Do the terms Organic, Conventional and GMO’s leave you all confused? Well I’m here to help you set the record straight and explain the benefits of why you should buy organic foods and products for you and your family. I’ve also included a free printable so you have all the information you need in one place when you are shopping.
This is where my food journey started. For most of my life, I never really paid attention to organic vs non organic items. I would buy whatever it was I was looking for, and if there was more than one item to choose from, I’d pick the cheapest and move on down the aisle. So when I was finally introduced to the term organic, and researched what it meant as far as food and everyday products, my head literally exploded. So let me share with you what I’ve learned…
What does organic and conventional actually mean?
Organic can basically be defined as: the food that is grown on the farm must be grown without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. No nasty chemicals. This includes the feed that is given to the animals too. On the flip side, conventional means farmers can use dangerous chemicals and pesticides on the plants and the food for the animals. So why would farmers use toxic chemicals if it was so bad? The bottom line…it’s cheaper and they can control weeds and pests a lot easier.
Well it can’t be that bad if the government allows it, right?
Wrong…According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) “nearly 70% of the non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful chemical pesticides.” (1) You may be asking “what’s a little residue…c’mon?!” Most of these pesticides, insecticides, fungicides (aka “cides”) are “likely and/or possible human carcinogens” (2) which means they likely cause cancer. These “cides” cannot just be washed off either. You may not get cancer from eating a few pieces of broccoli, but over an extended period of time, it causes quite a build up of dangerous toxins in the body. In addition, as if “likely causes cancer” isn’t enough, many of the “cides” have been linked to hormone disruption, lower fertility and behavior issues in children. (3) In fact, it’s so dangerous that the European Union has banned most of the “cides” but the United States has not. Nice, huh. Have you ever heard of Glyphosate? Perhaps you know it better as Round Up…yes, it is the same as what you spray on weeds in your yard. This is the most heavily used pesticide in the United States and it is sprayed onto most all conventional crops.
What is a GMO then?
A GMO is a genetically modified organism. In layman’s terms it means that an organism’s (like a seed) DNA was manipulated by a scientist and whatever they changed isn’t something that can occur naturally in nature. (4) Why would a scientist do this and why would a farmer want this? Well, by manipulating the DNA, it can make plants resistant to weeds, bugs, pests and disease. It also causes them to last longer.
What does GMO have to do with organic and conventional?
Remember that conventional means the farmer uses chemical (c/c = conventional/chemical). So a farmer can plant a GMO seed and then use conventional methods to make it grow. That makes a “franken-plant” with lots of chemical (GMO and conventional). Likewise, if a plant is organic, it cannot be genetically modified. Thankfully, it’s important to note though, many conventional plants are not GMO. All of these terms can be very confusing when you are first starting out on your journey. This is all the more reason why it is beneficial for you to buy organic foods.
There is new legislation coming out mandating that companies must disclose on their products if it has been “bioengineered.” That’s a fancy word for GMO. Look in your pantry at some of your processed food and I bet you’ll find that term listed.
Does this organic, conventional and GMO thing only apply to fruits and vegetables?
Unfortunately no. Much of the feed that is used for livestock (cows, pigs, chickens, etc) is conventional, GMO and not labeled on the package. So whatever your cow, pig, lamb or chicken eats is what you are eating too. Thus emphasizing that it is beneficial for you to buy organic foods.
So how do I apply this information when I’m shopping?
There are several ways to navigate through this. The first and best way is to try and buy all organic items. “But organic is so much more expensive!” Yep it is. Disgusting isn’t it?! That’s why it is so important to read your labels to see what exactly is in your product.
If you see the organic sticker you know that it is organic and non-GMO. It has lower pesticide exposure. It was not grown with a GMO seed. There are no GMO ingredients and the animals did not ingest GMO feed.
If you see the official Non-GMO Project Verified label (it has to be the official label, not just one written on the box) then it has no “modified franken-ingredients.” However, it still can be conventional (laced with heavy pesticides).
If it has no label on the front look at the back for “contains a bioengineered food ingredient” (which remember means GMO).
The EWG comes out every year with a Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. The Dirty Dozen list the fruits and veggies that have been tested and found to have the most “cides” on them. So these are the ones that you definitely want to buy organic. Meanwhile, the Clean Fifteen list the fruits and veggies that were found to have the least “cides” on them and are considered to be okay to buy conventional.
To help with all of this, I made you a chart that you can print out. You will have this handy dandy information, in one spot, for whenever you need it. The best place for it is in the back of your grocery list notebook. I also included the top GMO crops which will help when you are looking at your processed food ingredients (crackers, chips, salsa, salad dressings, cereal, baby food, etc). Basically, processed food is the inner aisles of a grocery store but also remember that non-organic meat most likely contains GMOs because of the food the animal ate.Dirty-Dozen-Clean-15-GMO-Crops-Chart-1-3
Please share this will your friends so they can be informed as well. The more toxins people consume the more disease there is. To end on a positive note, studies have shown that if you switch to eating organic foods, the toxins are able to be removed from the body over a period of time. This is great news, and all the more reason why it is beneficial for you to buy organic foods. Leave me a comment and tell me how you plan on making the switch to organic.