When it makes sense to pay extra for organic fruits and vegetables.
Over the past five years the sales of organic fruits and vegetables has skyrocketed. Organics not only provide greater nutritional value, but the farming of organics is more environmentally friendly. But is the higher price of organic produce worth it?
For one group the answer is yes. Pregnant women and young children may benefit from organic fruits and vegetables because US certified organic produce cannot be farmed with most synthetic pesticides.
Non-organic fruits and vegetables, grown by traditional farming methods, frequently contain pesticide residues. Even thorough washing and peeling fails to remove all pesticide residue. Government agencies claim that such low levels of pesticides have little or no effect on humans, although this is frequently debated.
Few studies, however, have examined the effects of low levels of pesticides on developing children and fetuses. Small children have immature and developing immunological, neurological, and reproductive systems. This makes them extremely susceptible to toxins. The concern among many is that even small levels of pesticides may have long term effects on these developing systems in children, as well as on the developing fetuses of pregnant women.
A University of Washington study found that the levels of pesticides in the urine of children decreased after these children were placed on an organic diet. The researchers also discovered that children eating a generally organic produce diet had one-sixth the amount of pesticides in their urine than children eating a regular diet.
While organic fruits and vegetables can help prevent pesticide exposure in young children, they can be extremely expensive costing 20% to 50% more than conventionally grown produce. This can place a tremendous strain on any budget!
On a limited budget, the best tactic may be to pay only for organic fruits and vegetables when the non-organic alternatives have relatively high levels of pesticides.
Some fruits and vegetables for example, have extremely low pesticide residues regardless of whether you eat the organic or non-organic version. Bananas are a prime example, possibly due to their thick skins. You may not want to pay extra for organic bananas which have similar low levels of pesticide residues as non-organic bananas.
You may, however, want to pay extra for those organic peaches when you realize that the non-organic peaches suck up a relatively high level of residual pesticides.
To help make such decisions easier, consider using the non-profit Environmental Working Groups ranking of the pesticide loads of 43 commonly purchased fruits and vegetables. This ranking is based on 51,000 tests collected by the USDA and FDA between 2000 and 2005. You can view the full Environmental Working Group list at www.foodnews.org.
Fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residues include: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, imported grapes, pears, and spinach.
With these fruits and vegetables it makes since to buy the organic counterparts that are farmed without most synthetic pesticides.
Fruits and vegetables with the lowest pesticide loads include: onions, avocados, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, and bananas.
In these cases your budget may dictate whether the organic fruits and vegetables are worth the extra money, since the non-organic alternatives have relatively low levels of pesticide residues.