I never know when it makes sense to shell out extra money for organic foods. It’s one of the reasons I started working on the story for Marketplace this afternoon on feeding a growing world population.
For some shopping decisions, like what produce to buy if you want to avoid pesticides, there are guides. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” list of fruits and vegetables with the most and least pesticides. You can download the PDF here. There’s also an app.
But what really matters? The experts I talked to each had different answers to the question: “When and do you choose organics over conventionally grown food?”
Farmer and former California secretary of Agriculture AG Kawamura says the organic vs. conventional label matters a lot less to him then how recently the fruits and veggies were picked, and how good they look. He buys whatever is freshest.
Agriculture expert Mark Rosegrant from the International Food Policy Research Institute has a similar approach: “I’m sort of mixed I guess. I don’t religiously buy organics, but if there are some nice looking ones there, I’ll sometimes buy them.”
Cookbook author and food columnist Mark Bittman says if he’s got a choice he’ll always buy organic, with a few exceptions: “if something is local, and it’s really appealing and it’s not organic, I don’t care that much.” But, he said he thinks we need to come up with a better definition for sustainable food, something that means more than “organic.” “I want to see farm workers treated fairly, I want to see animals treated fairly, I want to see consumers treated fairly and I want to see the land treated fairly.”
Finally, Pedro Sanchez, from Columbia University buys organic milk “because I don’t like what they are doing to the cows.” He says he doesn’t like the way some dairy farmers overuse antibiotics. As far as other foods, Sanchez says, “I go with either one, and because of the price differential I go with the conventional.”
We want to know what you do? Do you buy organics? When and why?
If you’re a member of your local public radio station, we thank you — because your support helps those stations keep programs like Marketplace on the air. But for Marketplace to continue to grow, we need additional investment from those who care most about what we do: superfans like you.
Your donation — as little as $5 — helps us create more content that matters to you and your community, and to reach more people where they are – whether that’s radio, podcasts or online.
When you contribute directly to Marketplace, you become a partner in that mission: someone who understands that when we all get smarter, everybody wins.
make public service
Thank you for doing your part!