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Posted on by Amber Merton
The problem with produce, at least when it comes to ensuring the product is truly organic, is that it often comes unpackaged and open. In supermarkets it is easily placed into the wrong bin. Since an apple looks like an apple, whether it’s organic or not, it can be a little difficult to determine which apple is organic and which one was grown conventionally – meaning that pesticides were used in the growing of the apple or which apples are genetically modified.
Why is Produce so Important?
The USDA recommends that we consume three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruit daily. Fruits and vegetables play important roles in ensuring the body has an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals, is able to function optimally, and maintains the ability to self-regulate. They bring balance to the body. That’s why they are such essential parts of the diet.
What’s the Big Deal about Pesticides?
Pesticides are designed to kill. While the objects they’re designed to kill may vary between bugs, plants, fungi, and other pests, they also pose significant risks for human health, too. Some of the risks associated with pesticides, according to Environmental Working Group, include:
- Hormone disruptions
- Irritation to skin, eyes, and lungs
- Toxicity of the brain and nervous system
Of course, no one wants to undo the good done to the body by consuming the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables only to consume a corresponding amount of pesticides or questionable genetic materials. The USDA feels that the benefits of eating the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of exposure to the pesticides. However, there is a better way. You could simply eat a diet rich in organic produce instead.
The Great Organic Debate
Eating the right amount of vegetables and fruits each day is a challenge that has vexed many shoppers over the years. It is also one that offers a couple of solutions to consider. First, you could skip the supermarket and shop at grocers who only deal in organic produce.
For many people, though, it is necessary to shop at supermarkets because of the lack of local grocers who offer organic produce. Some feel that supermarkets also offer better prices – even on organic produce. Whatever the reason, if small, local grocers are out of the question, there are ways to discover which foods are organic and which are not.
Second, you could explore the labels of the produce you select from your local supermarket.
What Does it Mean to be Organic?
Organic produce is produce that is grown without using synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, sewage sludge, GMOs, etc. in the growing process. For meat and dairy producing animals, it means that growth hormones and antibiotics were not used on the animals.
What’s in a Label?
If you’ve purchased fresh produce lately, you’ve probably noticed that there are labels adhered to the produce. They’re applied with a food-safe adhesive and, although they are called Price Look-Up Codes ( PLU), they are important for so much more than ensuring you’re paying for the proper produce. Each fruit or vegetable has its own unique digit identifying number. And there are well over 1,000 codes, so it can get confusing.
Currently, produce that has a four-number code and contains no other number is grown with traditional farming practices. This means that pesticides were likely used either while growing this exact vegetable or within the past three growing seasons.
If there is a five digit code on the produce, then the first digit is an identifier. The one you want to know about, when it comes to determining whether or not the produce was organically grown, is the number 9. Nine is fine, as the saying goes, and great to eat. Though, in the future, the “9” may be phased out.
While there are other digits that indicate different things, one you should be particularly mindful of is the number eight. Eight indicates produce that is genetically modified. Unfortunately, Tree Hugger is reporting that his practice is coming to an end and there may be no method of determining whether the produce you consumer has been genetically modified.
This means that those who are more concerned over GMOs than pesticides must consider the benefits of purchasing organic produce that is unaltered.
The Problem with GMOs
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are being used to create more robust produce. Produce that is genetically resistant to bacteria, pets, and other problems that affect crop yield and produce health. The problem is that many people are concerned about what the lasting effect of the genetic modifications and what it can do to the people who consume genetically modified produce.
While there have been a few tests of the short-term results of GMOs, the truth is that no one knows the potential risks of long-term consumption. They simply haven’t been available to consumers long enough to test the long-term consequences.
Major concerns at this point include creating pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics, though some feel this is a stretch, and causing tumors, which one study reported in rats.
For many, it’s the secretive nature of GMOs from the start, and more recently with the USDA pulling the plug on labelling GMOs, that causes concern. The belief being that if the companies creating them had nothing to hide, they would have been open and honest about the modifications from the start.
Ensuring Receipt of Organic Produce
For those looking to set a pretty table filled with fresh organic produce, there are really three main options available to you.
- Work with grocers that offer only organic produce.
- Check the labelling carefully at your local supermarket to ensure the produce is organic.
- Grow your own fruits and vegetables. Even a small container garden can provide an impressive yield, and in these cases you know, without a doubt, what goes into making your garden grow.
Organic produce offers all nutritional benefits fruits and vegetables provide without the risks, known and unknown, of eating produce filled with pesticides or that is genetically modified. These small steps will help you prepare your meals with confidence that you really are giving your family food that is indeed healthy for human consumption.
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