People typically shop in natural food stores to buy cleaner, healthier foods than what they'll find in conventional supermarkets. It's common for shoppers to get confused by the meanings of various labels on products, but many now realize that the "cleanest" of all foods offered in stores are those labeled with the USDA Organic seal. The majority of U.S consumers now say they prefer organic foods and at least occasionally buy and eat organic. Why the growing preference for organic products? When you choose organically produced products, you:
1. Avoid synthetic chemical pesticides
Eating organically grown foods is the only way to avoid the cocktail of synthetic chemical pesticides-and excessively large amounts of the herbicide glyphosate (see "The Glyphosate Problem," below)- present in commercially grown food. Pesticides can have a cumulative "toxic loading" effect both in the immediate and long term, according to the Pesticide Action Network, and they're linked to a growing list of health problems, including Alzheimer's disease, asthma, birth defects, diabetes, learning disabilities, sexual and reproductive dysfunction, and several types of cancer.
2. Shun genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
Increasing numbers of consumers want to avoid untested, unlabeled laboratory-created GMOs. Genetically modified ingredients are found in at least 75 percent of all nonorganic U.S. processed foods, including in many products labeled as "natural" or "all natural." Choosing organic is an easy way to steer clear of GMOs and suspected and unsuspected risks that may come with them. Organic farmers are not allowed to plant GM seeds nor use GM crop inputs.
3. Avoid irradiated food and food treated with sewage sludge
Irradiating food with nuclear waste or electron beams can destroy vitamins and nutrients and produce cancer-causing chemicals. And scientific evidence has shown that municipal sewage sludge contains hundreds of dangerous pathogens, toxic heavy metals, flame-retardants, endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, pharmaceutical drugs, and other hazardous chemicals. Organic standards prohibit the use of both of these practices.
4. Benefit from healthier animal products
Meats, dairy products, poultry, and eggs labeled USDA Organic must come from animals that are fed certified organic feed. Organic farming, by law, also prohibits the use of antibiotics and growth hormones (including genetically modified recombinant bovine growth hormone) and the intensive confinement of farm animals.
5. Get more nutrients
According to a 2014 meta-analysis that examined 343 peer-reviewed publications in the British Journal of Nutrition, organic foods are 18-69 percent higher in health-protective antioxidants than their conventional cousins. They also contain lower levels of toxic heavy metals and pesticides.
6. Help reduce pollution and protect our water and soil
Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers contaminate our water and environment. Certified organic standards do not permit the use of these chemicals in farming and require responsible management of healthy soil and biodiversity.
7. Create healthier environments for farmers and rural residents
According to a 2010 Department of Health and Human Services President's Cancer Panel report, exposure to synthetic pesticides has led to increased incidence of cancer in farm workers and their spouses and an increased incidence of leukemia in children living in agricultural areas. Organic farming decreases this exposure.
8. Enjoy better taste and no artificial ingredients
Nourished, well-balanced soil produces healthy, strong plants, and most people say organically grown foods taste better. In addition, no artificial ingredients, such as artificial food colors and artificial preservatives, are added to organic foods.
9. Financially support a sustainable food production system
Organic farming emphasizes preservation of soil and crop rotation, which keeps farmland healthy, and chemical abstinence, which protects wildlife, insects, and beneficial soil organisms. When you buy organic, you support sustainable farming practices that are safer and healthier for people and the planet.
The Glyphosate Problem
Of all the pesticides in our food supply today, perhaps the most concerning to consumers is glyphosate, the primary active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. It is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and its use has increased sharply with the development of genetically modified glyphosate-resistant (also known as Roundup Ready) crops.
Today glyphosate is sprayed on 84 percent of all genetically modified crops, as well as on crops that aren't genetically modified, such as wheat. It also has been found in the milk and meat of cows and in human urine.
In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate a "probable human carcinogen" (Class 2A). The decision by a group of 17 reviewers from around the world was unanimous. It was based on evidence indicating that the popular weed killer can cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and lung cancer in humans; can cause other cancers in animals; and can induce DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals and in human and animal cell studies.
According to a New York Times report, the Environmental Protection Agency first determined glyphosate might cause cancer in 1985, but later reversed that decision. The IARC declaration has brought the issue back again.
Other reports have linked glyphosate exposure to increases in birth defects, and a study published in April 2015 tied glyphosate and other herbicides to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. In a first-of-its-kind study, the researchers found that commonly used herbicides can make strains of E. coli and salmonella less sensitive to antibiotics.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not test food for glyphosate residues, claiming that testing is "too expensive." However, the Organic Consumers Association and the Feed the World Project have launched the world's first do-it-yourself validated glyphosate testing for the general public. The test allows consumers to find out with certainty what levels of glyphosate are found in their bodies and/or their tap water-and women may soon be able to test their breast milk. Each test costs $119. To learn more, visit feedtheworld.info.
These groups plan to use results of the tests to pressure regulators and lawmakers to limit and eventually ban glyphosate, says Henry Rowlands, director of Feed the World. Our best defense for avoiding glyphosate today is to choose certified organic products.
Foods You Should Always Buy Organic
If you can't find or afford an all-organic diet, the following produce items are the most important to buy organic.
The Dirty Dozen:
Produce with the Highest Pesticide Loads
Snap Peas (imported)
Sweet Bell Peppers
+3 Vegetables that contain pesticides toxic to the human nervous system:
Source: 2015 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce by the Environmental Working Group, ewg.org
You've made the switch to eating more organic fruits and vegetables, but what about the rest of your food? To introduce more organics into your diet, start with a few pantry essentials such as spices, condiments, and whole grains. Here are three of our favorite organic products to get you going!
Organic Shiitake & Sesame Vinaigrette: You can't really go wrong with any of Annie‘s organic salad dressings, but there's something extra special about their Organic Shiitake & Sesame Vinaigrette. It's low in sugar (unlike many other sesame-style Asian dressings) and lends a rich, savory note to salads, coleslaw, and other dishes. It's also great as a marinade for pork, chicken, steak, or salmon.
Living Now Gluten-Free Organic Quinoa & Rice Pasta: The search for the perfect gluten-free pasta is over. This new line from Living Now Gluten-Free-which includes Organic Quinoa Penne, Organic Quinoa Spaghetti, and Organic Quinoa Macaroni-marries the texture and taste of gourmet traditional pastas with nutrient-dense quinoa and brown rice. Added bonus: the pastas are free of dairy, wheat, soy, corn, and eggs.
Simply Organic Spice Right Everyday Blends: We all know that the right combination of spices can take a dish from bland and blah to simply scrumptious. Enter Simply Organic Spice Right blends for foolproof seasoning: Pepper and More, Cinnamon and Sugar Trio, Garlic Herb, All-Purpose Salt-Free, and Peppercorn Ranch. We especially love the creamy ranch flavor of the Peppercorn Ranch on salads and veggie dishes.