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Why I’m Tempted to Ditch the Organic Foods Movement

They say parenting changes you. And they aren’t kidding.

I remember looking down at our firstborn when she was a tiny little bundle. Such a cute nose. And big, innocent eyes. And adorable smile. And…

Oh no! I’m now responsible for this little human!

Cue the parental panic.

Around the time that our first was born, the whole foods/slow foods movement was just beginning to blossom on the national scene. By the time my bubbly baby was ready to eat solids, documentaries like Food, Inc. were giving us the inside scoop on food-growing practices around the nation.

(Have you seen Food, Inc.? If not, it’s an interesting watch. Catch it on Youtube, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.)

Suddenly I could feel the weight of my parenting choices. When I read that canned baby food was a concentrated source of pesticides, I was disheartened. But hearing that pureed pears have 26 pesticide residues and pureed baby food peaches have 22 residues rattled me. (source 1, 2) With the clear, scientifically-proven connection between certain pesticides and neurotoxicity, cancer, and hormone disruption, it seemed like organic was the clear savior to a (fallen?) food system.

So for years I loaded up my cart with organic produce from the grocery store, happily thinking that I was making the “best” choice for my family.

But as I mentioned in my post describing our family’s journey with nonstick cookware, life is rarely ever black and white.

Why Im Tempted to ditch organics

Beginning To Question “Organic”

As a young parent, my concern for “all things organic” meant that I focused solely on that little USDA Organic Symbol – while ignoring other aspects of produce, like its country of origin. It’s not rocket science to say that a yellow pepper that traveled from Holland (where many of my organic yellow peppers come from) has the greater chance of nutrient loss than a conventional pepper grown in the US because of transportation distance and logistics.

A little over a year ago Katie wrote an article questioning organic pesticide use (yes, there are pesticides given the green light for use on organic crops) and whether conventional produce can be considered safe. She asked some really good questions and has research to back it up.

Hmmmm. Maybe “organic” produce from the grocery store wasn’t as clean as I assumed it was.

Lastly, I began learning more about farming/gardening as my dear friend builds her homestead and farm market. I’ve asked her hundreds of questions about lettuce, beans, tomatoes, apples, and every other crop you can imagine. I’ve learned that it’s not really necessary to buy organic onions (not too many critters want to attack onions) or avocados, but that organic apples are worth the purchase.

(Side note: Have you read my bio? Please don’t mistake me. I am NOT a vegetable gardener. I try and my garden hates me. As my bio states: my consolation is knowing that in a zombie apocalypse, my role would be the town baker and not farmer. God bless all farmers. I need you.)

And so, after 8 years of being on the organic bandwagon, I began to question myself and my purchasing habits. I found myself tossing more and more conventional veggies in my cart. Because even with less-than-ideal growing practices, a tomato is still just a tomato… right? What can go wrong with tomatoes?

RELATED: The positives and negatives of GMOs.

market tomato baskets f 1 R Gmvdu

When It’s About More Than Tomatoes and Pesticides

In the last few years my family has taken an intentional journey of stewardship. We’ve begun caring about where are things come from, who made them, and how they were made. Sometimes that means things are more expensive. But we find joy in owning fewer things that are of better quality.

This journey has caused us to pay closer attention to what clothing we buy.

We’re grieved by the conditions of sweatshops in poor countries like Bangladesh where 1,100 workers were killed in a factory fire due to unsafe working conditions. Or in Cambodia where a European reality TV show had Norwegian fashionistas work in factories for a month, which drove the participants to tears, horror, and shock.

I’d like to say that we’ve found our answer to purchasing clothes. We haven’t; it’s a continual struggle and journey. But we use tools like Free2Work.org which ranks companies on a lengthy metric based on their worker rights and supply chain. And Wildly Co is doing some fascinating stuff for kids clothing, using a capsule wardrobe.

Wondering more about the workers who made our clothes has led to wondering more about the invisible farm worker who helped pick our tomatoes.

