Jan 112013

Shopping for organic produceFor years the agriculture industry, food and environmental scientists, and customers have debated the merits of organic farming and the benefits of eating organically grown food.  Even though Guard and Grow is committed to products that help produce organic food, it’s important continually examine the state of this growing industry as new scientific studies are released and as new products and techniques are applied in the field.

There’s not much debate about the benefits of fruit and vegetables in your diet, but how important is it to eat organically grown produce?  With the cost of organic food averaging 50 to 100 percent more than non-organic produce, are the benefits worth the cost?  Is eating organic foods more important for some people than others?  If you can’t afford a 100 percent organic diet, which foods are the most important if you want to limit your exposure to pesticides.

A Stanford University study recently analyzed 237 different studies that compared nutrient levels and pesticide levels in a wide variety of products and concluded that there was little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods.  However, none of the studies examined long term impact of convention foods on human health.  The longest duration among the studies was two years. The study also identified a wide range of farming techniques among the organic group that lead to differences in nutritional quality and contamination levels in different organic foods.  Overall researchers found that organic foods had a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventionally grown foods.

Another study lead by John Reganold from Washington State University from 2005 compared organic and conventional strawberry farms and determined that organic farms produced “higher quality fruit”.  The organic strawberries had a longer shelf lives and higher antioxidant activity than the conventional strawberries.

With these examples and many more studies from high quality sources producing contradictory findings, it’s clear that we still have a lot to learn about the impact of farming techniques on long term health.  As research gets us closer to the truth about the health and environmental benefits of organic farming, there are several “common sense” steps you can take to limit to protect your health by limiting your exposure to pesticides and other contaminants.

  1. If you can’t afford to buy all organic produce, choose organic fruits and vegetables that are most likely to contain pesticides.  The EWG’s Shopper’s Guide maintains a “dirty dozen” list of fruits and vegetables found to have the lowest levels of detectable pesticides.  The latest list includes apples, celery, bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, and potatoes.  The EWG also provides the “The Clean Fifteen™ list of the produce least likely to test positive for pesticide residue.  This list includes domestic cantaloupe, grapefruit, kiwi, mango, pineapple and watermelon –  and these vegetables — asparagus, avocado, cabbage, eggplants, mushrooms, onions, frozen peas, sweet corn and sweet potatoes.
  2. Carefully wash your fruits and vegetables.  Use a produce brush for vegetables with thick skin and soak vegetables with rough exteriors like broccoli and cauliflower in water for a few minutes.
  3. Choose only undamaged fruits and vegetables.  Avoid fruits and vegetables that has been precut.
  4. Grow your own produce.  The best way to ensure you’re eating uncontaminated and healthy food is to grow it yourself.  In a properly managed organic garden you’ll have control over every stage of a plant’s growth.  You’ll also eliminate potential contaminants that can be present  as food is processed, transported and stored, plus you will enjoy fresh produce that’s likely to be more nutritious than store bought food.