Earlier this week, I stumbled on a blog post in Scientific American supposedly busting top myths about organic produce. Then I fell into a wormhole reading all the articles calling the myth buster wrong (see references), until my brain was no better than a scrambled egg. An organic one, of course.
All of this got me thinking: what are the differences between organic and non-organic produce anyway?
If your first answer is, “Pesticides, of course!” you’re right. And wrong.
Contrary to popular belief, organic farmers do use . There’s no way to feed the entire world if we don’t keep the pests away. The difference, however, is that organic pesticides are derived from natural sources, not made synthetically in the lab. Though they don’t appear to be quite as toxic as their synthetic counterparts which count endocrine-disruption and birth defects among their lovely side effects, they’re still not great to consume.
But whether or not this is problematic depends largely on the grower. What if an organic farm sprays its crops three times a week while a factory farm sprays with synthetics once a year? It’s very likely that the produce raised with synthetic pesticides would, in the end, contain less pesticide
Still, this could seem like a case of lax or confused guidelines and a lone farmer looking to capitalize on the organic trend rather than a problem with organic produce itself. Synthetic pesticides take much longer to break down both in our bodies and in the environment than natural ones, causing damage during those elapsed years.
These arguments also seem to ignore the social aspect. Organic farmers, after all, tend to be movers and shakers – at the cutting edge of the newest farming technology. They’re far more likely to diversify and rotate their crops to prevent monoculture and promote rich soil, both essential elements in creating sustainable agriculture.
So, the question remains: is organic produce still worth the expense for you as a consumer? Yes. Just make sure you know what kind of farmer you’re buying from.