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Organic Produce: Worth the Cost?

How organic produce benefits families and the environment


It’s not always easy to buy organic produce. Sometimes it’s out of season, hard to find or too expensive to justify.
The most important thing remains getting our kids to eat fresh fruit and veggies by any means possible, but when we can buy organic, we should for many reasons.

Health benefits

Most people who opt for organic produce want to avoid the residue from persistent pesticides — those that don’t decompose easily — used to grow conventional produce. According to the World Health Organization, pesticides may cause adverse health effects to the reproductive, immune or nervous systems, and exposure may even cause cancer.

One study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, tested and compared urine samples of children in two California communities, first when they ate a conventional diet and then when they ate an organic diet. The results showed that when children eat organic fruits and vegetables, the amount of pesticides in their bodies declines significantly. While we can’t limit all of our children’s exposure to environmental toxins, choosing organic products whenever possible makes sense.  

When you buy organic, you also avoid consuming genetically modified organisms (GMOs), like the new non-browning GMO apples that recently arrived in some U.S. grocery stores. Because stores aren’t required to label GMO products, consumers don’t always know they’re eating altered foods.

Environmental benefits

Choosing organic produce doesn’t just protect your family’s health, it also plays a big part in protecting the planet. Conventional farming often uses agricultural chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers that can contaminate the environment, poison water supplies and harm fertile farmland. Organic farming practices often encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Soil preservation and crop rotation keeps farmland healthy, allowing wildlife, insects and soil organisms to play their vital roles.  

Organic farming also helps preserve agricultural diversity. Those perfect strawberries and tomatoes you see at the grocery store are often the results of extreme hybridization, whereas many organic farms grow a range of native fruits and vegetables.

Economic benefits

Spending money in the organic sector also supports a sustainable future for our kids. While tax dollars heavily subsidize commercial and conventional farming, when you buy organic for your family, you often support a small farmer. Buying organic increases the demand for more organic practices, which also can drive down the cost of organic foods. As a result, you sometimes can find organic produce for the same price as or occasionally less than conventional produce. Check out the selection at local discount grocery stores like Aldi as well as the offerings from farmers’ markets (see sidebar) and community-shared agriculture.    

Paige Wolf is the author of  Spit That Out: The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids in the Age of Environmental Guilt. She blogs at  Spitthatoutthebook.com.

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