Written by ILACSD Director of Education, Connie Glenn
Personally, I love to buy organic food. It’s tastier, free of toxic chemicals, and more sustainable for the environment. However, whenever I talk with people about it, the overwhelming response is “it’s too expensive!” Even Time Magazine showed their cynicism of organics by running a cover article declaring that conventionally grown products are just as nutritional as organics, so what’s the big deal? Buying organic doesn’t have to mean spending more on groceries, and there certainly are undeniable health benefits for your body, and the environment as a whole, when you choose these over conventionally grown items.
First, let’s talk money. Everyone, from my doctor to Diane Sawyer, love to complain about how much organic food costs. In my personal experience, I have found that organic food can cost about the same, and sometimes less, than their conventional counterparts. Often at the grocery store I will see organic items on sale for less than the conventional option. When this happens, I wonder why people would choose to pay more for pesticide laden fruit with a flavor similar to polystyrene (aka Styrofoam)? But they may not even be checking price tags because, in their minds, “organics are too expensive”.
Now, when it comes to which choice is better for your body, consider this: organic foods are grown without chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. That means that these chemicals, some of which are toxic, are not going to find their way onto your dinner plate and into your, or your children’s, bodies. Maybe that organic orange has the same amount of vitamin C as a conventional one, but it will also be free of nasty chemicals like pesticides which have been linked to brain damage and birth defects. Sounds like a healthier choice to me!
There is no question about which is better for choice for the environment. Fertilizers lead to eutrophication (too much nutrients in a water body) which can take out oxygen from the water. When you have no oxygen in a water body, you also have no fish because they can’t breathe. We call this a dead zone, and it doesn’t take a BioChem degree to realize that that is not a healthy water body! Pesticides that run off our properties into local water ways will continue to kill insects out in the environment, and can eliminate entire layers of food webs. Also, they add harmful chemicals into the food chain, which will affect animals throughout the food chain including birds, and of course our favorite species, humans!
Probably the best reason to buy organics is the flavor. If you’ve ever bitten into a strawberry and wondered where the strawberry taste went, you were probably eating a conventional one. When you grow food without adding a bunch of chemicals, and you let Mother Nature work her magic, you will be greatly rewarded with fantastic flavor. They may not be the prettiest sitting on the shelves, but foodies agree: nothing beats the taste of organic food!
Now that spring has sprung, check out some organic, and ideally local, foods at your local store or farmers market. You, your children, and Mama Nature will be glad you did!