Walking into a store, you see them. Flats of strawberries glisten invitingly, the perfect shade of red. They beckon you to take a little nibble to taste their sweetness. But then you check the price tag, and suddenly, those perfect little berries are not so appetizing.
The organic label on consumables can hike up the price of food “anywhere from 7% to 82% [more than] their nonorganic counterparts. But premiums can go even higher in some cases,” according to writer Rachael Brennan from GoodRX Health.
Brennan said the cost increase stems directly from an organic farm’s operating expenses. Between the certification cost, specialized farmland and small-scale production size, the costs quickly add up and are passed onto the consumer through higher-priced items.
But why is this? Why is the little green organic label on this flat of strawberries worth so much that the price can be three or four times their non-organic cousins across the aisle? Is the added cost worth keeping genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides out of our diets?
“Eating organically can reduce a person’s potential exposure to chemicals found in pesticides and support sustainable farming practices,” said Alyssa Ocerguera, senior nutrition and food science major and vice president of the nutrition club. “There have been studies that have shown organic produce may have more antioxidants than non-organic foods.”
Oceguera defines organic foods as foods that are not treated with chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, or genetically modified in any way.
However, Karina Lay, senior nutrition and food sciences major and co-president of the nutrition club, acknowledges that there is much left to learn regarding the benefits and drawbacks of organic foods.
“The knowledge of the benefits of organic foods is limited right now,” Lay said. “There is a small nutrient increase, higher omega-3 fatty acids (because of what organic farmers are required to feed their livestock) and fewer pesticides.”
Lay explained that even with the added benefits of organic foods, she tends to avoid telling people to eat or not eat a certain food or drink.
“We have a saying that moderation is key,” Lay said. “Cake, candy, ice cream, Oreos, etc. will not harm you if you have them once in a while. That is why so many of us do not like to use the phrase ‘junk food.’ Using this phrase makes people feel guilty when they are eating their own birthday cake. The real problem comes when that is all you eat without having a balanced diet or overall lifestyle.”
For those trying to cut non-organic foods from their diets, Oceguera has some advice on how to start small. She talks about what is commonly referred to as the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of 12 of the most common pesticide-ridden produce in the U.S.
“I advise those close to me to buy produce on the ‘Dirty 12’ list organically,” Oceguera said. “It is easier to get others to start small rather than telling them to fully eat organic.”
The “Dirty Dozen” includes strawberries, spinach, kale, collard, mustard greens, nectarines, apples, grapes, bell and hot peppers, cherries, peaches, pears, celery and tomatoes, according to the Environmental Working Group.
But in the end, the question remains: Is organic food worth it? With the current research about organic foods revealing few benefits against the added cost, everyone must determine if they are willing to go the extra mile, hunt organic foods and eat locally. While the increased prices test the loyalty of organic food lovers, it is all up to interpretation and personal preference.