Sadly, it wasn’t the picture we were expecting.

farmer on a tractor f 1tm S Du

Earlier this year, the LA Times released a four-part story (“Product of Mexico”) on the conditions of farm laborers in Mexico, particularly the tomato industry. The series takes an indepth look at living conditions, the use of child labor, wage-paying practices and more. The problem is far reaching — one farm under investigation supplies tomatoes for Walmart, Target, and Whole Foods.

I encourage you to take a look. The pictures are both beautiful and sobering.

But there’s more.

This past spring we noticed something unusual about the strawberries in our grocery store. For a month the price was unseasonably high and the selection was significantly smaller. Meanwhile in Mexico, farmworkers were striking and protesting human rights abuse and their abysmal wages from BerryMex (sold under the name Driscoll in the US). There was a clear connection.

To put this issue in perspective: in one full DAY of hard labor a Mexican berry picker earns what I earn teaching a 20-minute piano lesson.

(And just because wages are less doesn’t mean the cost of living is cheaper. Many farmworkers are forced to buy from the company store. A 40-ct package of diapers – which would last my baby a week – can cost almost a day’s wages.)

RELATED: Freeze Strawberries Fresh

market scene M12o Vr 5 O

So… Now What?

So what now? Are we really responsible? Do we have a role in the global economy? If I buy fruits and veggies produced by companies with questionable ethics, will I continue to hurt the farm worker? What if I don’t buy that produce – will it hurt them worse?

Argh! So many questions.

Honestly, this is an issue I’m still wrestling with. I don’t have all the answers. But here are some things my family is doing.

1. Don’t use “organic” as the end-all label.

According to Free2Work:

The US Department of Labor has identified blueberries from Argentina, citrus fruits from Belize and Turkey, coconuts from the Philippines, grapes from Argentina, melons from Honduras and Mexico, pineapples from Brazil, strawberries from Brazil, and bananas from four countries as goods that could be produced using forced and/or child labor.

My local grocery store sells frozen organic blueberries from Argentina as well as Wyman’s Frozen Blueberries. Wyman’s (which aren’t organic) are grown in Maine. However, Wyman’s has a reputation and proven track record for stewardship, watching out for the rights of its workers (and even for bees).

So while the blueberries aren’t organic (gasp!) I put Wyman’s in my cart.

Aaaaaand I’m still learning. I just NOW pulled my favorite (organic) Antioxident Frozen Berry Blend from Costco out of my freezer. Guess where the organic strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, and pomegranates come from? The USA, Turkey, Argentina, Peru, and Chile.

*facepalm*

2. Buy conventional produce to save money to buy local.

Kitchen Stewardship® has talked many times about how to buy local (and why it matters).

We save money by buying local meat and eggs. Where I live, buying grass-feed beef in bulk (quarter of a cow) is cheaper per pound than buying discount packages of ground beef from Kroger.

But buying local isn’t always cheaper.

Home-grown veggies from the farmer’s market (whether organic-grown or conventional) can cost a fair penny more than at the grocery. However, few things can beat seeing the pride and joy on the farmer’s face when I pick out some of his precious tomatoes and hand him some crisp dollar bills.

While I’m still am strongly against all the –ides (pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, herbicides, etc), I recognize that no growing method is considered flawless. Life isn’t about being perfect. This year I’m working on prioritizing any local veggies over the grocery store (even the organic section). So I’ll buy local-grown red pepper that with sprayed with pesticides… and enjoy it.

UPDATE: I really appreciated the comments from a local grower on our Facebook page – read them here. Thanks, Elizabeth.

3. Read labels and never stop asking questions.

Look for reputable brand labels that care about its employees. Hunt down company websites and see what others have to say about that brand. Check out what country your produce comes from. Call the customer service number and ask about company practices.

And, although it didn’t work for me, you can always give gardening a try for yourself! 😉

Why Im Tempted to ditch organics
Does your family buy organic produce, conventional, local, or a mix (or even grow your own)? What are your favorite things to buy local? What’s in season in your neck of the woods? Tell us in the comments below!

