“Don’t put that in your mouth!” Many of us remember our parents saying those very words whenever we would try to sample some odd find, whether it was a toy, rock or plain old dirt. Nowadays, more and more people are saying just that in regards to fruits and vegetables grown the conventional way, and saying yes to organically grown produce. From healthier food to an economic boost to helping protect our environment, organic produce has several advantages over regular produce.
Perhaps the most important benefit is to the consumer, in terms of health benefits. More and more studies are showing that organic produce may contain more of the stuff that’s good for our bodies: vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Nutritionist Virginia Worthington found there were significantly more nutrients in organically-grown produce and grains than in their conventionally-grown counterparts after evaluating 41 published studies weighing the differences between organically grown and conventionally grown fruits, vegetables, and grains (Worthington 161-173). Also, University of California at Davis researchers compared the antioxidant levels in corn, marionberries and strawberries grown using conventional, organic and sustainable methods in a 2003 study. The results:
Antioxidant levels in sustainably grown corn were 58.5 percent higher than conventionally grown corn, while organically and sustainably grown marionberries had approximately 50 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown berries. Sustainably and organically grown strawberries had about 19 percent more antioxidants than their conventional counterparts (“Nutritional Considerations”).
Many other studies have comparable findings, yet further research is still needed to fully determine how organic and conventional produce compare nutritionally.
Another major health benefit is the lack of chemical pesticides in organic farming. Many of these pesticides are harmful to humans and animals in addition to the insects they’re designed to eradicate. Each year, more than a billion pounds of pesticides enter our environment in the United States alone. Taking those chemicals out of the soil and water supply can reduce the occurrence of health problems in communities, according to the Organic Trade Commission (“Health Benefits”). Some of these pesticides may contain cancer-causing chemicals. The President’s Cancer Panel released a report in April 2010 discussing the sources of such carcinogens:
The number and prevalence of known or suspected carcinogens is growing. Many environmental contaminants are manufactured synthetic chemicals; waste and by-products of industrial processes; chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals used in farming and for landscaping; chemicals used in other commercial activities; combustion by-products of petroleum-powered engines; water disinfection/chlorination by-products; and both man-made and natural sources of radiation (Reuben 16).
One of the basic tenets of organic...