Organic produce must-haves

by Caroline Brown

I interrupt my fall field trip adventures to direct your attention to a really helpful article article in the latest Delicious Living magazine that discusses what products or product ingredients that you should buy organically if all possible. The article goes beyond the usual health reasons and explores the environmental reasons for buying organic as well

The 9 most important products to buy organically are milk, beef, apples, potatoes, ketchup, corn, soy, cotton, and berries. The author, Susan Enfield Esrey, decodes the politics of the organic milk purchase:

Whenever you buy organic milk, you’re casting a powerful vote to help transform an entire agricultural system. Organic cows eat organic feed and graze on pasture during the growing season. Voilá, you just reduced the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers on millions of acres of worldwide farmland dedicated to growing livestock feed.

Beef is in the same category:

Like organic dairy, buying organic beef helps change a whole system and an inefficient one at that. To add just 1 pound of cattle weight, it takes about 7 pounds of corn (according to the late food geographer Georg Borgstrom) and nearly 2,500 gallons of water, per a widely cited report from Sacramento’s Water Education Foundation. Eliminating pesticides—as well as overused antibiotics—from that equation is a smart beginning.

Berries, apples, and potatoes retain high levels of pesticide residues in or on the fruit; soy, corn, and cotton are major GMO crops and a major source of pesticide pollution. It’ll really make you think before buying a conventional apple again. (That is, if it doesn’t make you gag and/or infuriate you to imagine how greedy corporations are that they poison us for their profit, but aaaanyway.)

The best part is a short sidebar that you can cut out and take with you to the grocery store. You’ll learn the “Dirty Dozen” (highest level of pesticide residues) and the “Cleanest Twelve” (lowest), so that it’s easier to shop when you can’t buy organic everything (for cost or because they don’t carry an organic version of the product). Here they are for your reference:

Dirty Dozen (highest levels of pesticide residues)
Peaches
Apples
Sweet bell peppers
Celery
Nectarines
Strawberries
Cherries
Pears
Grapes (imported)
Spinach
Lettuce
Potatoes

Cleanest Twelve (lowest levels of pesticide residues)
Onions
Avocados
Sweet corn (frozen)
Pineapples
Mangoes
Asparagus
Sweet peas (frozen)
Kiwifruit
Bananas
Cabbage
Broccoli

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

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6 Comments to “Organic produce must-haves”

  1. Thanks for sharing this info. C. Its getting easier and easier to buy organic most of the time, now. Consumer demand does make a huge difference. Only a few years ago (at least here in Canada) organics were hard to find and very expensive. Such is not the case anymore.

    I know Ive said it before but I will again, I LOVE your header!!! I need to find out how to do one for Veggies…..a new look. 🙂

  2. I like the list of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and the ‘Cleanest Twelve’. Buying organically is getting easier here, but still it’s spotty. People love their pesticides and herbicides (especially our grain farmers and my neighbour who regularly has her lawn sprayed… I am of a mind to put up a sign that I garden organically, but I wonder how much of an effect I have when I’m surrounded by pals of Round-Up).

  3. Hi G., we have one store here that advertises the same price for both organic & non-organic vegetables. I think it really means their non-organic stuff is just more expensive but at least it’s a start!

    Kate, thanks for stopping by. I know what you mean, sometimes it seems futile to try to achieve a sustainable lifestyle (be it through gardening methods or other lifestyle choices) when so many others are ignorant of it. However even if we have no effect whatsoever, at least we have the comfort of knowing we live according to our beliefs! BTW, thanks for introducing me to your blog. What growing zone is Saskatchewan anyway? Your plants look great.

  4. Hi Caroline,

    I am in zone 3 which is always my greatest frustration. Every now and then, I have success with a zone 4.

    So true … we are living according to our beliefs and hopefully, with time, more and more people will do the same (I’m all for converting in very subtle ways and sometimes it works!)

  5. Organic alone isn’t necessarily better. Sure they may have used compost to fertilize the fruits and vegies but where did the compost come from? What kinds of pest and disease controls are considered organic and if these controls are used in excess, is the produce still safe and pure? There is still so much I don’t know.

    I do know that when I buy apples from the farmer’s market it tastes better than the expensive apples imported from Chile with the ‘organic’ label on it in the supermarket. Maybe the apple from Chile is cleaner but I think the local apple may be more nutritious since it was just picked this morning. It’s not healthy for me to limit my fruits and vegies consumption because of limited choices in the supermarkets either.

    I also know that buying organic is not only better for me but for the environment but lately its too confusing what really is good for the environment. I really appreciate the list of Dirty Dozen but I still prefer locally grown peaches to ‘organic’ peaches from Argentina. Besides isn’t transporting food such distance bad for the environment? I only wish there are more local organic farmers.

  6. Amen, Happy. Agree 100%. If/when I can get an organic, local apple I’ll eat it any day over a non-local organic one. Having said that, when the only choice is a non-organic one from New Zealand, I’m guilty of buying it. Usually when there are no local apples at all, that means it’s not the right season for them.

    Click on the Category “Sustainable Farming” and you can read some other posts about local food. Most of them are grouchy.

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