Is Organic Important?
Organic food costs more.
It’s harder to find (for most of us).
Food grown organically usually looks less “perfect.”
So here’s the question we all want to know:
i.e. Should you spend your hard-earned cash on more expensive organic food?
At a basic level, I think everyone can agree that eating food coated in rat poison sounds fairly unappetizing.
I remember being totally flabbergasted when I read in Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire that one of the non-organic Idaho russet potato farmers he interviewed wouldn’t eat potatoes he grew in his own fields because he could tell the pesticides he used on his crops were absolutely dangerous.
It is unfortunate that pesticide residues are invisible and odorless–it would be fascinating to be able to examine a piece of food and actually see the pesticides still on it.
Despite the lobbying and marketing efforts of chemical manufacturers, chemicals aren’t fun. They aren’t cute. It’s absolutely insane that we spray our foods with poison and then consume that poison-drenched food.
Pesticides have been linked in all kinds of disease for as long as they’ve been used. DDT is one of the most infamous pesticides that is now banned due to its acute toxicity.
However, there’s ample research indicating that all synthetic chemical pesticides are in one way or another too risky to use on the foods we eat.
But Does That Mean Organic Foods Are Automatically Good?
Unfortunately, “organic” isn’t one thing.
There are farms that obey best practices in organic farming but either can’t afford or simply aren’t interested in going through the certification process to become officially “organic.”
You better believe there are many so-called “organic” farms that don’t actually obey practices that you’d ideally like to find in food grown under the “organic” label.
If you want to guarantee that your food is grown organically using the best growing practices available, then you have two options: either grow your food yourself or connect with a local organic farm and spend time with them helping out to verify that their practices are truly healthy and organic.
Otherwise, buying organic is a game of trust. You trust that the growers are true to their certification. You trust that the whole system is actually set up fairly and honestly.
By now, I’ve come to be at peace with the fact that much of the way things work on Earth at the moment are the exact opposite of the way we would have consciously designed them.
Consider the fact that it’s actually very hard to live a healthy lifestyle.
Fast food is deeply unhealthy, and yet it’s the cheapest and easiest food to buy.
Subsidies go to the corn industry instead of the superfoods industry.
If you want to find the most nutrient dense food available, you really have to work at it–you have to do your research, order from hard-to-find vendors and spend more money just to get access to foods that can promote and build your health.
Many people have dedicated their lives to change this. And things are changing–even just in the past decade, I’ve seen massive positive change in how accessible healthy foods are where I live.
However, there’s a long way to go before the world is organized in a way that makes sense. (Wouldn’t it make economic sense for society to foster health in its citizens as the guiding goal at the heart of how our entire food system is arranged?)
Given the state of things and the politicized nature of “organic,” all of this means that there are levels of organic that you should be aware of.
Level One Organic
If you grow your food yourself, then you can grow organic without any question. You can go so far as to test your soil if you’d like to know more about whether your garden soil is contaminated with pesticides from previous misuse.
Even if you don’t have land to grow food on, you can still grow a little herb garden, pepper plants in pots, or just sprout your own sprouts. If you want Level One Organic, you can have it. It just takes a little ingenuity and effort.
Level Two Organic
Local farmers whose farms you can visit and tour (and perhaps volunteer on, even) comprise Level Two within the world of organic food.
This is usually your best bet for getting truly organic food in high volumes.
The farmers specialize in growing healthy food through healthy practices. You get to know them and get to know their farm.
You know where your food was grown, you know who grew it, and you know for sure that it was grown organically.
Level Three Organic
More and more big supermarkets are carrying organic food.
Big Organic is quite a business. Imagine the premiums on food grown and sold under the “organic” label.
At this level, you just have to trust. You can’t visit the farms where your food comes from, and you know that food grown on large-scale organic farms is probably borderline organic.
Huge fields with just one crop are part of what got agriculture into the pesticide business in the first place. When you have multiple plants, animals and insects living all together in a diverse ecosystem, there are more natural controls on pests to insure that they don’t get out of hand.
However, when you put only spinach in a huge field, you’re missing all the components of the ecosystem that would have naturally fought infestation. And so, pesticides are used instead.
I’d say it’s better to go organic than conventional even if it’s coming from big organic growers. But just realize that it’s going to be way better for you, your family, your community and the environment if you can shift as much of your food consumption to locally grown organically farmed food as possible.
If you’re juicing, then you’re likely more concerned about certain fruits and vegetables than others.
So what are the most commonly juiced fruits and vegetables to buy organic?
Here’s a quick list of common juicing ingredients that you should absolutely buy organic:
I pulled this list from various sources online including The Daily Green.
Basically, these ingredients are the first ones I’d buy organic if I could only afford to start with a subset of the foods I buy regularly.
However, you’re better off to make your juices entirely out of organic ingredients.
So, let’s swing back around and provide a definitive answer to the question that started us off: Is organic important?
The short answer is: yes.
The long answer is: yes, but be aware that “organic” means different things, so get more of your organic food from Levels One and Two.
Finally, I want to say something important about health and nutrition: the last thing you need to do is make all of this into another religion.
Do your best. Strive to get the best and healthiest food you can.
But remember: eat to live; don’t live to eat.
Go out there and do something with all that fantastic energy you’re getting from your healthy food. Make the world a better place. Be the change.
Organic or non-organic, it’s who you are and how you live that makes the biggest difference.