There are probably two things you know about organic produce: that it’s more expensive than regular produce and that it’s supposedly “better” for you. But what is organic, and how do you know for sure if you’re actually buying organic goods? Read on to get the scoop:
• First things first—what is organic? Organic farming doesn’t use synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides or genetically modified organisms. The process relies on crop rotation, manure, compost and biological pest control to enhance the soil, fertilize crops and keep pests at a minimum. For dairy and cattle farmers, the standards include regulations on growth hormones, antibiotics and the animals’ living conditions.
• Does organic = healthier? The jury’s still out on that one. However, if you want to limit your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, organic is your best bet.
• Aside from paying more, how can I be sure I’m buying organic? Check the label! If it says “100% organic,” then the food must contain only organically produced ingredients. For processed foods, the USDA organic seal or the words “certified organic” mean the product is made up of at least 95% organically produced ingredients. “Made with organic ingredients,” means that at least 70% of ingredients were organically produced.
• What’s wrong with non-organic produce? Non-organic farmers use chemical pesticides to control diseases and kill insects that can destroy a crop. And while we definitely don’t want to eat a wormy apple or moldy lettuce, we also don’t want to ingest chemical pesticides. Especially since the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies roughly 40 chemicals used in pesticides as known or possible human carcinogens, which are cancer-causing substances.