Going to continue the food theme from two posts ago. There has clearly been a movement in major cities across the US (and I would venture probably small towns too) and Europe to purchase “organic” foods and support local farms. I will fully admit that when the organic food movement started, I was highly skeptical and thought this was just a way to convince consumers to spend more money on produce (which is already fairly expensive). The funny thing, however, is that the term organic describes a method of agriculture used for centuries of human history prior to the advent of pesticides, yet only recently has “organic” farming (or you could claim that it’s historic agriculture) returned in popularity. Organic foods must be produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or antibiotics and cannot be processed with irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical preservatives or food additives. Organic foods in Europe (but not the US) also cannot be genetically modified.
I was reminded today of a picture a friend has posted on his fridge of the 12 foods that one should always buy organic (known as the “dirty dozen”) and foods that buying organic is really just wasting money. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a great guide that you can print out and post on your fridge to remind you of the “dirty dozen” as well as the foods you dont need to bother purchasing organic. One thing I like about EWG’s website is they note that eating fruits and vegetables is important, regardless if they are produced organically or not. Buying organic is merely a method of reducing one’s pesticide exposure. The foods on the “dirty dozen” list and those that are not on the list make sense – most of the foods that are low in pesticides have thick outer coatings that people tend to throw out (grapefruits for example) or they are typically grown without pesticides in the first place (like mushrooms). Apples on the other hand, are often heavily sprayed with pesticides, have thin “skins” allowing pesticides to penetrate the apple, and people often eat the skin of the apple, where the concentration of pesticides is the highest. You can find the guide here, click on the link for the PDF version if you want to print and cut it out.
Friends often ask me why I’m a pescatarian – and I tell them that though I gave up eating meat for Lent many years ago, the only reason that ever made sense to me for not consuming animal products was environmental reasons. The idea that you can grow more food off of the land that it takes to raise a cow than you get from the cow itself somehow resonated with me. My friends usually counter with the statement that fishing can be rather unfriendly to the environment; so how does one choose? Well thankfully, the Environmental Defense Fund has a handy little chart to figure out which fish are environmentally friendly and which arent.