Organic and Chemical-Free Foods - Overview
What do you need to know about organic food?
More and more organic foods are showing up in the
produce aisles of local grocery stores. It can be confusing to know when to buy
organic versions of your favorite foods. Many people buy organic food because they are worried
about the environment. And many people buy organic food to avoid chemicals, especially
pesticides, in their food.
You may have these questions about
- Is it safer?
Foods with the organic label have much less pesticide residue compared with most nonorganic foods. Foods grown with pesticides can have small
amounts of pesticide left on the food when it gets to the store. Studies have
shown that being exposed to large amounts of pesticides can cause harm. But
they have not shown that the amounts of pesticides left on most nonorganic foods are
enough to cause harm.
- Is it more nutritious? There is not
enough evidence to say that organic food is more nutritious than nonorganic
- Is it better for children? Children
may be more sensitive than adults to pesticides and other chemicals because they are still growing. And they
eat more food for their weight than adults do. Products such as organic milk
and organic baby food can be good choices for your peace of
- Does it taste better? There is no
evidence that organic food tastes better just because it's organic. But organic
food is usually fresher, because it doesn't contain preservatives and it needs
to be eaten sooner. Fresher food usually tastes better.
- Is it better for the environment? In general, yes. Many organic farmers and ranchers
work to conserve water and soil. Pesticides can kill birds and small animals
and make it hard for them to reproduce, so using less of these toxic chemicals
is good for the environment.
- Is it better for animals? Usually, but conditions vary. For example, organic ranchers must
let their cattle graze in open pastures. But some ranchers do that only part of
the time, confining the animals to corrals the rest of the time. Most chickens raised on conventional farms live in crowded conditions, so they are given antibiotics to keep them from getting sick. Organic chickens can't be given antibiotics, so they are provided with more living space and access to the outdoors.
Is buying organic the only way to avoid chemicals?
You can avoid pesticides by buying only organic food. Or you could buy organic
versions of only the foods you eat most often or of only those foods that have the most pesticides when grown on
The following fruits and vegetables generally have the highest pesticide
- Strawberries and blueberries
- Bell peppers
- Green beans
- Leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, and kale