Focus Friday: Is organic produce worth it?

I was recently faced with a dilemma. If organic produce is not available or unattainable, is it better to eat conventional produce or none at all? For me, the answer is its better to eat some conventional produce than none at all, but it got me thinking about organic produce. Some will argue that its not worth the additional cost, but I disagree.

I went looking for some support on this. According to the USDA, pesticides on conventionally grown produce do not exceed governmental safety thresholds. But we also know that washing your produce can’t remove all traces of pesticides. The Mayo Clinic recommends you “select a variety of foods from a variety of sources. This will give you a better mix of nutrients and reduce your likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide.” If they’re safe, then why do we need to limit how much we consume? The EPA tells us that “the health effects of pesticides depend on the type of pesticide. Some, such as the organophosphates and carbamates, affect the nervous system. Others may irritate the skin or eyes. Some pesticides may be carcinogens. Others may affect the hormone or endocrine system in the body.” Affects on hormones and increased cancer risk definitely concern me. They say they only allow pesticides that they are “reasonably certain” to not be harmful to humans to be used. That just isn’t enough for me. How many times have things been thought to be safe and later found to be harmful? I’m just not willing to take the risk.

Luckily there are ways to still avoid pesticides if you don’t want to spring for all organic produce.

These are the 12 items that have the most pesticides and the 15 that have the least. You can use this information to weigh which items you want to buy organic. (A note about corn: corn is something I won’t buy if its not organic since the majority of conventionally grown corn is GMO.)

dirty dozen/clean 15


Like I said at the beginning, sometimes I feel like getting produce into my diet is the most important thing, but I try very hard to at least buy organic versions of the dirty dozen to limit possible pesticide exposure.

Here are some ways to save on organic produce:

  • Frozen organic fruits and vegetables are a good option because they are frozen at their peak freshness and can be cheaper than fresh. Especially when you’re buying things out of season.
  • Buying things locally and in season will also save you cash, since they don’t have to be transported across the country.
  • CSA’s are also a good way to save some money. We found that organic produce was a little cheaper when we bought a box through the CSA. Luckily our CSA lets you choose which items you want each week so we don’t get stuck with things we won’t use.
  • Growing your own garden is also an amazing way to save on produce, since you can get a huge return on a small monetary investment. You get to control what kind of seeds and pest control you use, so you know exactly what’s on/in it.


Do you buy organic produce? Which items are most important to you to buy organic?

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