My Organic Grocery Story
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
By: Kris Norwood, Communications Consultant
While paying for groceries at a local supermarket recently, I saw a small sign stating that if I had purchased produce and my cashier didn’t ask me if I had selected anything organic, then I would receive a free drink. Intrigued about the store’s interest in my produce preferences, I asked the cashier about the sign. He explained that organic produce looks so similar to regular produce that cashiers often don’t recognize it as organic. This dilemma was causing the store to lose money because organic fruits and vegetables tend to sell for higher prices than conventional produce.
Because I work for a crop protection company and believe strongly in the need for our products to ensure a reliable food supply in a world of ever increasing demand and in the science that demonstrates the safety of our products, I’ll admit that it’s pretty rare for me to buy organic produce. But as a mom, certainly I think every day about the food I’m feeding my family, and question whether I’m making good, healthy choices.
Organic and conventional produce, as my cashier pointed out, look very similar on the outside. Numerous studies also have looked at what’s on the inside. Researchers from Stanford University analyzed 237 of the most relevant studies about the health and nutrition of organic food
. Dena Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy, said she looked into the research to be able to better respond to patients asking her again and again about the benefits of organic products.
Dr. Bravata and her team’s analysis found “little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods.” Seeing such consensus in a large number of studies is reassuring. Thanks in part to public scrutiny, pesticides are among some of the most extensively studied chemicals in the world and are subject to strict authorization criteria. As a chemical company employee, that’s not always fun for me and my colleagues, but as a mom, I’m glad to see it.
Crop protection products undergo extensive safety testing before they can be sold. A “legal limit” (called a tolerance) is set with large safety factors included (at least 100). Official scrutiny continues afterward. One part of this scrutiny comes through FDA’s Pesticide Monitoring Program. Looking at the year 2012**, did you know that in the United States, 57 percent of domestic food samples had no detectable residues at all
? Less than 3 percent exceeded the tolerance
, a very low number considering large safety factors used.
I never did get that free drink from the cashier who forgot to ask me about my produce purchases. But many people in our world, even right here in our own backyards, regularly do without food and drink. Indeed feeding a hungry world is really what I think about most whenever I’m confronted by the organic versus conventional food discussion. The fact is that it will take organic farmers, conventional farmers and more, to ensure food security as we hurdle toward a population of more than 9 billion by 2050. Let’s make sure we’re all working together toward that common goal.
** I selected this year because the data is available online up to 2012.
To learn more or ask questions about pesticides and other modern agriculture, check out CropLife International or GMO Answers. Or feel free to pose a question on Twitter @Bayer4CropsUS.
Kris Norwood is a communications consultant for Bayer CropScience. She has worked with Bayer and its predecessors for nearly 25 years.