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To organic or not to organic?

Going organic has the added benefit of minimising the impact on the environment with reduced pesticides and gentler farming practices. But couldn’t we just buy ‘free range’ stuff and leave it at that? Does it have to be organic?

I am a freelance journalist dedicated to travelling and keeping fit and healthy. A tragic (but proud) cat lady, I believe in the importance of staying strong, active and healthy in the most practical ways possible. I’m also committed to laughing every day, even if that means at myself…which is usually the case. Robyn Box

Just a few days ago I was applying lip balm when my friend came over and slapped it out of my hands, claiming that it was made with nasties and putting it on my lips was ‘the quickest way to absorb dangerous chemicals’. I told her to shoosho and then promptly got the ‘best friend knows best’ lecture about minimising unnecessary chemicals and additives in my life, including in my diet.

Organic eating is what she meant, and she proposed some good arguments as to why we should all eat organic. As a city dweller, I find the whole organic argument a bit overwhelming. Yes, of course it must be better to eat organic. Better for me, not better for my purse which goes into cardiac arrest any time I reach for the organic broccoli.

But how much better is organic food? If we eat only organic will we look more like Miranda Kerr and less like Joan Rivers? Will we live for a hundred years? Last year Stanford University in America completed a study which found there is little evidence to suggest that organic food is better for our health than conventionally grown foods – a claim the Biological Framers of Australia (BFA) seems a little exasperated over.

Stanford’s findings claim the main benefit of eating organic food is a reduction in the risk of pesticide exposure, which to me seems like a fairly good ‘benefit’. A 2012 study by Friends of the earth says scientists discovered some of the pesticides used in Australia have been linked to gross stuff like the development of ADHD, learning and behavioural problems, lower IQ (that’s going to be my excuse from now on) and – worst of all – possible increases to Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in children.

If that’s not enough to get you thinking, going organic has the added benefit of minimising the impact on the environment with reduced pesticides and gentler farming practices. But couldn’t we just buy ‘free range’ stuff and leave it at that? Does it have to be organic?

So what do we do? To organic or not to organic – that is the question.

It’s fair to say that for those with kiddies, a mortgage, a dog who is hell-bent on chewing everything, bills, school fees and everything else that comes with living a typical life, eating organically all the time is near on impossible financially. It’s hard enough for single people with no children or financial responsibilities to keep up the organic tea-party every day.  But there is an option to help those of us who want to maximise our organic produce consumption but minimise the cost associated to it.

The Environmental Working Group release a ‘Dirty Dozen’ list each year – listing fruits and vegetables with the highest contamination levels if grown in conventional farming. While the ‘Clean 15’ list gives us the items with the least pesticide contamination, perhaps justifying our decision to buy non-organic. 

This list gives normal people like you and me a quick reference on what foods we should consider buying organically and those we can probably save our pennies on, maximising our exposure to clean, organic food where it counts the most but minimising how much we cough up for the privilege.

We may not end up looking like Miranda Kerr, but at least we’ll own some delicious strawberries.

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