Food: The benefits of organic agriculture

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 10, 2024

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Metro Creative Connection

Modern consumers have more choices than ever before. Whether they’re buying appliances, books, clothing, or any of the myriad necessities of daily life, consumers have a wealth of products to choose from.

An abundance of options also is available at the grocery store. That’s especially true in the produce aisle, where many stores have expanded their fresh fruit and vegetable offerings. That expansion reflects a growing preference among consumers for fresh products, including fresh produce. A 2018 report from the market research firm IRI and the Food Marketing Institute found that sales of fresh foods comprised just under 31 percent of food industry sales in 2017.

Customers who prefer fresh fruits and vegetables to frozen alternatives may wonder if they should be even more selective when purchasing their favorite foods in the produce aisle. That decision may come down to whether or not to purchase organic produce.

Organic produce can be significantly more expensive than non-organic fruits and vegetables, so it’s understandable if budget-conscious consumers cannot afford to go entirely organic. However, it’s important that consumers recognize the many ways that organic agriculture is having a positive impact on the health of humans and the planet they call home.

• Organic produce reduces exposure to pesticides and antibiotics. UC Davis Health notes that organic produce has been proven to reduce consumers’ exposure to pesticides and antibiotics. That’s a significant benefit, as pesticide exposure has been shown to lead to neurodevelopmental issues and has been linked to higher cancer risk. Consumers shopping on budgets can pick and choose which organic foods they purchase, as UC Davis Health notes that certain foods have been shown to have higher pesticide residues than others. Apples, celery, grapes, spinach, strawberries, and tomatoes have high levels of pesticide residues, so choosing organic versions of these foods may be a wise choice. Avocados, broccoli, cabbage, and cantaloupe are some of the foods that typically have low levels of pesticide residue.

• Organic agriculture reduces environmental degradation. The Organic Trade Association notes that synthetic pesticides and fertilizers used on some conventional farms can deplete the soil of valuable nutrients and increase environmental degradation. Organic farmers do not use such pesticides or fertilizers, instead utilizing such practices as composting, cover cropping and crop rotation, each of which can have positive, long-term effects on soil quality.

• Organic agriculture benefits local wildlife. A 2015 study from researchers in Argentina that was published in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment found that small mammals were more abundant around organic farms than conventional farms. That’s not just good for those mammals, but also the farmers, as small mammals can feed on insects that would otherwise adversely affect crops.