Images used with permission from GraphicStock.com.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

64 thoughts on “Why I’m Tempted to Ditch the Organic Foods Movement”

  1. whisperingsage

    I didn’t buy organic and I believe Round Up widespread in the food supply was what caused me to lose 2 cm of large intestine and wallowing in a hospital bed for 5 months. 14 abdominal surgeries, TPN which caused it’s share of metabolic illnesses, a huge hole in my belly which shrunk down over 5 months to a fistula, that continues to leak blood after 2 years.ARDS(Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) from the PEEP vent which caused lung scarring, was doing better, off oxygen and off the walker and then I got covid, set me all the way back. Should have died. Wish I had. Can’t get my health back. Dr. Huber is a soil pathologist, he does a good job explaining the terrible things Round-Up does to soils, guts, fertility, to multiple species. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ul6_Po67HV8

  2. I agree that ethics needs to be addressed! However, as I’m a strong advocate for affordable organic produce for everyone and don’t want to cave into the issue by buying GMO or pesticide laden produce, something has to be done differently. Unfortunately, just not buying organics may backfire on all of us and may not help the organic industry to grow! In addition, I’m also very concerned about the inevitable job loss for so many people who depend on wages (albeit with poor conditions)… Since we all know too well what happens when we are suddenly faced with income loss, either thru unemployment or a business shut down… Imagine all the people who suddenly find they aren’t able to even earn meager income due to job loss in the organic industry! Perhaps we can fight the ethics in a more productive way. Like any good human should feel about ethics, I strongly believe in healthy work environments and fair wages for all people, in every country! Perhaps an alternative way to address the issue is through a multi-prong approach; to spread the word about these conditions via social media, to engage in conversations with food markets, to encourage legal actions with those who understand, have the know how and are will to get involved in the process. What we do here in the USA may have a greater impact on the rest of the world!

  3. Tamarleigh Grenfell

    There are quite a few organic Maine wild blueberry farms! The choice doesn’t have to be between local and organic, between Wyman’s and imported berries. Support the local organic Maine wild blueberry farmers!

    1. Second that!! Wyman’s has a clever ‘greenwashing’ marketing team. The term ‘Wild’ is so deceptive. They masquerade as a quaint Maine family farm, when in actuality they are an international fruit corporation who grow much of their fruit internationally-putting Maine family farms out of business. Wild blueberries aren’t planted, but there is little else wild about Wyman’s berries. They use massive amounts of dangerous herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers-killing bees and everything else. I cringe when I see Wyman’s in supposed ‘health food stores.” As someone from Maine, I would never eat a Wyman’s berry or live anywhere near one of their poisonous fields. When buying blueberries look for Maine, Wild, and Certified Organic.

      1. Your insinuation that Maine Is the only location fore perfect growing is silly.
        Just like the man behind the great beans in the heart of Napa sources his beans from all over your assault on Wymans reads like sour grapes. I mean berries.

  4. Lucinda Smith

    When poisons kill microorganisms that a plant uses to convert nutrients in the living soil into a form that the plant can consume the plant’s nutritional value is dangerously lessened. Shelf life depletes nutrition, of course, but if the nutrient content is already greatly diminished, shelf life makes produce grown in dead soil unhealthy. Why do folks use so many supplements? Their food is dead.

  5. My general rule is that if I’m eating the skin I shoot for organic, and if not I’m not too worried about it. (I make exceptions for Kumato tomatoes and those little wild blueberries though since YUM.)

  6. The best option is often the more simple one- Just about every county or city has a local-certified organic fair either monthly or weekly and the food is local, non-expensive, and often more organic than certified organic big brands. It is true that non-organic processed foods have GMO’s as well as non-organic corn and soy. Non-organic wheat and oat can also contain harmful agrotoxins..

    1. Where? I haven’t seen any such thing anywhere? And, I defy you to name any city bigger than mine around. Not to mention many counties bigger than mine. And, I’m not traveling a couple of hours roundtrip to go to a ‘fair’ or whatever you call it where there are a few organic stands mixed in with everything else so I can haul bags home with me. Not that certified organic big brands (and, it seems most became or were swallowed up by big brands) are a good option either, since, unless you are in a trendy neighborhood that Whole Foods (which seems to sell more conventional produce than organic, as well as ‘natural’ junk food) or Trader Joes care to service, you’re stuck with the monopolist supermarket that hardly has any organic anything since greedy landlords drove most supermarkets produce and all the health food stores out of business by jacking up rents.

