While I typically try to eat local, seasonal food, every once in a while I will crave something that isn’t in season here in Chicago. So last week I stopped into Whole Foods to pick up a cucumber and grapes, and since those are two items on the “Dirty Dozen” list of produce with the most pesticides, I opted for organic. Not really paying attention to the price, I was met with a bit of sticker shock when the cashier told me the damage: $9.29! For a bag of grapes and a cucumber!
Needless to say I was taken aback, but still went ahead with the purchase, because I really don’t want my fruit served with a side of cancer-causing toxins. That said, here are 10 reasons I strongly suggest buying organic food whenever possible. (And remember, if it’s not logistically or economically possible for you to buy organic, having some fruits and veggies in your diet is so much better than none at all!)
1. Keep chemicals off your plate. Pesticides are poisons designed to kill living organisms and thus are harmful to humans. Many approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Organic agriculture is a way to prevent any more of these chemicals from getting into the air, water and food supply.
2. Protect future generations. Children are four times more sensitive to exposure to cancer-causing pesticides in foods than adults.
3. Protect water quality. Pesticides pollute the public’s primary source of drinking water for more than half the country’s population.
4. Organic farmers work in harmony with nature. Three billion tons of topsoil erodes from croplands in the U.S. each year, and much of it is due to conventional farming practices, which often ignore the health of the soil. Organic agriculture respects the balance necessary for a healthy ecosystem; wildlife is encouraged by including forage crops in rotation and by retaining fencerows, wetlands and other natural areas.
5. Save energy. More energy is now used to produce synthetic fertilizers than to till, cultivate and harvest all the crops in the U.S.
6. Help small farmers. Although more and more large-scale farms are making the conversion to organic practices, most organic farms are small, independently owned and operated family farms. USDA reported that in 1997, half of U.S. farm production came from only 2% of farms. Organic agriculture can be a lifeline for small farms because it offers an alternative market where sellers can demand fair prices for crops.
7. Support a true economy. Organic foods might seem expensive at first. However, your tax dollars pay for hazardous waste clean-up and environmental damage caused by conventional farming.
8. Promote biodiversity. Planting large plots of land with the same crop year after year tripled farm production between 1950 and 1970, but the lack of natural diversity of plant life has negatively affected soil quality.
9. Nourishment. Organic farming starts with the nourishment of the soil, in turn producing nourishing plants. Well-maintained soil produces strong, healthy plants that have more nutrients than conventionally grown produce.
10. Flavor. Organic produce simply tastes better. Conduct your own taste test!
Why do you buy organic?/What’s keeping you from buying organic?
Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon via Flickr