RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—The Environmental Working Group has just released its latest Shoppers Guide to Pesticides, a handy downloadable card that lists the kinds of conventional produce that have the highest levels of pesticide residues and the kinds that have the lowest. It includes their “Dirty Dozen,” the fruit and vegetables found to be most contaminated. While Rodale.com applauds that sentiment, we also want to point out the myriad reasons to choosing organic food at any possible opportunity. “Pesticide residues are an important indicator, but it’s not all a person needs to think about,” says Greg Bowman, communications manager at the Rodale Institute. “The farming system that grows the food is really what has the biggest impact on your health and the environment.”
So here are 12 reasons why you should buy only organic, or as close to it as you can get.
Organic produce is always better than crops grown with synthetic fertilizers and water-polluting pesticides because:
1. It leads to healthier neighbors. We all know pesticides are bad for wildlife, but they’re also bad for the people who apply them, and for the people who live near farms. A 2006 study published in the Annals of Neurology found that workers who reported using pesticides had a 70 percent higher incidence of Parkinson’s disease than workers who didn’t use pesticides. A follow-up to that study, published this past February, found instances of Parkinson’s were threefold greater among people who lived near farms sprayed with two types of pesticides, compared with people who weren’t exposed.
2. It leads to healthier kids. Kids are exposed to pesticides in their diets more than in sprays used around homes or in schools. Organic diets cut down on all dietary pesticide exposure in kids, and especially exposure to organophosphates, a class of highly toxic agricultural pesticides that can affect neurological development.
More info on organic:
Hidden costs of conventional food: Organic Is Worth It...And Here's Why
Live the farm fantasy! 5 Ways to Farm if You're Not a Farmer
Is it really organic? How to Find True Organic Food at the Farmer's Market
3. Organic farming uses less energy. In a review of the Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trials, which compare conventional agriculture to organic agriculture, Cornell University researcher David Pimentel found that organic corn and soybeans can be grown with 30 percent less energy than conventionally grown corn and soybeans, and still produce the same yield.
4. And it helps to mitigate global-warming emissions. Not only do organic growing techniques require less energy—and therefore produce less greenhouse-gas emissions from burning fossil fuels—they literally add carbon back the soil. Also, according to research done at the Rodale Institute, we could pull up to 25 percent of climate-warming carbon emissions out of the atmosphere if all U.S. farmland were converted to organic farmland.
5. Organic produce contains more nutrients. The nutrient levels in conventionally grown produce have declined over the years, largely due to the amounts of synthetic fertilizers applied to fields. Those synthetic fertilizers kill the beneficial microorganisms that, in organic soil, feed crops and supply them with higher nutrient levels. Virginia Worthington, a clinical dietician and advocate for organic foods, surveyed more than 40 years’ worth of studies and found that the results showed that organic produce had much higher levels of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus than conventional produce.
6. It’s better for your drinking water. In its surveys of groundwater quality, the U.S. Geological Survey has detected at least one pesticide in every stream tested. The most frequently detected pesticides, and those with the highest concentrations, were synthetic chemicals used in conventional agriculture. The less we rely on pesticides to grow our food, the less reliance we’ll have on expensive filters for pesticide-free drinking water.