  7. If pesticides were the only issue I could see your point of view. However non organic food is full of GMOs

  8. Over two years ago I made the switch to all organic. This decision was made after I took myself and my kids in to a Naturopath for an energy body scan hooked up to a computer. We had dozens of pesticides in our systems. At the time I was buying things that weren’t on the dirty dozen conventional. The dirty dozen I bought organic.
    After that visit I switched. It took months for that stuff to totally get out of our fat stores and liver.
    Now our scans show no pesticides or liver issues. The same scan is also why I bought a Berkey filter. Our fluoride levels from city water were through the roof. The practitioner had assumed that we were taking fluoride pills bc they were so high.
    Just an FYI. Maybe some pesticides are used on organic, but whatever they are they seem to leave your system more easily than the ones used on conventional. We even had DDT detected and that stuff has been illegal for decades.

    1. @Rebekah Could you give more information on what this test was that you did and the cost? Sounds very interesting.

  9. If you really want to make a change and eat good food support your local organic farmers or farmers who grow their produce and animals in a responsible way.
    Not buying organic because of you suspect fraud behind the labeling is supporting the other system, that which is using tons and tons of pesticides, herbicides and every other -cide you can imagine (and therefore kills one species after the other not only because of the -cides but because of those huge areas of monoculture where no bird or insect or critter can find a place to live anymore, that is killing the soil, that produces some stuff of low to no value just because we are not willing to pay fair prices for our food (and no, my bank account is not fat. The opposite is the case.).

    Instead of expecting full shelves 24/7, 20 varieties of apples in a store, instead of throwing away we should really ask ourselves if we really need all this (which is also the reason why conventional food is produced the way it is – mass production at the lowest cost possible, in order to be able to fulfill all our expectations), if we need strawberries in the midst of winter or the pineapple that was imported by plane just that morning (well, at least here in Europe). If all of this wouldn’t be expected anymore our food would have more value, nutritional and monetary. Farmers could get fair payment, and we would get better food. And maybe organic farming and conventional farming would come closer again. This is also true for organic mass production that gets more and more prevalent as demand exceeds offer. This is not as organic farming was intended!

    One more word to child labor: it is a difference if a child in Africa has to help its parents of the fields etc. or if it is forced into labor for a company – to say it is better for this child to work on a banana plantation than to be a prostitute is – sorry – bull. Children get kidnapped and brought to cocoa plantations, just as an example. They get exposed to highly toxic pesticides etc., have to work long hours, etc. etc. These kids are misused, if as prostitutes or as slaves. It makes no difference at all.

    It is really difficult for us nowadays to be a responsible consumer but I think we can all make a change by changing our habits at least a bit, step by step. Maybe by something simple as starting growing some lettuce in a container on our window sill.

  10. I live in Argentina and being very interested in organics, I’ve visited many organic farms all over the country. None of them had poor working conditions. In fact, having to certify organic means they need to abide the law in every respect and they go through rigorous inspections. Not so much the non organic ones.

  11. I think a lot of times in the US we look at work conditions in other countries, and since they aren’t what we see here, we assume that it is awful. The truth of the matter is that generally those people chose to work that job.

    Try turning the situation around. What if you lived someplace without government aid, and there was extremely high unemployment. You would take any job you could to feed and house your family, right?

    So now, imagine that you get news that the factory where you work is going to shut down. Why? Because people on the other side of the world stopped buying their products because they don’t think the factory is paying you enough. Now what? Now you don’t have a job. What are you going to so now? How will you feed and house your family now?

    People make a big deal about child labor, but if there aren’t the social welfare setups that feed orphans and children who have nobody to care for them, are you helping them or hurting then by refusing to buy from companies that employyhrm and give them a chance to eat?

    Sure there are cases where children are kidnapped and forced to work in a factory, and that is wrong. Sure, some parents might force the children to work even when it’s not necessary, but if they are working because it is the only way to support themselves and their families, then I think we may make their situation worse as we try to apply our ideas of life to their world.

