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When to buy organic? A basic shopper’s guide

A friend said to me recently, “If I bought everything organic, my husband would kill me.” Well, it’s either him or the toxic pesticides, my dear!

But seriously, I understand her financial dilemma. Buying organic in this country usually means spending more, shopping at higher end grocery stores, and seeking out farmers markets. Add the fact that critics question if eating organic really makes a difference in people’s health, and it’s not a surprise that most people are going to shop at supermarkets and buy what’s cheapest.

So what do you do if you want to buy organic, but can’t afford it? One solution is to buy organic when it matters most: when buying the fruits and vegetables that are the most likely to be contaminated with pesticides.

The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides can help you with your organic shopping list. The guide includes the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and the 15 least contaminated fruits and vegetables.

Buy organic when possible:

  1. Peach
  2. Apple
  3. Bell Pepper
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarine
  6. Strawberries
  7. Cherries
  8. Kale
  9. Lettuce
  10. Grapes (Imported)
  11. Carrot
  12. Pear

These conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables are lowest in pesticides:

  1. Onion
  2. Avocado
  3. Sweet Corn
  4. Pineapple
  5. Mango
  6. Asparagus
  7. Sweet Peas
  8. Kiwi
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Papaya
  12. Watermelon
  13. Broccoli
  14. Potato
  15. Sweet Potato

You can read the full list here: 47 fruits and vegetables.

Other reasons to buy organic: GMOs

When the DNA of foods has been genetically altered, these foods are said to be Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs. There are many arguments in favor of genetically engineering foods, such as improving a food’s resistance to disease, increasing the nutrients of a food, making a food taste better, and decreasing the allergenic component of a food. There are also many arguments against genetically engineered foods, such as potentially introducing new allergens into foods and that “messing” with the natural state of the foods could lead to unknown effects on humans, animals and the environment. A major concern in the U.S. is that there is no labeling requirement for the use of GMOs in foods, meaning that people are consuming genetically engineered food without knowing it.

How do you know if you are eating GMOs? Most genetically modified foods are made from corn, soybeans, canola and cottonseed. Since corn and soy are used in so many of our processed foods, chances are that GMOs are being consumed a lot! Remember that corn can come in many forms: corn starch, corn oil, corn syrup, and dextrose to name just a few! Soy also is used in many forms: soy lecithin, soybean oil, soy protein isolate, and more.

How can you avoid GMOs? Buy organic! Foods that are labeled organic cannot contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). An organic label is really your only guarantee unless a company voluntarily states on their product that it is made without the use of GMOs. If you are concerned about GMOs, make sure that buy organic when buying products made with corn, soybeans, canola oil and cottonseed oil.

Organic animal products?

Animal products — meat, poultry, eggs and dairy — labeled organic means that they are raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones (rBST or rBGH).

If it isn’t labeled organic, does that mean that pesticides and GMOs and hormones are used?

No. Just because a food is not labeled organic doesn’t mean that it does contain pesticides, or GMOs, or growth hormones. Some companies haven’t gone through the certification process to be able to bear the organic label. To find out more information about a food, check the package, ask the farmers directly or call the product manufacturers.

Learn more!

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