from the pesticides applied to their plants, flowers and fruits.  The twelve that have the least and are therefore the Most Contaminated are:

apples – bell peppers – celery – cherries – grapes – nectarines – peaches – pears – potatoes (why can I never see that word without thinking of Dan Quayle?) – raspberries – spinach – strawberries

The twelve Least Contaminated are:

asparagus – avocados – bananas – broccoli – cauliflower – corn – kiwi – mangoes – onions – papayas – pineapples – peas

This is definitely not intuitive information, which presents an opportunity for a fun little learning exercise with your kids: wouldn’t you think asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower, just hanging out there all exposed with no husk, rind or pod to protect them, would be in the Most Contaminated category?  And nectarines, with their orange-like rind which always gets tossed: wouldn’t you think they’d be on the Least Contaminated list?

So thanks to Amy for the great info, and to all of you who are casting your dollars and votes for the organic farmers who are ‘doing the right thing.’ And if you haven’t read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, get on it.

* Whole Foods Market, Organic Trade Association,, Center for Science in the Public Interest

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Looking Beyond Ritalin: Pesticides & ADHD
May 19, 2010 at 12:37 am

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Anastasia February 26, 2010 at 8:00 am

Awesome post with great info–thank you!

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