Shall we delve into some basic definitions first? Organic produce implies that no synthetic fertilizers were used in the planting process and that no pesticides (glyphosate) or other synthetic materials were used on the crops. There haven’t been enough studies on human and soil long term effects, but like most unnatural materials, I am going to bet that these chemicals are not the best for our long term health. My take in general with anything industrialized is that quality and longevity of life is being effected. And there are some studies that have showed a correlation between organic eaters and a smaller risk of cancer (especially menopausal breast cancer) (see PMID: 30422212)
Organic products will take on a new meaning depending on country regulations, but may not necessarily be organic 100%. In the U.S for example, all organic products need to receive a USDA seal. The criteria for this seal is that no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides have been used 70% or more of the ingredients. So this means a significant 30% may have been treated with said chemicals. The thing that makes this all very tricky though is that there are certain produce items that really can’t be penetrated with any form of chemicals. So even if there were synthetic fertilizers or pesticides sprayed on said produce, if the skin has been removed, or if the skin in general is thick enough, none of those bad things have permeated into your food. We’ll get back to this list referred to as the ‘Clean 15’ later. For now, let’s talk about another factor to consider when buying organic products.
Environment. We don’t live in the same world our great great grandparents lived in. The air is so much thicker, the water is heavily polluted, more any more people are being diagnosed with various hormonal imbalances and fatal sicknesses. Human health originates from the soil. Isn’t that what we came from? Isn’t that a piece of our world we should be focusing on and preserving? I won’t point all the blame on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, but I think we can all agree that agriculture is one of many culprits. Think about how much of the world is covered in crops. I’ll help you out. A simple google revealed that 50% of the world is covered by agriculture, Soak that in for a second.
A big part of life today is making life and the world a sustainable place. I know you and me seem small, but if more and more of us make the shift over to organic eating, to supporting a farm to table type of living (even if its just once a month), or even just supporting a local farmer who may not be “organic certified” officially but is following organic principles, then that can start to make the world a more sustainable place for our kids and our grandkids and so forth.
I’m not going to stand here and pretend like this is a simple thing to do. Organic products are more expensive and not everyone has that in their budgets. But what I will say is that even that one organic shop a month will make a difference on the world. And if everyone undertakes a more organic lifestyle even minutely, the world will start to become a more sustainable place. Not everything needs to be organic, and so another way to make this organic shift a bit more doable is to try to stick to the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. I’ll expand.
The Dirty Dozen
The EWG puts out a list each year listing the top 12 crops that are highly penetrable and highly sprayed with pesticides. The list varies from year to year, but remains pretty consistent for the most part. Although the EWG is an American association, the dirty dozen is usually consistent with crops that have thin and penetrable skin, and thus don’t vary too much from year to year. A good rule of thumb for us Israeli’s: skin is thin, organic for the win!
Here’s this year’s dirty dozen:
Another route would be to plant your own fruit and veggie garden, which will tremendously help the environment even if it’s only one or two of these plants each season.
The Clean Fifteen
This is the list that the EWG names as safe an non penetrable due to their thick skin and growing methods. Try to take off the skin/outer layer of these 15, and then you are good to go.
Stick to regular super market shopping here with no worry about pesticide seepage.
Do Your Research
In general I’d always tell you to do your research. Science is forever evolving. There is not enough research to even tell us what the effects of pesticides will have on us years down the line. Maybe even none. But, before the research can help us, it’s always good to research how crops are grown, how the farmers operate their land, if there is some sort of monetary reason a product hasn’t been certified organic, and what ingredients are being put into products certified as organic.
I’ll give you all one quick example. The spelt grain has a really thick layer on the outside of the crop. It’s almost impossible for pesticides to penetrate. So even if you aren’t using the whole grain version, the white spelt 100% trumps white wheat flour, which is highly sprayed with pesticides and is highly penetrable. This is why you may have noticed all my baking is done with spelt. This is a small shift I have made in my kitchen that exposes way less chemicals to my family. And to me, it’s a worthwhile shift.
How to Make Organic Eating More Affordable
Here are some tips:
- Do your research. As noted above, not everything certified organic is 100% organic. And some uncertified organic products and produce can in fact have been very adhering to organic principles.
- Source out your local small owned farm. They most likely have free range chicken and eggs, milk, and very unsprayed produce. You’ll be getting better deals and helping the farmer out, and you’ll be helping out the world.
- prioritize. Don’t buy everything organic. But also be honest with yourself. Do you need that huge pack of potato chips and bamba? Or can you swap out some of those snacks this week with some organic produce?
- Use everything in its entirety. You’ve just done a huge organic shop. repurpose! The tomatoes are going bad? Roast em and make sun-dried tomatoes to have in your fridge. Make a huge pot of chicken or veggie soup. Get every last ounce of goodness out of those produce and stretch it thin. You’ll be surprised how much you can actually save in groceries when you buy some more pricey produce because you will feel the need to use every last crumb!
I’ll leave you with one more thought. If there exists studies that point to a decreased risk in chronic and fatal diseases when going organic, wouldn’t you want to find ways to ensure that decreased risk for your family? And if you could lower that risk by adapting even just one of the tips mentioned above, would you?