Organic versus Non-Organic Self-Help Advice

Written by Suzanne Leigh

Success with organic versus regular food. What's the bottom-line when weighing costs, health and quantity eaten?

Considering the growth stimulants, antibiotics, toxic pesticides, sewage sludge and nuclear irradiation used in conventional farming, no wonder people choose organic produce.

Organic Benefits
Organic produce is more likely to carry bacteria that causes food borne illness, according to some experts.
Wash all produce with dish soap and rinse with cold water.
Although pesticides are carcinogens, there is no clear link between non-organic produce and cancer. 
Organic foods rely on "earth-friendly" methods of farming and processing: Weeds and pests are controlled using environmentally sound practices that sustain both the health of the planet and our health.

Representatives from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), question the notion that these foods, costing an average 25 percent more than conventional produce, are more healthful.

FDA studies have found similar pesticide levels in organic and non-organic foods. Even when organic produce is grown under state inspection programs, runoff water, soil shifting and pesticides in the air can contaminate food.

Because organic foods are fertilized with manure, rather than synthetic fertilizers, they may be more likely to harbor dangerous bacteria. The CDC's data show a higher incidence of food borne illnesses linked to organic foods.

Cyndi Thomson, a registered dietician in Tucson, agrees that organic produce requires rigorous cleaning. "Parasites may be a bigger problem with organic food because chemical pesticides are not used," she noted.

Thomson, who is a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, says she recommends organic produce for people concerned about pesticides.

"But whether you buy organic or non-organic produce, it's important that fruit and vegetables are very thoroughly washed. We know that 80 percent of Americans wash produce with water, but this is only sufficient for removing soil," she said. Instead, Thomson recommends consumers wash produce with dish soap for two to three minutes, followed by rinsing with cold water.

Although Thomson recognizes that pesticides are carcinogens, she believes there is no convincing evidence that the level found in non-organic food poses a health risk. "So far I haven't seen any convincing data that eating [conventionally farmed produce] causes cancer," she said.

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