Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: The Organic Panic: Learning When to Splurge and When to Save

The Organic Panic: Learning When to Splurge and When to Save

Recruitment Specialist

I grew up in a household where all of our groceries were organic. From vegetables to cleaning products to wine and everything in between, every purchase followed the golden rule that organic is better. We would make the hour-long drive to the nearest Whole Foods just to buy the things we only had the option of securing locally in their far less-superior inorganic counterparts. So naturally, when I moved out of my parents' home and started purchasing my own groceries, I was ecstatic to learn I had a Whole Foods a mere five minutes away. Then, I also learned how much more expensive these certified organic products were, versus the almost identical products that lacked the pretty green USDA stamp of approval. For example, organic apples versus non-organic apples are on average 49 percent more expensive. This cost discrepancy can become a much greater difference in other foods like peanut butter where this difference jumps to 125 percent! This huge difference raises the question: is going organic really worth the price tagOrganic

 

Agriculture and animal farming have grown alongside all other major production areas in the United States, becoming more industrialized to compete with both consumer demand and trade competition. This move toward factory-farming has caused an increase in chemical usage to maximize product yield. In the meat production industry, this encompasses an overload of hormones and antibiotics that can crush consumers' immune systems and cause a slew of other health problems like cancer. Now, I'm one of those weirdos who won't eat a cow and gets a salad at Chick-Fil-A (and waffle fries… I'm only human) so I'm just going to leave you to your personal meaty opinions here, regardless of the organic/inorganic debate.

For purposes here, let's focus on fruits and vegetables. Farmers across the globe use pesticides to cut down on unsellable products. Pesticides are the most glaring problem when it comes to inorganic foods and certainly the most publicized. The chemicals used to kill the insects, rodents, and fungi that can harm crops also can cause serious health risks in humans. Like the hormones and antibiotics pumped into bacon seeds, pesticide exposure can cause immune system suppression, endocrine disorders, cancer, and other chronic conditions in addition to immediate side effects, like headaches and nausea. Research at the Mercer University School of Medicine have also linked pesticide ingestion to increased obesity rates in children. PSA: you shouldn't eat things created to kill other things; pesticides cannot distinguish between humans and another species. On top of that, we use harsh anti-bacterial chemicals and poisons to make our homes clean and sanitary, but these same products essentially work as in-door pesticides and can kill you if ingested.

An estimated 2.2 million people are at-risk for health conditions caused by pesticide exposure, but in the United States, only a couple thousand instances of pesticide poisoning are reported annually (the EPA doesn't track this, so exact statistics don't abound the Internet). This makes determining when to buy organic and when to opt for the lower-cost merchandise more and more confusing, especially when bombarded with views from all sides. One day Stanford University says that organic is "not any healthier," and the next day, Newcastle University confirms organic produce is higher in nutrients.  

The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit dedicated to consumer awareness of the products people put on and in their bodies every day, is trying to help answer this question. In analyzing FDA data (and conducting independent research), they have determined that the top produce items to buy organic include apples, peaches, nectarines, berries, and leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, and kale. However, because the vast majority of people eat more than just fruits and veggies, they also have compiled guides for more than 160,000 different food items and personal care products and also 2,000 household cleaners to help make informed choices. Take the time to look at your favorite products and see their ratings and decide what is best for you.

 

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