What’s Better? Organic, Or Just More Vegetables?

We live in a society of choices, and there’s one that causes a lot of discussion: organic versus non-organic.

When it comes to grocery shopping, many people can feel a lot of pressure because of that choice, particularly parents trying to weigh whether or not exposing their children to pesticides will be harmful. In an excellent column on Slate, Melinda Wenner Moyer tackles this question, reminding us that even in organic produce there are pesticides — albeit natural instead of synthetic. “As any toxicologist will tell you, it’s the dose that makes the poison. In other words, just because both conventional and organic produce are sometimes laced with pesticides doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re doing anyone any harm,” writers Moyer.

There are many reasons to buy organic, particularly from an environmental and sustainable agricultural perspective, but simplifying shopping choices down to organic vs. non-organic is too black and white. If you require an organic label on your produce, then what about the stuff that comes from your local farmer who doesn’t have the funds to pay for such labeling? And if an apple is organic but comes from New Zealand, do you choose it over the non-organic one that comes from your backyard? When the store has organic tomatoes but it’s not tomato season, do you still buy them? Do you even know when tomato season is?

We live in a society with a multitude of options, so it’s nice to have a label that simplifies our purchasing choices, but food is much more complicated and nuanced than one simple dichotomy. Certainly, we should support organic agriculture, for a multitude of reasons, but if we want to deal with the growing public health problem of obesity, it comes down to this: we have to change the Standard American Diet, and that means eating more fruits and vegetables, whether they’re organic or not.

As Moyer goes on to say in her column, “One review concluded that the quartile of Americans who eat the most fruits and vegetables, organic or not, are about half as likely to develop cancer compared to the quartile who eat the least. Fruits and veggies may also prevent heart disease and diabetes.”

At the end of the day, most Americans are eating too many processed foods and not enough fruits and vegetables, and before we can even launch into the organic debate, we simple need to get more people filling their diet with fresh produce. A non-organic orange is better after all than a bag of potato chips, organic or not.

Should we eat organic? Yes. Should we eat local? Yes. Should we eat local food that isn’t organic? Talk to the farmer and find out about their practices. But if we can’t do all of those things, and many of us can’t, because of economic reasons or other, we still need to be providing our body with the produce that it needs to survive.

Fewer chips, more fruit. Fewer fast food fries, more potatoes. Let’s remember to not just talk about whether or not people should be eating organic, but how we get people eating more produce and less processed food in general.

Photo Credit: thebittenword.com


Jim Ven
Jim Ven11 months ago

thanks for the article.

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B3 years ago

Organic wins my vote - I'm not happy to pay more but am prepared to do so!! Oh and the more people buying organic then the cheaper it will become!!

Anne Knox
Anne K3 years ago

thank you!

Ve G.
Valentina G3 years ago


Gerald L.
Gerald L3 years ago

** & xx @ Lloyd H. ; they are nearly all neurotoxins. Cumulative means is there an interaction between different active ingredients in insecticides and accumulative means does the body of the consumer retain and build up a toxic level over time... no one is studying the long term effects cumulative or accumulative of the inert compounds in any of them. As for me, I simply refuse to pay 2-4X more ... there are enough studies, for me,

Who pays for the studies, Bayer Pharmaceutical, Bayer Agra? Lloyd sadly I am scientific
proof because of solvent chemical exposure at work. When an industrial cherry causes instantaneous headache, organ pain, and 1/2 your brain hums for days, guess what, you buy organic. Later i found out the pesticide for cherries invades the flesh internally to kill a worm borer. Wash it all you want !

Intake of chemicals , pesticides are cumulative. You do not ever wish to go there, it alters your life horribly. You salivate when others are eating available berries & fruit, but KNOW you can't because hurting is due and you wait & wait for a grocer to bring in a organic peaches or strawberries and hope they will be rea$onably priced.

Who funds, manipulates research and dictates curriculum at Universities, Big Ag, Pharma, Industry and you want to trust their studies.

Gerald L.
Gerald L3 years ago

*** Michelle D.: I adjust my budget so I can purchase organic for my family. Don't let big ag fool you, simply washing non-organic produce does not rid it of all the various pesticides. The soil absorbs the chemicals from season after season of spraying pesticides.

Another issue is nitrate fertilizer ! Experiment with people having inflammatory issues, eg. swollen sinuses, sleep apnea. Try eating organic vegetables, eg. potatoes at super time and take note or your sleeping partner as to whether you have apnea or inflammation issues that night.

PSEP :: Fact sheets :: Nitrate: Health Effects in Drinking Water
psep.cce.cornell.edu › Fact sheets‎
This bulletin focuses on the health effects of nitrate in drinking water

Some individuals, however, may have increased susceptibility to methemoglobinemia due to exposure to antioxidant medications and chemicals, or other conditions that may inhibit the body's ability to reconvert methemoglobin to hemoglobin (such as pregnancy or certain rare diseases).

Nitrate in drinking water starts affecting the health ... but the effect on any given person depends on many factors, including other sources of nitrate and nitrite in the diet. Some of the nitrate consumed can be converted in the body to nitrite, which under appropriate circumstances can combine with amines (portions of protein molecules often found in foods, medications, cigarette smoke, decaying plants, soil, and sometimes water) to form nitrosamines, well-

Gerald L.
Gerald L3 years ago

*** R B.: We have started growing some of our own (it isn't hard) and you can do so in pots if you don't have garden space. That way you can control what is or isn't sprayed on your food.

Growing in pots, eg. driveway gardening has benefits for people with physical impairments also, the plants are at a more manageable height, the heat from asphalt can speed growth, although they may need more watering. But the results are rewarding, we harvest beans late into the fall grown on a trellis in a large box on wheels beside a south facing stucco wall on the house.

Lynn C.
Lynn C3 years ago


Edgar Zuim
Edgar Zuim3 years ago

A balanced diet is very important, especially if organic products are purchased from reliable sources.

John S.
Past Member 3 years ago

What about heirloom? That should add a whole new level of confusion.