Are Organic Foods Worth the Cost

I am confessing that this a re-post from 2010, but I am super excited to announce that I get to meet the researcher behind the study that convinced me that organic foods are worth the cost. This week I will be attending BlogHer in Chicago. Stonyfield is hosting a private breakfast for holistic minded bloggers. I have the honor of serving on a panel with Dr. Chensheng (Alex) Lu, Ph.D himself!

Are Organic Foods Worth the Cost?

The debate is never ending about whether organic foods are any more healthy for you than non-organic. Just recently, a “reporter,” for a national news media outlet, said that organic products weren’t worth it. This same reporter also confused ”natural” and “organic” and as an avid reader of this blog you know that ”natural” is no where close to “organic.” So what makes organics worth it for me and my family?

Lu, C. et al “Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children’s Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides” Environmental Health Perspectives, 2006, 114 (2), pp. 260-263

This study, along with some others, is the key reason I choose organic foods for my family and children. If you don’t have time to read the study here is a summary. Children between the ages of 3-11 had their urine sampled twice each day for 15 days. The first five days the children ate as they would normally eat. The second five days, the children ate organic substitutes for their normal food. The children did not need to learn new food tastes. If the children ate an orange, they substituted it with an organic orange. The last five days, the children went back to eating normal.

So, what did the study find? The first five days, the researches found significant pesticide breakdown products appearing in the urine.  Within 24 hours after the switch to organic, the amount of pesticide breakdown products became non-detectable and stayed that way until the non-organic diet was reintroduced.

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So what does this mean to me? (This is my opinion only): There have been no conclusive studies that show the short term or long term effect of pesticide residue in children. That worries me simple because we don’t know. I know that many days my boys will put away just as much food as I do. Since, their bodies are a third the size of mine, I worry that their exposure is proportionally greater.

I first heard of this study when I listened to Dr. Alan Greene, MD, speak at an MOSES conference several years ago. That year our farm had just recently been certified organic and we were still in the phase of “giving organics a try.” We weren’t going to toss aside any of our conventional methods just yet and seeing all the dreadlocks in the crowd made me second guess what we were getting into.

Dr. Greene’s story of how he switches from just an “ordinary” MD to a leading advocate for organics and green living is moving and inspirational. You need to check out his website and books. (This is not a paid promotion for his products). In the keynote, he spoke about this study and also that many naysayers of organics often say “but the amount of chemical residue is insignificant, it is measured in parts per billion and cannot affect our hormones, etc.” He then went on to list common medications that we WANT to affect our hormones and they work in parts per billion: birth control pills, Viagra, etc. That really got my attention.

I understand all the barriers to eating a 100% organic diet (accessibility, affordability, etc). Trust me, I deal with those issues every time I go shopping. But if eating organic is important to your family, it can be done. Don’t take my word as truth. Do some of your investigating and find out what is good for your family. Everyone needs to be their own health/food advocate.

This post is not in any way meant to make my non-organic farming friends feel bad. I know that all farmers choose what is best for their families, animals and land. I just wanted to share with our readers why our family chooses organic, and why I think it is SO worth it.

Are organics worth the cost to you?

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Zweber Farms is a fourth generation organic farm located in Elko, MN. We raise dairy, beef, pork, chickens and eggs. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Google+ . Make sure to sign up for our bi-weekly e-newsletter here.

5 thoughts on “Are Organic Foods Worth the Cost

  1. AJ

    Thanks for the article. I agree. No matter what the dollar cost, the true cost to our health outweighs everything else. Moreover, the quality of non-organic foods continues to decline due to genetic manipulation which throughs our body’s systems out of whack. It’s now possible to be obese AND starving at the same time, due to the additives and lack of nutrition in processed food.

    Humanity deserves better.

  2. Daniel Hirtz

    Isn’t it weird to begin with that we want our food to be “fast and cheap”? it’s the very thing that keeps us alive! I think it makes sense and will forever make sense to have our food to be a close to nature (not natural) as possible. No matter how intelligent we get… nature took a long time to develop like it is today… we cannot claim to know anything.
    So please take your time, enjoy your clean organic, gmo-free food and go for the cheap when it comes to other stuff 🙂

  3. bonnybuckley

    I like to eat organic food. Having lived in Shanghai for some years, and not sure about the authenticity of the organic foods I bought, I always washed my veggies and fruits in a vinegar solution before peeling or cooking with them. I wonder about the study cited here, what measures were taken when washing the non-organic produce, whether they were rinsed with plain water, soaked, or cleaned in a different way? Since the study is 8 years old, I wonder whether there is a more recent study that compares washing methods? This step is a critical aspect of how pesticide is transmitted into the human body.

    1. Emily

      Thank you for the comment Bonny. I was able to meet Dr. Lu this morning. He is working a some peer reviewed work that is a follow up to that study. The work will be published in early September. I am going to connect with him to see if he can help me do a follow up blog post.

  4. JJ Goodwin

    First, the EPA lists organophosphates as very highly acutely toxic to bees, wildlife, and humans. Recent studies suggest a possible link to adverse effects in the neurobehavioral development of fetuses and children, even at very low levels of exposure.
    Organophosphates are meant to break down rapidly, and the byproducts of the degeneration are in themselves, not usually harmful. However, they will be there breaking down after killing a human, as dosage as high as 6 parts per million of some of the esters will kill you.
    They are only one class of a whole range of pesticides, and others like organochlorides do not break down and accumulate in the body>
    Chlorpropham, which is ubiquitous in store bought produce, takes at least 175 days to flush a single dose.
    The data sheet shows toxicity in mice at 7-10 times the anticipated single intake level. However, there are no studies on humans, and it gets the label Generally Recognized as Safe (GRS)
    The study you quote was an example of pseudo science. The nature of organophosphates is to break down rapidly, so having done its harm to the neural system of the ingesting organism, anything eating the corpse will not get similar symptoms.