The Top 9 Reasons to Buy Organic

by Melissa Diane Smith

Reasons to Buy Organic 2People typically shop in natural food stores to buy cleaner, healthier foods than what they’ll find in conventional supermarkets. It’s common for shoppers to get confused by the meanings of various labels on products, but many now realize that the “cleanest” of all foods offered in stores are those labeled with the USDA Organic seal. The majority of U.S consumers now say they prefer organic foods and at least occasionally buy and eat organic.

Why the growing preference for organic products? When you choose organically produced products, you:

1. Avoid synthetic chemical pesticides

Eating organically grown foods is the only way to avoid the cocktail of synthetic chemical pesticides—and excessively large amounts of the herbicide glyphosate, which is increasingly in the news (see “The Glyphosate Problem” sidebar)—present in commercially grown food. Pesticides can have a cumulative “toxic loading” effect both in the immediate and long term, according to the Pesticide Action Network, and are linked to a growing list of health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, birth defects, diabetes, learning disabilities, sexual and reproductive dysfunction, and several types of cancer.

2. Shun genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

Increasing numbers of consumers want to avoid untested and unlabeled, laboratory-created GMOs: Genetically modified ingredients are found in at least 75 percent of all non-organic U.S. processed foods, including in many products labeled as “natural” or “all natural.” Choosing organic is a key way to steer clear of GMOs and suspected and unsuspected risks that may come with them. Organic farmers are not allowed to plant GM seeds nor use GM crop inputs.

3. Avoid irradiated food and food treated with toxic sewage sludge

Irradiating food with nuclear waste or electron beams can destroy vitamins and nutrients and produce cancer-causing chemicals. And scientific evidence has shown that municipal sewage sludge contains hundreds of dangerous pathogens, toxic heavy metals, flame-retardants, endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, pharmaceutical drugs and other hazardous chemicals. Organic standards prohibit the use of both of these practices.

4. Benefit from healthier animal products

Meats, dairy products, poultry, and eggs labeled USDA Organic must come from animals that are fed certified organic feed. Organic farming, by law, also prohibits the use of antibiotics and growth hormones (including genetically modified recombinant bovine growth hormone) and the intensive confinement of farm animals.

5. Get more nutrients

According to a 2014 meta-analysis that examined 343 peer-reviewed publications in the British Journal of Nutrition, organic foods have between 18 to 69 percent higher concentrations of health-protective antioxidants than conventionally grown foods do. They also contain lower levels of toxic heavy metals and pesticides.

6. Help reduce pollution and protect our water and soil

Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers contaminate our water and environment and harm fertile farmland. Certified organic standards do not permit the use of these chemicals in farming and require responsible management of healthy soil and biodiversity.

7. Create healthier environments for farmers and rural residents

According to a 2010 Department of Health and Human Services President’s Cancer Panel report, exposure to synthetic pesticides has led to increased incidence of cancer in farm workers and their spouses and an increased incidence of leukemia in children living in agricultural areas. Organic farming decreases this exposure.

8. Enjoy better taste and no artificial ingredients

Nourished, well-balanced soil produces healthy, strong plants, and most people say organically grown foods taste better. In addition, no artificial ingredients, such as artificial food colors and artificial preservatives, are added to organic foods.

9. Financially support a food production system that works in harmony with nature

Organic farming emphasizes preservation of soil and crop rotation, which keeps farmland healthy, and chemical abstinence, which protects wildlife, insects, and beneficial soil organisms. When you buy organic foods, you vote with your dollar for a sustainable way to produce food that is safer and healthier for people and the planet.


The Glyphosate Problem

Of all the pesticides in our food supply today, perhaps the most concerning to consumers is glyphosate, the primary active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. It is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and its use has increased sharply with the development of genetically modified glyphosate-resistant (also known as Roundup Ready) crops.

Today glyphosate is sprayed on 84 percent of all genetically modified crops, as well as on crops that aren’t genetically modified such as wheat. It also has been found in the milk and meat of cows and in human urine.

In March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the research arm of the World Health Organization, declared glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen” (Class 2A). The decision by a group of 17 reviewers from around the world was unanimous. It was based on evidence indicating that the popular weed killer can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lung cancer in humans; can cause cancer in animals; and can induce DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals and in human and animal cell studies.

According to a New York Times report, the Environmental Protection Agency first determined glyphosate might cause cancer in 1985, but later, reversed that decision. The IARC declaration has brought the issue back again.

Other reports have linked glyphosate exposure to increases in birth defects, and a study published in April tied glyphosate and other herbicides to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. In a first of its kind study, the researchers found that commonly used herbicides can make strains of E. coli and salmonella less sensitive to antibiotics.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not test food for glyphosate residues, claiming that testing is “too expensive.”

However, in April, the Organic Consumers Association and the Feed the World Project launched the world’s first do-it-yourself validated glyphosate testing for the general public. The test allows consumers to find out with certainty what levels of glyphosate are found in their bodies and/or their tap water—and women may soon be able to test their breast milk. Each test costs $119. To learn more, visit

The groups plan to use results of the tests to pressure regulators and lawmakers to limit and eventually ban glyphosate, says Henry Rowlands, director of Feed the World. Our best defense for avoiding glyphosate today is to choose certified organic products.


Foods You Should Always Buy Organic

If you can’t find or afford an all-organic diet, the following produce items are the most important to buy organic.

The Dirty Dozen: Produce with the Highest Pesticide Loads

Apples                                                             Celery

Grapes                                                            Cherry Tomatoes

Nectarines                                                     Cucumbers

Peaches                                                          Potatoes

Strawberries                                                 Snap Peas (imported)


Sweet Bell Peppers

+ 3 Additional Items: Produce that contains highly hazardous pesticides toxic to the human nervous system

Hot Peppers and

Kale/Collard Greens

Source: 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce by the Environmental Working Group,

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