What Does Organic Mean?

By Craig Schill 
GreenEriePA Writer 

Organic produce refers to fruits and vegetables that are grown using natural farming techniques. Organically grown produce requires more care per plant, but the benefits are seen in the quality and taste of what's put on the table. While many products are labeled as organic, only those that are "certified organic" are truly organic in that the produce was grown as naturally as possible, with no chemical pesticides or fertilizers being utilized. To complicate matters, small farmers often cannot afford the fees required to be certified organic and may produce "earth friendly" produce that uses many organic techniques without the guarantee.

The type of produce is an important consideration when deciding whether to buy organic. For example, since apples and blueberries tend to contain higher levels of pesticide residues, it is more beneficial to buy the organic version rather than an item such as bananas or corn which tend to have much lower pesticide residues. The Environmental Working Group's ( EWG's) "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce" has a list of 12 fruits and vegetables that often have high pesticide levels and are most important to buy organic.

Organic farming and foods are beneficial in ways other than the quality. It is better for the environment since it involves conserving water and resources and reducing pesticide use which can be harmful to the environment. In addition, organic produce is often grown close to where it is sold and thus incurs less fuel costs associated with produce created by agribusiness and shipped around the world.

Although the price of organic food is typically higher than conventional produce, there are a couple reasons for this. First, more labor is required for organic farming. Also, federal subsidies are only given to conventional farmers, and thus some of the extra cost for organic foods covers this lack of funding to farmers. However, helping the environment by purchasing organic products more often far outweighs the extra cost incurred by the consumer.

Why Should You Buy Organic Foods/Farm Organically?
- It is better for the environment since no chemical pesticides or fertilizers are used. 

- Negligible pesticide residues are consumed as with some conventionally grown produce. 

- Organic food is typically sold close to where its grown rather than traveling great distances to reach the grocery store. 

- Some people report that organic produce tastes better than its conventionally grown counterpart.

Farmers Market Photo Courtesy of Goodell Gardens