Organic eating on the rise, as is the cost

Despite minimal evidence that organic food is really healthier, demand for it continues to rise.

Brooke Bovee

The increasing demand for organic foods is causing a dilemma in the produce aisle. Organically grown foods have broadened our options in the market. Today, shoppers can find organic food not only in farmers markets but also in the same locations as conventionally grown foods, including supermarkets and club stores. The growth in demand for organic foods is expected to continue into 2018 with a 14 percent annual growth rate.

Not only is organic food good for you, but it’s also good for the U.S. economy. Organic food is an emerging trend across the country, with more than three-quarters of American families reporting that they sometimes purchase organic food.

But is it worth the cost?

Organic food in supermarkets tends to be more expensive because of costly farming practices such as crop rotation and natural fertilizers. Organic producers gain more of the food dollar when selling directly to consumers.

In a recent study, researchers examined the past 50 years of articles on the nutrient content of conventional versus organic food. They concluded that the two food types’ nutrient contents do not significantly differ, though the study is ongoing.

However, there are other benefits to buying organic foods, including a lack of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.     

Organic farming benefits the environment by preserving water and soil quality and reducing pollution. Pesticides used in conventional farming to protect crops from diseases and insects can lead to chemical runoff, which can have a toxic effect on aquatic ecosystems. These same pesticides are made from fossil fuels and can also increase the effects of climate change.

Use of pesticides on vegetables and fruit is commonly associated with an increased risk of cancer. Fruits and vegetables contain very small amounts of pesticides, and there’s no evidence that suggests these amounts increase the risk of cancer. In fact, people who eat fruits and vegetables have a slightly lower cancer risk.

A study by the Environmental Working Group analyzed residue from pesticides and found that apples are one of the foods that contain the most pesticides, while avocados contain some of the least. If you are still concerned that your produce may contain harmful residue, buying organic apples and conventional avocados could help balance out your spending on groceries.

The cost of buying organic food for the sake of fewer pesticides may not be worth the cost, but buying organic food to protect the environment and boost the economy is well worth the cost for those who can afford it. For students, purchasing organic foods at our campus’s farmers market means taking out the middleman, buying straight from the source. This translates to purchasing organic food at cheaper prices, as opposed to what you would find at a grocery store.