  12. I would like to point out that just because it’s grown locally doesn’t mean the workers are treated any better than those in other countries. There is a huge farm about a mile down the road from my house that supplies a large amount of produce to local grocery stores. The majority of the workers come from Jamaica and the farm puts them up in a house. They pack so many people in each house that they put outhouses in the yard because the indoor plumbing can’t handle the load. This particular farm supplies produce to grocery stores in my entire state as well as other states close by. So, just because it’s grown locally or in the USA doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any better than if it were grown elsewhere.

    1. When I was growing up my best friend lived across the street from a tomato farm with a similar situation going on.

      I so wish I had enough sunlight to grow some of our own produce!

  13. I have lived and worked in Central America. A lot of children work because their families need their income as well. It’s not always forced it’s a necessity. It would be better for those children to go to school full time. However lets look at that… In order for their families to have enough income the farm labor would have to be paid more. The entire economic system of third world country farming would have to shift. Causing more than just strawberry prices to rise. It’s not a one article problem. It’s an entire system problem. We can’t solve every problem but we can begin in small ways just like you are doing. Great post

  14. You can’t simply say organic or not organic. You must also consider local and seasonal. I don’t buy strawberries from Chile in November. I live in California, and am blown away by the fact that I can’t find California grown organic tomatoes in my store. If I can’t find local, organic produce in my store, I do without. I often do without a lot of produce I crave. This makes me look forward to the different seasons at my farmer’s market, which has many vendors who aren’t organic, but who have similar growing practices.

    Produce also tastes better when you eat seasonally and when it hasn’t been shipped from thousands of miles away. I’m disappointed every single time I get a piece of organic fruit from the grocery store, when I haven’t been able make it to the farmer’s market. It’s not helping the earth to use the fuel and create the emissions from having produce shipped from so far away. The environment and the health of the workers who grow the food are added considerations when choosing what food to buy. It’s for these reasons that I buy organic bananas. Fair trade is just as important a label to me. (I know, bananas come from far away, as do chocolate, tea, coffee, and many spices. I haven’t yet weaned myself off of these. I wish these could be grown here!)

  15. Buy local veggies in season, grow my own, buy organic and regular ( whatever is the best option). Meat I don’t have as much choice. Just buy what we need.

  16. This article brought up so many great points! As I read through the comments, it became clear to that there is still a great misunderstanding about what “organic” means in terms of what can be used on the produce. Many, many products used on organic produce are toxic but the product is categorized as “organic” because of its source of origin, not because of its level of toxicity. We are farmers. We use a combination of organic and synthetic products to grow our produce. Whatever type of produce you choose, your best bet is to buy a simple, plant-based detergent and wash everything. And, know your farmer – ask how he or she takes care of their soil. We strongly believe: the healthier your soil, the healthier your food, the healthier you.
    Here is another good article for thought from Scientific American:
    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/httpblogsscientificamericancomscience-sushi20110718mythbusting-101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture/
    Take care!

    1. Carrie,
      Thanks for adding this level of information – there is SO much about the soil that I need to learn, because it is so important to actual nutrient value, yet another layer in the “what should I buy/what’s best for my family?” equation. Phew!
      🙂 Katie

  17. Enjoyable article, thanks! I love your lessons on stewardship and awareness. However, I rarely can afford fresh fruits and veggies. If I can get them I get what’s on sale. I do like buying at the farmer’s market,often they are the most affordable.

  18. In the beginning of the article she talks about the clear, scientifically-proven connection between certain pesticides and neurotoxicity, cancer, and hormone disruption. Then by the end of the article she says so I’ll buy red peppers that with sprayed with pesticides… and enjoy it.

    She can have it all to herself.

