Organic FAQ

Does organic food have less pesticides?

    Researchers who crunched pesticide residue data from 94,000 food samples found that organic food had about two-thirds less chemical residues. And this was before the more rigorous USDA Organic regulations took effect in 2002.

    Recent studies also show that when children eat organic food, the presence of pesticide residues falls to non-detectable levels. Although experts will differ on whether these pesticide levels matter, what is clear is that increased pesticide exposure leads to increased health risk, especially for infants, children and pregnant women.

Is organic food more nutritious?

    Studies show higher vitamin C and E and antioxidants in organic food, though the relative levels may not be as significant as eating what is generally recommended - a lot of fruits and vegetables. In the absence of pesticides and fertilizers, plants beef up their own immune systems to resist natural threats. They do so by producing the same phytonutrients (vitamins and antioxidants) of benefit to humans.

Is organic farming better for the environment?

    Organic farming benefits the environment in a number of ways:

  • Better care of the land through crop rotations reduces soil erosion and fertilizer run-off, meaning cleaner rivers and bays.
  • The absence of toxic chemical pesticides benefits local communities, farm workers and bio-diversity.
  • Organic farms use far less energy, which is important in a time of rising oil prices and global warming.
  • Smaller scale livestock farming reduces the risk of fecal pollution in ground water and streams.
  • Organic farms cannot use hormones or antibiotics, a potent concern at a time when rising antibiotic use is leading to resistant strains of bacteria.
  • Organic farms are banned from feeding any animal protein to livestock thought to be the source of Mad Cow disease.

Does organic food taste better?

    This is subjective but many chefs will say yes. In part this may be a factor of freshness - from organic food grown near where it is consumed. It may also reflect quality, since the premium commanded must be justified.

Why is organic food more expensive?

  • Organic farming is still in the growth phase, meaning that supplies may often fall short of demand. This is most evident currently in organic milk.
  • Organic farm yields are often lower meaning the farmer produces less per acre and thus must charge more to cover his costs. A long-running Swiss study found yields 20 percent lower, though other field trials have found deficits of only 4-6 percent in grains and legumes.
  • The absence of chemical herbicides often means higher labor expenses for hand weeding.
  • Organic food isn't always more expensive. In crops where organic farming has expanded dramatically, such as bagged salad mix, the price premium has shrunk to the single-digits. Organic sugar also wholesales for about 45 cents per pound, compared with 43 cents for conventional sugar.

Why do people buy organic food?

    Primarily for personal health and nutrition, but the original conception of organic food - going back to the 1920s - was a holistic system. In this sense, it wasn't just about benefiting you and me but an entire system that included the soil, the environment, animals, crops, food and people. Looked at that way, the formula is compelling, for it ties human health to the health of the planet as a whole.


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