There are a variety of reasons a growing number of consumers are choosing organic foods in their weekly grocery run. Many people are wary of chemical residues frequently found in foods grown with the use of pesticides that have been tied to cancer, reproductive concerns and additional health problems. Others want to support a system that aims to protect the welfare of animals raised for poultry, pork and beef products and worry about the overuse of antibiotics. Still others choose organic because of evidence that the environmental impacts of conventional agriculture are detrimental to soil and water quality.
Organic foods often cost more than conventionally grown foods, however, and may be harder to find in grocery stores. So if your budget and time are limited, you might want to prioritize. Here’s a good place to start.
Annual testing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) finds that non-organic strawberries regularly carry residues of many types of pesticides, including synthetic bug-killing chemicals and weedkillers. One sample of strawberries examined by USDA scientists contained residues of 22 different pesticides. The level of some residues found were so high that they would be considered illegal according to government data. An analysis by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that strawberries were the fresh produce item most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residue.
Blackberries are also due special attention because of illegally high pesticide residue levels, according to the FDA.
Other fresh fruits
Kale and spinach
Non-organic salad fixings often also come with traces of potentially unhealthy pesticide residues. Though kale is widely considered a popular health food, the USDA has reported finding residues of 17 different pesticides in some kale samples. Non-organic spinach has also been found to carry residues of an insecticide called permethrin, which is linked to neurological defects in children. The USDA found the insecticide in 76% of spinach samples along with residues of different fungicides designed to kill mold and mildew.
Non-organic chickens are often raised in tightly confined spaces with hundreds of other birds, causing health problems. The animals are often heavily dosed with antibiotics both because of illness and for growth promotion. The widespread use of antibiotics in poultry production has been tied to antibiotic resistance health problems in humans.
Some conventional dairy operators give their cows a growth hormone called recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) or recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase milk production. The hormone has been found to cause health problems in cows, including udder infections. The illnesses in turn trigger more use of antibiotics, increasing the risk of antibiotic resistance.
Many non-organic oat farmers spray their crops with the herbicide glyphosate shortly before harvest in order to dry out the plants. The practice, called desiccation, has been shown to leave residues of glyphosate in finished oatmeal products. One FDA scientist found glyphosate residues in several types of infant oat cereal. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.
Preservatives and other additives have been found to be almost four times higher in conventional bread than in organic bread. The food additive potassium bromate is one additive often used in conventional bread to improve the rise of bread dough and to make it whiter, but it is banned in Europe and IARC classifies it a possible human carcinogen. Glyphosate is also used as a desiccant on some non-organic wheat, and residues of the weedkiller have been found in bread products.
Conventional tofu typically comes from genetically modified soybeans sprayed directly with glyphosate weedkiller. Conventional soybean farmers are also increasingly using new varieties of GMO soybean seeds that are sprayed with other types of herbicides as well, leaving a weedkiller cocktail in finished foods.
Cattle fattened on feed lots instead of grass pastures live in crowded conditions and exist on a diet typically containing genetically modified corn that has been treated with pesticides. The animals are often dosed with antibiotics to treat or prevent diseases common in conventional confinement operations, contributing to antibiotic resistance. Meat from organically raised, grass-fed cattle also generally has higher levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Eggs from organically raised hens benefits those who eat them as well as those who lay them. Organic eggs come from chickens raised on a diet free from most pesticides and not confined to tight cages. Some egg producers do not adhere tightly to organic standards, however, so buyers should do their best to research their egg producer of choice.
(For the source of this, and many other articles of equal importance, please visit: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/28/organic-food-what-to-buy-produce-meat-dairy/)