  19. Please, please, in your research about farm chemicals, don’t overlook the horrific effects of glyphosate (aka Roundup), & more recent herbicides, used on fields of conventional crops at an amazing & alarming rate. It’s dangerous health effects are huge, & better understood all the time. These chemicals are also antibiotics, & contribute in a significant way to antibiotic resistance (& they are used in massive amounts). They also kill off the good germs in our guts, contributing to many diseases. It is even sprayed directly on wheat plants to get even “ripening” (killing) of the wheat. (By the way, ripe wheat seeds/groats should not be dead, but should sprout). It kills the thousands of different fungi & worms & tiny creatures that make soil, & turn it into lifeless dirt. There is much, much more. There are big concerns about organics, & I appreciate the discussion of them here! Roundup & its cousins add to the mess.

    1. Yes, Susan, glyphosate is nasty nasty stuff! I think Bethany is seeking balance though – how can we avoid crops sprayed with glyphosate but yet not end up getting raspberries from halfway across the world that are picked using unsafe conditions for human beings? This might mean that we don’t eat raspberries 10 months out of the year…it might mean we eat organic tortilla chips but conventionally raised potatoes and skip eating wheat altogether. There are lots of right answers here, luckily, as long as we are well-informed consumers. (There are lots of poor answers too, unfortunately…)

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂 Katie

  20. I only buy organic if it’s a smokin’ deal. Although I think fresh conventional produce is probably more nutritious than that marked down package of organic broccoli. I grow what I can & don’t stress about the rest.

    1. Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook

      If the packaged broccoli is frozen, it is likely more nutritious than fresh broccoli that traveled some distance to get to you. Frozen unprocessed foods (like plain vegetables, fruits, and fish) usually are frozen immediately after harvest, putting all the phytochemicals and such into a sort of suspended animation until you cook or thaw the food. Fresh produce loses nutrients from the time it’s picked until you eat it, so if it’s local it’s pretty good, but if it’s traveled for a couple of days it’s lost significant nutrients.

  21. I think an understanding of what “organic” means as opposed to factory farmed would be a good first contemplation followed by measuring of the labels of any given food item with what you know organic should mean. Follow that with finding place of origin on the label as well as eating and therefore shopping seasonally as well as actually buying “whole” foods as opposed to anything pre-prepared and you find yourself pretty well on the way to cleaning up your diet. I suspect that a lot of people just believe grocery stores and also have zero to miniscule idea of what is local and seasonal in their area and that is simply not savvy. And why we cry do we clean up our diet? Why because we do not want the poisons, metals and other chemicals in our bodies for they lead to organ failure and disease – that makes the extra thought worth it in the end in my book.

  22. Kristen @ Smithspirations

    I’m right with you on this one! I’ve been buying fewer organics (cost is an issue for us), and if I have the option, I’d much rather buy local produce that has probably been treated with limited sprays than organic shipped from across the country or world. I think you raise excellent points regarding organics!

  23. Very interesting post. These are things I think about often. I mix it up at the store going by the dirty dozen. Nothing is perfect and I can’t get into thinking that I can’t eat anything. I grow a garden every year & every year I wonder why (lol). I bulk up on tomatoes & peppers at the farmers’ market to freeze, since my plants do so poorly, & hope that gets me through the winter. They do give me a little discount for buying in bulk. If I could ever get my garden figured out (soil? too hot? not enough water?) it would save me a good amount of money at the market for other things. Bethany, I like baking too.

  24. Good topic! GMOs are our biggest concern…so many unknowns with this monster. They are our main reason to reach for labeled organics. The dirty dozen list is a good starter for setting purchasing guidelines and each family needs to weigh and consider their health and budget priorities. To abandon organics entirely seems extreme IMO…akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. The old school mottos still hold true…’pay the farmer today or the doctor tomorrow’…and of course…’you are what you eat eats’ (i.e. butter, milk, fish, poultry, meats).

  25. I have raised my family with same such questions and worries. I the one thing I come back to is to know the people personally that grow your food make your clothes butcher your meat. Pray Pray Pray…… leave the rest in GOD’s hands. One thing I remember my Grandma saying to me many times….. she lived through the Great Depression because they had a apple tree and grew their own garden. She actually saw people starve to death and always felt blessed that she had enough to eat.
    Sometimes it is all about balance.

  26. Very insightful; I like that you’ve considered the human aspect of food growing; people are always priority in my book. We all die eventually, and even people who are the most cautious still get sick. I’d much rather see people focus on the soul as opposed to the body!

