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Organic: Yay or Nay?

From food to beauty products, labels can be so confusing. Aren’t the words “all natural” and “organic” interchangeable? And if something’s all natural, does it really matter if it’s organic? 

Turns out, they’re not the same.

Labels that read “all natural” simply indicate that the products don’t contain artificial ingredients or preservatives, and ingredients are minimally processed. They say nothing about antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides. (Incredibly lenient, if you ask us.) However, food sold as “organic” must be grown without fertilizers or pesticides made with synthetic ingredients, and cannot undergo oxidation or irradiation.

The Case for Yay

One of the biggest reasons to buy organic is the effects of pesticides on the body. Pesticides have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, negative effects on the nervous system, hormone disruption, and build-up of toxins that can prevent your cells from functioning. In addition, organic crops are said to possess more ample vitamins, minerals, and nutrients than their non-organic counterparts.

The Case for Nay

Organic is a buzzword that is used and abused way too often. According to the USDA, to qualify for an “organic” label, the product needs an ingredients list that is 95 percent or more “ certified organic” — which by USDA standards is free of synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and dyes, and cannot be processed using industrial solvents, irradiation, or genetic engineering. That means that the remaining 5 percent can be whatever the manufacturer wants, as long as it’s on an approved list. If you see a 100 percent organic label, it means all of the ingredients fall under the certified organic umbrella. A label that reads “made with organic ingredients” means that only 70 percent of what’s in the product needs to make the list. Because of all this wiggle room, “organic” has become a word with diluted and convoluted meaning.

Jury Says

Read your labels. When it comes to produce, there are 12 items you should always buy organic when possible, as they have the most likelihood of being contaminated with pesticides: strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Beyond that, look for “100 percent Organic” or, at the least, simply “organic.” Even then, read and make sure the ingredients list actually contains what it advertises.

We’re not going to tell you not to buy things that are not organic. Sometimes, that’s the only option you’ve got. But educate yourself and know what you’re putting onto — or into — your body. Then go from there.

Photo: Bonnin Studio

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