organic food

When a recent study concluded that organic food has no real health benefit over conventionally grown food, this always-hot topic got a lot hotter.

The benefits of
going organic

Despite what the controversial study is trying to say, that doesn't mean that organic food isn't worth the premium price for many people.

What's organic anyway?

Organic foods account for 4.2 percent of retail food sales, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This agency defines and certifies products as organic if they meet particular requirements — including being produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, or routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones. In 2011, organic foods accounted for $31.4 billion in sales — a big number but still a drop in the bucket compared to nonorganic food.

The study

For the Stanford study, which was released in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed 237 relevant papers. After scouring through all the data, they concluded that there was little significance in the health benefits between organic and conventional food. The results caused an uproar not just because of the conclusions but because of the way they were presented. Did the Stanford study (which focused on the nutritional value) really reveal anything earth-shattering? Most proponents of organic food know that the nutritional differences (or lack thereof) aren't significant. However, it pays to buy organic for a number of reasons outside the nutritional value. Focusing on nutrient content alone misses the point of buying organic for many people. The study did confirm that the consumption of organic food reduces exposure to pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics. And avoiding these toxins is important — especially for our children and pregnant women, who may be vulnerable to their effects.

The environment

And then there's the environment. The environmental effects on nonorganic farming were overlooked or downplayed in the research as were the potential health risks of agricultural chemicals leaching into our ground water. Organic farming methods are geared to maintaining and replenishing the soil fertility without the use of any toxic chemicals. Organic farms aim to enhance biological cycles rather than destroy them. With local, organic farms, the food travels less — thus having a smaller carbon footprint.

The farmers

The benefits of shopping local are also another reason why it pays to buy organic. When you purchase organic food from local farmers, you can get fresh, nontoxic food while helping to stimulate the local economy. Learn more about buying local produce.

When making the decision whether or not organic food is worth the extra cost for your family, consider not just the debatable nutritional differences, but also the effects of toxins on both the body and the environment. Also keep the benefits to the farmers and the local economy in mind!

Can't afford to go completely organic? That's OK. Let our organic shoppers' guide show you why buying certain foods as organics is more important than others.

Tell us

Do you buy organic? Why or why not? Share in the comments below!

More about organic food

How eating organic improves your child's health
A conversation with organic farmers
How to buy organic foods for children

Tags: organic benefits

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Comments

Comments on "Does it pay to buy organic food?"

Nicole June 21, 2013 | 7:40 AM

Do any of you hand your children cigarettes to smoke for breakfast? NO? Then why would you pour them a bowl of chemicals?

Laurel September 21, 2012 | 4:59 PM

I am not strictly organic, but when I have the money and choice I tend to go organic. I still think it is worth it, but I just can't make the move to all organic. I eat out too much that it would ruin in anyways.

Katie September 21, 2012 | 1:42 PM

Since incorporating organic foods into my diet over a year ago I have noticed significant improvements in my overall health. I feel more awake and energized, I have less digestive issues, I sleep better, my concentration is better and I get sick less often. To me it is worth paying more for food to feel this way. I have many friends that eat organic food and they were not convinced by the Stanford study either. The whole thing smells like a lobbying effort by big agribusiness.

Lisa September 21, 2012 | 1:14 PM

Great article, and I do not buy organic food based on the recent finding's. I never have because I've always believed what the findings found to be true. I just don't think that organic is worth the money. Fruits and veggies are expensive enough without having to go organic.

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