The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) reports organically-produced food can cost anywhere from 10 to 30 percent more than conventionally mass-produced food. The organic food supply as well as the demand are limited, which accounts for the higher costs. Farmers have to cut their losses because organic crops are more vulnerable to diseases and insect predators, which means more time-intensive labor without the option of the economies of scale. Mass producers, however, are able to generate larger crops and lower the cost of these foods, yielding a greater revenue because of the low cost of unit production, says the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). So whether you're a health nut who pledges to buy all organic produce or you renounce the idea altogether because it's just too expensive, there is a way you can eat organic without breaking the bank.
To buy organic means to buy produce that is not grown through conventional methods of fertilization. Farmers who grow organic crops use natural fertilizers like manure or compost, rather than chemical fertilizer, to feed soil and plants. The reduction of pests and disease in organic farming is due to the use of natural sources such as insects and birds, mating disruption, and traps, says Mayo Clinic. But organic food does not mean that it is pesticide- or chemical-free, but instead that the pesticides, if used, are from natural, nonsynthetic sources. Organic farmers must also apply the pesticides using equipment that has not been used to apply synthetic materials for the past three years, and the land must not have been previously treated with synthetic materials, says the University of California Berkeley.
The decision to go organic is commonly made to avoid high pesticide residue and food additives and for environmental reasons. But is it worth splurging on these organic products?
Nutrition: Organic Foods Versus Conventional Foods
In a study conducted at Stanford University, researchers reviewed reports of comparisons between organically and conventionally grown foods and their health effects on the populations that consumed these foods. The study provided jaw-dropping results, citing that there were just a few differences between these two foods. The organic food was found to not be any more nutritious than conventional food. When it came to antibiotic-resistant germs, nonorganic meats had a 33 percent higher risk of resistance to antibiotics, which paves the way for a greater consumption in organic meats. In terms of produce, organic foods has a 30 percent lower risk of containing detectable pesticide levels. While organically and conventionally produced foods are comparable in terms of their nutrient content, the decision to go organic is clear when it comes to lowering the risk of pesticides and food additives in your produce.
Going Organic: How To Get The Most Out Of Your Buck
While the choice to go organic can give you a healthier conscience, it can weigh on your wallet — at least until now. To reduce your exposure to pesticides does not mean you have to save up all your pennies. You can eat smart and shop smart. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a 2013 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce to limit your exposure to pesticides as much as possible by avoiding some of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables — going organic — versus the least contaminated produce — going conventional.
List Of Fruits and Vegetables Evaluated By The EWG - Skimp Versus Splurge
The EWG released its ninth annual list of foods that contain the most and least pesticides. Researchers observed 48 popularly consumed produce items in the U.S. and reviewed 28,000 samples tested by the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Decide when to go organic and when to stick to conventional fruits and vegetables.
Apples - Splurge
99 percent of apples tested contained pesticides and the most residues overall.
Strawberries - Splurge
This heart-shaped food is the second most contaminated produce in this "Dirty Dozen" list.
Grapes - Splurge
Grapes were found to have 64 different chemicals; there were 15 pesticides in one grape.
Celery - Splurge
This produce was the most contaminated of vegetables, testing positive for 13 different pesticides.
Peaches - Splurge
These sweet treats rank fifth in most pesticides.
Spinach - Splurge
The second most contaminated vegetable on the list.
Sweet Bell Peppers - Splurge
Like grapes, a single sample of sweet bell pepper contained 15 different pesticides.
Imported Nectarines - Splurge
All nectarines that were imported tested positive for pesticides.
Cucumbers - Splurge
This popular salad ingredient ranked ninth in the list.
Potatoes - Splurge
The average potato had a much higher total weight of pesticides in comparison to other food crops.
Cherry Tomatoes - Splurge
Cherry tomatoes tested positive for 13 different pesticides.
Hot Peppers - Splurge
These spicy peppers rounded out the list coming in at number 12.
Skimp on these 15 foods below — they contain the least amount of pesticide residue.
Asparagus, Eggplant, Onions, Avocado, Grapefruit, Papaya, Cabbage, Kiwi, Pineapple, Cantaloupe, Mango, Sweet Peas (Frozen), Sweet Corn, Mushrooms, Sweet Potatoes