One of the most visible signs of the booming ‘green’ movement has been the growing crop of organic fruits and vegetables sprouting in supermarket produce bins and farmers market stalls. Organic produce sales doubled from roughly $3 billion in 2002 to $6 billion in 2006, according to the Organic Trade Association. That figure is expected to surge to $8.1 billion by 2010. Just over 6% of all produce sales now fall into the organic category, up from 2.5% a decade ago.
In honor of Earth Day, produce authority FruitandVeggieGuru.com has compiled a list of reasons to consider going organic when you’re stocking your pantry. Some reasons are rooted in fact; others are in the eye (or tastebuds) of the beholder. But if you need an excuse to pay higher organic prices, here are 10 of them.
It protects the environment. Since organic farms do not use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, there is less water and soil contamination. This in turn can save nearby wildlife that may accidentally consume the chemicals.
It reduces use of fossil fuels. Organic farming eschews the use of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides. If you’re buying organics in your local farmers market, you also reduce your carbon footprint since the food doesn’t have to travel so far to reach you.
It’s not genetically modified. Many consumers prefer to avoid foods that have been genetically engineered for characteristics such as increased pest, frost and disease resistance, fearing that “GMO” foods may cause long-term health and environmental problems. No genetically modified seeds are permitted in organic production.
It’s not irradiated. Critics of using ionizing radiation to kill bacteria in food say the process depletes vitamins and enzymes, and produces new chemicals that may not be safe. Whether or not that’s true, eating organic sidesteps the problem.
It replenishes the land. Organic farmers utilize techniques like crop rotation to increase soil fertility and balance microorganisms. These techniques also help reduce erosion, so it’s easier to maintain topsoil levels.
It reduces chemical exposure for farm workers. Studies have linked the use of pesticides on farms to health problems ranging from abdominal pain, headaches and nausea to memory disorders, birth defects and even cancer.
It minimizes pesticide ingestion. While the effects of synthetic pesticides on humans are largely unknown, keeping them out of your mouth is a sure way to avoid any related health complications.
It’s strictly regulated. If it has a “Certified Organic” label on it, you can be sure that you’re getting the real deal. Except for smaller growers who sell less than $5,000 in goods per year, organic farmers are inspected at least once a year to ensure compliance with National Organic Program standards on production and processing.
9. It may be healthier. The jury is still out on this one, but some studies have found higher nutrient levels in organic fruits and vegetables compared with conventionally grown products.
10. It tastes great. Taste comparisons are subjective, but many people insist the heirloom seed stock used by many organic farmers packs more of a flavor punch than newer seeds bred for factors like high yield and durability over long-distance travel.
The only way to find out is to try for yourself. You’ll pay a bit more because organic growers have higher costs from factors like lower yields (since crops are not treated with fertilizers or pesticides). But you may decide it’s worth it – for taste and other reasons.