(credit: AP)The USDA doesn't officially offer any opinion about whether organic food is safer or more nutritious than non-organic food. It only says that organic standards have been met. This includes the companies that handle or process the foods before they get to the supermarket. That said, organic foods have lower levels of artificial pesticides, are not genetically modified, don't have artificial hormones and reduce your exposure to antibiotics.
(credit: AP)It is better to buy organic food locally, because nutrients start getting depleted in food as soon as it's harvested. The further organic food has to be transported, the more nutrients are lost.
What Does Organic Really Mean?
(credit: AP)A standard that defines what qualifies as organic was established by the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990, because there was a lot of confusion. It means food with no artificial fertilizers (the ones made with sewage sludge), genetic modification, irradiation (a process that reduces spoilage and kills bacteria and pests) or conventional pesticides. Livestock raised organically must be fed organic feed, can't be given antibiotics or growth hormones, and have access to the outdoors, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Benefits Of Organic
(credit: AP)Eating organic foods can reduce the amount of pesticides and chemicals that non-organic foods may get into your body. You are also reducing your exposure to antibiotics, genetically modified crops, hormones and irradiated foods. Still, the long-term health effects aren't clear.
(credit: AP)Organic fruits and vegetables can cost up to about 30 percent more than regular produce. One reason is that organic farms are usually smaller than conventional farms, yielding less even as demand for their crops is high. Controlling pests and weeds without using artificial pesticides is more labor-intensive, harder and more expensive than using most pesticides. Also, organic feed for livestock is more expensive.
'Natural' Vs. 'Organic'
(credit: AP)Natural foods are different from organic foods. Only products inspected and certified by the USDA can have a label that says 'organic.' Natural foods can't contain any additives, such as preservatives or artificial coloring.