People choose organic for many reasons and very often, fresh produce is where the organic journey begins. Why? Sometimes that’s because of accessibility or affordability. Sometimes it’s because fresh produce is where the benefit of consuming organic is most perceptible since fresh produce is purchased in much the same form as it was in the field or orchard – what was sprayed on that vegetable on the farm last week could be on my lips today.
Pesticides: Typically the first reason people choose organic is avoidance of chemicals. Conventional growers can use synthetic pesticides to protect their crops from insects, weeds, and diseases. Organic farmers use insect traps, careful crop selection (disease-resistant varieties), crop rotation, cover crops, beneficial insects, beneficial microorganisms, and some natural sprays to control crop-damaging pests.
Organic produce typically carries significantly fewer (and far less toxic) pesticide residues than conventional produce. However, residues on most products — both organic and nonorganic — are not allowed to exceed government safety thresholds.
GMOs: Although they are of significant concern to many consumers, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are not widespread in fresh produce. The only crops where GMOs are used in production are corn, papaya, cotton, sugar beets, soy (edamame/soybeans), the Artic apple, zucchini and yellow summer squash. Nevertheless, organic standards prohibit the use of GMOs in organic production so choosing organic means avoiding GMOs.
Food additives: Organic regulations ban or severely restrict the use of food additives, processing aids (substances used during processing, but not added directly to food) and fortifying agents commonly used in nonorganic foods. This includes preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings and flavorings, and monosodium glutamate.
Environment: Organic farming aims to produce food while establishing an ecological balance to prevent soil fertility or pest problems. Organic agriculture takes a proactive approach as opposed to treating problems after they emerge. Organic farming practices enhance soil quality, contribute to healthy ecosystems, and keep conventional agricultural chemicals out of our air, water, and food supply.
Worker Welfare: More and more people are concerned about worker safety and welfare. Farm work is hard work, but workers on organic farms are not exposed to the heavy concentrations of conventional agricultural chemicals that workers on non-organic farms may be.
What Else Should You Know About Organic?
Organic food is typically more expensive than its conventional counterparts. Sometimes the premium may be as little as 10% but it can also by much more. Why? Organic production is more expensive for a variety of reasons.
First and foremost, organic farmers use human labor to perform many of the tasks that can be performed by chemical on conventional farms. But that’s not all. Organic farms often dedicate a percentage of their farm land to beneficial insect habitat, some organic crops take longer to mature, and there may be a lower yield per acre, depending on the crop and how long the land has been farmed organically.