August 22, 2011

Buying Organic

What makes something organic and when it might be a good idea to pay more.

Jessica: Do you buy organic?

Anne: Yes, sometimes. Milk and eggs, we buy organic. That’s pretty much it.

Sergio: Not too much, not really. No, I don’t really buy organic food.

Jessica: What does the word organic mean?

Anne: I don’t know. Probably just another label to put on food to make it seem healthier.

Will: That, I do not know.

Jessica: Ok, so let’s break it down. Simply put, organic means food that was grown without chemicals.

You can spot organic signs and ads everywhere. And at first, no one was keeping a watch on the word organic, but now the USDA, or U.S. Department of Agriculture, set up a program that certifies whether something is organic.

When something is officially organic, it is grown using natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, and no chemicals can be used. So farmers use certain kinds of insects and birds to reduce pests and disease. Crops are rotated or tilled to manage weeds.

Organic animals eat organic feed. They are also allowed access to the outdoors, given a balanced diet and clean housing to help prevent disease. But they are not given any medications, like antibiotics or growth hormones, to make them grow faster.

And to be organic, that means no GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. That is when genes from one plant or animal are transferred into another. It can do things like make a plant grow faster and stronger and resist pests easier.

So is organic healthier? Well, scientists are still not sure. And so far, no research has found that low levels of pesticides in non-organic foods are unhealthy. But many point out that organic practices are better for the environment. And some people say you can literally taste the difference.

But if you do develop a taste for organic, it will cost you. Organic foods usually are more expensive. So is it worth the extra money? Not always. Experts say the most important foods to buy organic are fruits and vegetables with thin skins like peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines and strawberries. You want to buy organic berries because they are likely to have the most pesticides and the pesticides are the hardest to wash off. Meats are also recommended. The animals are raised with no hormones and no antibiotics. Experts say you can skip organic when it comes to fruits and vegetables with protective peels, like bananas and avocadoes.

Shopping organic can be tricky. Some foods, like this energy bar, say ‘made with organic ingredients,’ and that means only 70% of the ingredients are required to be organic.

So will you be buying organic? It is definitely something to think about.

Jonathan: I guess I’d think more on the organic side, and I think I’d buy more food organically.

Jack: You have to understand, like, as high school students, it’s hard to go and buy organic food. If I’m with my mom, like, of course I’ll let her pay for it.

Jessica: Now you know what the word organic means. But what about the phrase ‘all natural’? Well, that is what we will be tackling tomorrow.


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