  27. Don’t want the pesticides in my or my families bodies. Will continue to buy organic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oB6fUqmyKC8

    1. Hi Tina,

      That video isn’t really a great example of pesticides in our bodies, in my opinion. If you find the original results there are actually 8 pesticides they tested for and they only showed 4 of them to get the sensational results they wanted. It’s also funded by a grocery store which makes you wonder – organics cost more so proving it is “better” for you to consume is better for their bottom line.

      1. The results on the 4 pesticides that they showed are sensational! The amount of pesticides no longer in those developing children’s bodies is a huge benefit. I am not certain organic is better for the grocery store’s bottom line. Their cost is higher to obtain organic produce so it’s going to be higher for the consumer. I think that’s an incorrect assumption to assume that because organic cost more, that the grocer’s profit margin is greater. It could actually be less. You have to set your priorities. My priority is to keep as much pesticide residue out of my family’s and my bodies. Buying organic helps with achieving that priority. When I buy local, I ask if they spray. If they do, I do NOT buy. I do look for local that is pesticide-free. But if it comes down to local that has been sprayed or organic, my “hands down” choice every single time will be organic.

        1. But which pesticides actually make a negative impact on health, Tina? And when eating organic food, did other “organic approved” pesticides enter the bloodstream that the research just wasn’t testing for? I think this video/article did a disservice by only sharing part of the story…but it’s really hard for us regular people to sort out the truth! Such a gray area…
          Katie

            1. Note that the video is Swedish. An easily digestible summary of EU rules can be found here.

              To prevent the development of pests, diseases and weeds, organic farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides or herbicides. This is the reason why the choice of resistant species and varieties is favoured (emphasis added). Multiannual crop rotation and appropriate cultivation techniques play a role in the protection of plants against pests, diseases and weeds. Organic farmers can also rely on thermal processes, the use of natural pest enemies, like ladybugs or trichogramma, an [sic], in the case of an established threat to a crop, plant protection products authorised for use in organic production (emphasis added).

              I’ve heard that the word “organic” doesn’t quite mean what you expect it to mean in the US, while it pretty much does in the EU. This seems to be supported by e.g. this list of allowed synthetic substances. That list looks far more worrisome to me than its EU equivalent in e.g. annex I and II of the relevant regulations (p. 34-37). Of course, that doesn’t change anything about the environmental impact of shipping fresh produce over from far-away places.

  28. Great article! I have been wrestling with the same things lately after finding that many organic produce items are actually sprayed with pesticides, and manure from CAFOs can be spread on organic fields. Ugh! I live in Wisconsin and our growing season is short. I have tried my darndest to have a successful organic backyard garden, but between insects, animals, diseases, and weather conditions I never have enough of anything to feed us for the year. Although we get most of our meat, eggs and produce from local farmers (and hunting), the animals are still fed sometimes (or eat in the wild sometimes as in the case of deer) GMO corn and soybeans. The strawberries and blueberries we pick locally are sprayed, and any organically grown ones are out of our price range when you’d have to travel a couple of hours to get there and pay double the price. I get so discouraged thinking that we are not doing enough for our healthy eating even though we are doing better than most. We just have to do our best and trust God for the rest.

  29. I don’t buy organic because, although they make you go through many hoops to get you certified organicorganic, there is apparently not much of a follow-up system in place after the fact, according to a friend who has gone through the process. So a farmer could get certified as an organic grower (so they can sell as organic) the later revert to regular growing methods with no one the wiser. I have not been able to verify this but, unless the government has a ton of people going around doing soil samples, how would they know?

    1. This is the thing that makes me hesitant to buy organic from the store. Who knows if what I am getting is even organic at all, much less how long it’s been in storage and where it’s from? Local in season is the best way to go, especially getting an organic CSA.

