If you follow the news, you probably ran into an item last week declaring that organic food is “no more nutritious” than conventionally raised food and thus “no better for you,” just more expensive. But as many have already noted, more nutrients aren’t the point. What matters is what’s not in organic food: synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, antibiotic residues and resistant microbes, GMOs…. As Michael Pollan pointed out in an interview with KQED News,
I think we’re kind of erecting a straw man and then knocking it down, the straw man being that the whole point of organic food is that it’s more nutritious. The whole point of organic food is that it’s more environmentally sustainable. That’s the stronger and easier case to make.
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So much of the story depends on what do you mean by “significant health benefit?” The meta study found less pesticide residue, higher levels of anti-oxidants – plant phytochemicals thought to be important to human health; and less antibiotic-resistant microbes in organic meat. But then they say it might not be significant. I don’t think they defined signficant.
We’d call the health benefit “significant” – for consumers, for farm workers, for animals and the environment.
Mass-produced, factory-farm food brings with it a whole lot of chemical residues – from antibiotics and other drugs to herbicides, pesticides and the like. Then there are genetically modified foods (GMOs). While we’re still just beginning to understand their impact on human health, the findings thus far are troubling, to say the least.
Thus, the ever-growing popularity of food that is organic and sustainably raised as closed to home as possible. Next to growing your own, buying local is perhaps the surest way to know about your food and where it came from. And though it’s true that real food can be more expensive than factory-farmed and processed, eating well on a tight budget can be done – even on food stamps, as this writer explains. (For more tips, see EWG’s Good Food on a Tight Budget.)
But where to find it? Here are a few online tools you may find handy in planning your shopping:
- Texas Farmers Markets Association
This directory provides info on all certified farmers markets here in Texas, along with a helpful guide to local seasonal produce.
- Local Harvest
Farmers markets, of course, are just one option. What about family farms or community supported agriculture? How about restaurants? You’ll find all these and more in this national directory to sustainably farmed food. There’s also an online store for items you may have trouble finding locally.
- Eat Well Guide
Like Local Harvest, this guide will help you find fresh, local, sustainably raised food in the US and Canada. Listings range from stores and farms to restaurants, bakers and butchers. There’s even a trip planning tool so you can eat well wherever you go!
- Non-GMO Shopping Guide
Though this site’s listings range beyond food to all sorts of consumer products, it also includes info on tracking down non-GMO foods.
- Good Guide
Like the Non-GMO guide, this one, too, includes a broad array of consumer products in addition to food, mostly packaged but also some fresh.
Image by awsheffield, via Flickr