Five Easy Ways to Go Organic: Are They Right and Are There Others?
The New York Times had a blog post the other day that was brilliantly titled Five Easy Ways to Go Organic. Throw "easy" and "organic" into the same title and you're bound to elicit a response. If they had thrown "cheap" in there as well, they would have seen thousands of comments on the blog posts instead of hundreds.
The gist of the post, which was mostly gleaned from an interview with Alan Greene, author of Raising Baby Green:
Switching to organic is tough for many families who don’t want to pay higher prices or give up their favorite foods. But by choosing organic versions of just a few foods that you eat often, you can increase the percentage of organic food in your diet without big changes to your shopping cart or your spending.
The key is to be strategic in your organic purchases. Opting for organic produce, for instance, doesn’t necessarily have a big impact, depending on what you eat. According to the Environmental Working Group, commercially-farmed fruits and vegetables vary in their levels of pesticide residue. Some vegetables, like broccoli, asparagus and onions, as well as foods with peels, such as avocados, bananas and oranges, have relatively low levels compared to other fruits and vegetables.
So how do you make your organic choices count? The author suggests five organic foods that are readily available, consumed frequently, and not prohibitively expensive.
But were the five easy ways easy and right?
The author cited milk, apples, peanut butter, potatoes, and ketchup as relatively affordable organic alternatives.
Most nonorganic milk sold in my neighborhood grocery stores is free of artificial growth hormones and antibiotics, so I wonder if it's worth it to spend the extra money to buy the organic milk? This is a question for Greene.
Organic apples are very difficult to grow in the Northeast at least, and the organically grown apples trucked in from Washington state leave a large carbon footprint. I think the wise thing to do is buy low-spray apples at a farm stand from a farmer you trust. How do you develop that trust? Talk to him or her. Farmers love to talk about what they do.
Greene's argument for buying organic peanut butter is compelling. 99 percent of conventionally grown peanuts are apparently sprayed with fungicide to kill mold. Many stores have a "grind your own organic peanut butter" set-up that's fun, easy to use, and certainly guarantees freshness. Plus, there are no shortage of organic peanut butter brands widely available. Even Skippy, I believe, is making an organic product.
His potato argument is equally compelling:
A simple switch to organic potatoes has the potential to have a big impact because commercially-farmed potatoes are some of the most pesticide-contaminated vegetables. A 2006 U.S.D.A. test found 81 percent of potatoes tested still contained pesticides after being washed and peeled, and the potato has one of the the highest pesticide contents of 43 fruits and vegetables tested, according to the Environmental Working Group.
I'm down with buying organic potatoes, Dr. Greene.
I just had my first organic Heinz ketchup on a delicious patty melt served at Middle Ground, the coffee bar on the campus of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. It tasted virtually identical to regular Heinz ketchup. According to Greene, "recent research has shown organic ketchup has about double the antioxidants of conventional ketchup." I'm also down with the ketchup, then.
Finally, are there other organic foods that fit the criteria mentioned above? On his website, Greene makes a compelling case for organically raised and fed beef, which is considerably more expensive than corn-fed, conventionally raised beef (except if you buy the organic beef from Australia, which again raises the question of its carbon footprint). Another is organic wine, which may turn out to be the fountain of youth we have all been looking for. Greene says:
In my opinion, the closest thing to a Fountain of Youth nutrient may be resveratrol. It is found in the skin of red grapes, and has been shown, in at least some circumstances, to have gentle antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, neuroprotective, anti-aging, and life-prolonging effects. Resveratrol is found in wine in amounts big enough to make a difference for a person drinking a moderate amount. Red wines consistently have more resveratrol than do whites.
In testing, organic wines average 32 percent higher resveratrol levels than their conventional counterparts.
Sounds intriguing at the very least, doesn't it?