Organic food has become very popular. But navigating the maze of organic food labels, benefits, and claims can be confusing. Is organic food really healthier? Do GMOs and pesticides cause cancer and other diseases? What do all the labels mean? This guide can help you make better choices about which organic foods are healthier for you and better for the environment, and how you can afford to incorporate more organic food into your diet.
What is organic food?
Making a commitment to healthy eating is a great start towards a healthier life. Beyond eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and good fats, however, there is the question of ...view middle of the document...
* Organic produce contains fewer pesticides. Pesticides are chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides. These chemicals are widely used in conventional agriculture and residues remain on (and in) the food we eat.
* Organic food is often fresher. Fresh food tastes better. Organic food is usually fresher because it doesn’t contain preservatives that make it last longer. Organic produce is often (but not always, so watch where it is from) produced on smaller farms near where it is sold.
* Organic farming is better for the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution (air, water, soil), conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. Farming without pesticides is also better for nearby birds and small animals as well as people who live close to or work on farms.
* Organically raised animals are NOT given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal byproducts. The use of antibiotics in conventional meat production helps create antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. This means that when someone gets sick from these strains they will be less responsive to antibiotic treatment. Not feeding animal byproducts to other animals reduces the risk of mad cow disease (BSE). In addition, the animals are given more space to move around and access to the outdoors, both of which help to keep the animals healthy.
* Organic meat and milk are richer in certain nutrients. Results of a 2016 European study show that levels of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, were up to 50 percent higher in organic meat and milk than in conventionally raised versions. This may be because organic milk and beef come from cattle that graze on a natural diet of grass, while conventional meat and milk usually comes from animals fed with grain.
* Organic food is GMO-free. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or genetically engineered (GE) foods are plants or animals whose DNA has been altered in ways that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding, most commonly in order to be resistant to pesticides or produce an insecticide. In most countries, organic crops contain no GMOs and organic meat comes from animals raised on organic, GMO-free feed.
The controversy surrounding GMOs and pesticides
The ongoing debate about the effects of GMOs on health and the environment and whether GM food in the U.S. should be labeled is a controversial one. In most cases, GMOs are engineered to make food crops resistant to herbicides (weedkillers) and/or to produce an insecticide. For example, much of the sweet corn consumed in the U.S. is genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup and to produce its own insecticide, Bt Toxin.
As well as corn, GMOs are commonly found in U.S. crops such as soybeans, alfalfa, squash, zucchini, papaya, and canola, and are present in many breakfast cereals and much of the processed...