By far, the most common complaint I hear about organic produce is the difference in price. Yes it’s true, organic produce costs more than conventional produce. But, due to the benefits of eating organic, it costs sooooo much less in the long run that you might even consider it to be an investment, like a health savings account of sorts.
Let’s get to the basics. What does “conventionally grown” mean? It is a method for growing food that utilizes synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, hormones, fertilizers, and antibiotics and/or genetically modified organisms to increase the crop yield and shelf life of the product.1
Unfortunately, these chemicals and modified organisms are known to cause some disturbing and increasingly common health problems, including diabetes, food allergies, cognitive issues, obesity, and cancer.2
Given that information, it’s probably safe to assume that these substances could be considered poisonous. And by definition, poison is “a substance with an inherent property that tends to destroy life or impair health.”3
Let me ask you this, would you choose to eat food that contains a substance that tends to “destroy life or impair health” just because it’s cheap? Would you feed that to your children? I am sorry to say this, but eating conventional produce is basically equivalent to eating low doses of poison.
I know many people are struggling financially right now. If you cannot switch to 100% organic (or local produce from trusted farmers), you can hedge your health bets by completely avoiding certain conventional produce. And there are some conventionally grown items that retain almost none of the chemicals that they are exposed to. For more information, check out the Dirty Dozen (the most important ones to avoid) and the Clean 15 (the ones with the least amount of toxins). Using these lists to guide your purchases may reduce your exposure to pesticides by 80%!!4
Important note: sweet corn and papayas are on the Clean 15 list. Unfortunately, most of the corn and papayas grown on large farms in the United States are genetically modified. To avoid these issues, learn to read your produce sticker PLU numbers. A five-digit number that begins with a 9 indicates the produce is organic. A five-digit number that begins with an eight indicates the produce has been genetically modified. And, a four digit number that begins with a 3 or a 4 indicates the produce was conventionally grown.5
There are no guarantees. You may get sick no matter what you do, and unless someone discovers the key to eternal life, eventually you are going to die. However, choosing not to ingest synthetic chemicals or genetically modified organisms will certainly hedge your bets for a healthier and more pleasant future. And who knows, that regular investment in healthy food may just save you a significant amount of money on medical expenditures down the road, very possibly more than the difference in the cost of making better food choices.
1. Conventionally grown. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conventionally_grown. Accessed March 2, 2015.
2. Leah Zerbe and Emily Main. 10 Crazy Things Pesticides Are Doing to Your Body. http://www.rodalenews.com/agrochemicals Accessed March 2, 2015.
3. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/poison. Accessed March 2, 2015.
4. Jackie Pou. The dirty dozen and clean 15 of produce. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/health/the-dirty-dozen-and-clean-15-of-produce/616/. Accessed March 2, 2015.
5. What do PLU codes say about your produce? http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2010/05/what-do-plu-codes-say-about-your-produce/index.htm. Accessed March 2, 2015.