Most people want to eat foods that are delicious and healthful. A growing number of people also want to use products produced in an environmentally sustainable manner. For many of these consumers, buying organic products seems like the best way to fulfill both of those desires. However, organic products often cost more, and there is controversy over their value. Are organic products worth the price? The answer to that question depends on what benefits are important to you.
What Are Organic Products?
The USDA has specific definitions for organic foods and farming. Crops must be grown and processed without the use of certain chemical fertilizers and pesticides. For a product to be certified as organic, it must be composed of at least 95 percent organic ingredients.
Are Organic Products Healthier?
Many people believe eating organic is healthier. That may not be true, however, at least from a nutritional standpoint. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that foods grown organically are not “significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.” However, health considerations go beyond the question of vitamins and minerals. In the same study, researchers state that consuming “organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” The possibility of avoiding chemicals and resistant bacteria in their food is a valuable health benefit for some people. In addition, non-food products that are grown and processed organically could mean that fewer potentially carcinogenic substances are introduced into the environment and embedded in the products used in daily life. For instance, in the case of cotton, conventionally grown crops sometimes involve the heavy use of pesticides. In contrast, growing cotton organically is believed to be easier on the environment not only because is uses fewer chemicals, but also because the processing requires less water. Some people also prefer the resulting material because they believe it’s healthier to wear organic products next to the skin.
Should You Buy Organic?
Whether you buy organic products will depend in large part on your pocketbook and on your social and environmental values. Organic merchandise is often, though not always, more expensive. If your main goal is to eat highly nutritious foods, then organic products may not offer you a big enough advantage for the additional expense. If, however, you want to limit your exposure to synthetic chemicals, added hormones, and antibiotics, then organic foods could offer you health benefits. For many people, the prospect of environmentally safer products will make buying organic worth the extra cost.
Each consumer will need to balance the available information with their values before deciding whether or not organic products are worth the higher prices.
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