As agriculture industrializes, new methods are developed to grow food quicker, cheaper, and easier. Among these are the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizer, and genetic modification. All three are common practice for the American farmer looking to maximize efficiency- so common that any given meal you eat is almost guaranteed to contain food grown using at least one of these practices. In fact, 60% of the food supply contains genetically modified organisms, as well as 80% of packaged foods in the United States!
Not only are these practices so common, but they also are linked to adverse negative health effects. Exposure to herbicides has been shown to cause developmental delays, behavioral disorders and motor dysfunction. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, effects from pesticide consumption can range from hormonal imbalances to cancer development. As for GMOs, the experimental evidence of their toxicity is overwhelming. One common linkage to GMO consumption is infertility. In a study published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health, rabbits who were fed the GMO herbicide, glyphosate, experienced a decline in body weight, libido, and sperm concentration. These effects were dose-dependent and continued even after they stopped consuming it, indicating a permanent reproductive consequence of the GMO.
The good news is that we have another option: go organic! Organically grown produce generally has a higher nutrient content than its conventionally grown counterparts. Some studies suggest that organic fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of Vitamin C, trace minerals, and antioxidant phytonutrients. See the chart at left for further comparison of minerals in organic and conventional produce.
Buying organic will almost always have a positive impact on your health and the environment, but if you’re trying to save money, know which foods are worth the extra cost. According to the Environmental Working Group, there are 12 produce items that have the highest pesticide levels, on average. It’s best to buy these items organic. Other fruits and veggies, however, contain very low pesticide levels and are therefore not as important to buy organic. Coined by fitness and wellness expert, Jillian Michaels as the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen,” these reference lists are very handy when it comes to spending your money wisely.