FAQs on Organic Food

Which Are Safer: Organic or Conventional Food Products?

OrganicAccording to the American Dietetic Association, both organic and conventional foods have good safety records although both have caused food-borne illness outbreaks that resulted in recalls. But let’s look at specific safety issues that the public has been concerned about and the arguments on either side.   


Pesticides: The central issue, the ADA says, is pesticide residues versus food-borne illness (what could be considered a matter of longer-term versus short-term safety). Says the ADA: “The USDA and other data sources show pesticide residues on most products are well below government-established thresholds, although typically are lower for most organic products.” Here’s what USDA-FDA.com has to say: “Most experts agree that the amount of pesticides found on fruits and vegetables poses a very small health risk.” But consumers who remain concerned about the long-term effects of a build-up of pesticides and additives still opt for organic.

What Is Organic Food?


The word “organic” refers to the way that farmers grow, raise, and process food. The organic farmer strives to use methods that encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Agricultural products are grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Animals are raised without nontherapeutic antibiotics or growth hormones and are allowed some access to the outdoors. Organic foods can not be irradiated. 



What Important Contributions Has the Organic Movement Made?

The organic movement has been beneficial in many ways. Food scientist Dr. Catherine Cutter lists some of them: 


1. It has encouraged people to look more closely at what they buy and to read labels.


2. It has opened their eyes to the origins of food.


3. It has encouraged people to grow and process their own food. (However, processing at home may be more labor and energy intensive than commercial canning and/or processing operations.) 


Is Organic Food More Nutritious Than Conventional Food?


There is no clear answer. Here’s what USDA-FDA.com says: “No conclusive evidence shows that organic food is more nutritious than is conventionally grown food. And the USDA—even though it certifies organic food—doesn’t claim that these products are safer or more nutritious.” The statement from the Food Marketing Institute is even stronger: “Overall, organic food is neither safer nor more nutritious than conventionally-produced food.”


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