    2. Suzanne,
      I’m pretty sure the USDA organic certification is really strictly regulated with inspections and lots of hoops to jump through, definitely continuing after certification…although I’m surprised to hear that your friend said this, so I could be wrong! ???
      🙂 Katie

      1. Katie- I enjoyed your article, as I go round and round on the organic hamster wheel. I recently read this book:
        http://www.amazon.com/Organic-Journalists-Discover-behind-Labeling/dp/0762790717/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1431272278&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=organics+loufer
        Oh, my- the USDA has what- 1 inspector per billion dollars worth of organic food? And the companies *pay the inspectors* for their certification (gee, no chance of fraud there….). I just can’t feel certain anymore that I am getting anything better with my USDA organic label. Maybe all I am getting is a smaller bank account and a false sense of security.

        1. Oof. That’s really interesting Jennifer – so inspected, yes, but probably not very thoroughly. So. Much. Gray. Area. 🙁

          Bethany, the author of the article, does such a great job covering all the bases she can find! Your last line is so sobering:
          “Maybe all I am getting is a smaller bank account and a false sense of security.”
          We’ll have to keep trying our best, I guess, and focus on whole foods…??? 🙂 Katie

          1. Tiffany @ Dontwastethecrumbs

            Katie,

            I LOVED this post. We’re really on the fence about organics as well. We still buy mostly organic at Costco and use a local CSA (local organic produce) – BUT – the organic “seal” has very little credibility in my eyes.

            I wrote this a while back: http://dontwastethecrumbs.com/2015/03/14-facts-the-organic-industry-doesnt-want-you-to-know/

            Either way, do your research! Growing your own is the best option, but getting to know your local farmer is great as well!

  30. This was a very good article. I get so confused trying to decide organic or not, whole milk or 2 percent, grass fed or what I can afford. I’ve decided to do my best in making choices from food to cleaning products and be okay with it.

    1. Hi Beverly,

      Our colleague Tiffany, at Don’t Waste the Crumbs, has some great posts about all the different milk options. I agree it’s a bit of a struggle to find what I want for my own family!

      http://dontwastethecrumbs.com/2013/10/whats-the-difference-between-all-those-types-of-milk-in-the-grocery-store/

  31. While my family is on a journey to moral moral shopping as well, it is good to keep in mind that there may be a difference between forced and child labor. My great grandfather died when my grandfather was ten and as a result my grandfather had to go to work. His family was able to support itself though the efforts of his mother, siblings and himself. He was one of the most joyful and generous men I have ever met. I doubt he would have been happier not being able to work.

    1. Wow, Holly, that’s a really interesting differentiation and a good point – we hear “child labor” in the States and assume awful conditions, long hours, and kids working against their will, almost enslavement. But it’s true that there’s nothing wrong with children doing *some* work…tough to evaluate what’s too much, but very interesting point. More gray areas!
      Thanks for the lovely comment,
      Katie

      1. Thanks Katie. I love your blog! I’m looking forward to a post on your thoughts about Laudato Si. 🙂

        1. I am so glad you made that point about child labor. Sometimes we do hear that term and automatically think the worst when we really need to know more. There may be times and places, for example, where the choice for child labor is between picking bananas and prostitution. That would be an easy choice for me. Yes, it is very hard to make these types of judgement calls and deciding how much responsibility is ours as the end consumer.

      2. Cathy Magness

        I live in deep south Texas and work at a school where many families are migrant farm workers. In speaking to my high school students when they return to Texas from Northern US farms, they relate that young children do not generally work the fields. The adults work, the teens babysit or take temporary jobs in restaurants. When school starts, they enter school and transfer home at the end of the season. It’s not an easy life but the families stay together and I observe strong family values in these kids who contribute financially to the success of their families. They are successful students, too.

    2. This is a great discussion. It’s so easy for us to forget that the US is NOT the “gold standard” for the rest of the world!

      I heard someone say once that child labor is forced when children aren’t able to attend school because they are working. Even this distinction has issues since not all children who spend their days working would have access to schools even if they weren’t working, and/or would likely still be working because they may well be taking care of siblings while their parents worked. While we all tend to make judgements based on our own lives and cultural experiences, in other places the standards are different, and we do not always have a complete picture of what really goes on, and what is acceptable to any given family in a particular situation.

      I wholly agree that were my child forced to choose between picking bananas or prostitution, there is certainly a lesser of two evils here…

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