First, most organic foods have higher levels of healthy compounds compared to non-organics. In more than 60 percent of all studies, organic foods were higher in more nutrients than conventionally produced foods; about 30-35 percent of the time there was no difference; and in 5-10 percent of the studies, the nutrient level was higher in conventional food. These data are based on studies that compared the same varieties of fruits and vegetables grown in similar locations (which is the best way to compare organic versus non-organic food).
Second, and most importantly, research shows that organics overwhelmingly reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. And this is the BIG DEAL and the major reason to choose organics.
“Certified Organic” means the item has been grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by independent state or private organizations. Certification includes inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping, and periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers are meeting the standards which have been set.
The federal government set standards for the production, processing and certification of organic food in the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 (OFPA). The National Organic Standards Board was then established to develop guidelines and procedures to regulate all organic crops. The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) during December 2000 unveiled detailed regulations to implement OFPA. These took effect on April 21, 2001, with an 18-month implementation period ending October 2002. At that time, any food labeled organic must meet these national organic standards. USDA’s National Organic Program oversees the program.
Prices for organic foods reflect many of the same costs as conventional items in terms of growing, harvesting, transportation and storage. Organically produced foods must meet stricter regulations governing all of these steps, so the process is often more labor- and management-intensive, and farming tends to be on a smaller scale. There is also mounting evidence that if all the indirect costs of conventional food production—cleanup of polluted water, replacement of eroded soils, costs of health care for farmers and their workers—were factored into the price of food, organic foods would cost the same or, more likely, be cheaper.
Benbrook, C. 2008. “Simplifying the Pesticide Risk Equation: The Organic Option,” The Organic Center, Boulder, Colo.