Opting for organic

Organic food can be found in most supermarkets, but is it the right choice for everyone?

Imagine two apples sitting side by side. Both as equally red, as equally round and as equally juicy. What’s the difference? One apple is organic while the other isn’t.

In the past, organic food was only available in health stores, but today, it can be found in most supermarkets. For many shoppers, this has created a dilemma. When faced with the choice between two (often identical looking) apples, should they choose the conventionally grown one or the organic one?

Conventionally grown produce often costs less while organic produce is marketed as being safer and more nutritious. But is this really the case? For health conscious college students shopping on a budget, it’s important to get the facts prior to check out.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. In addition to lower pollution levels, organic farmers practice water and soil conservation. Their farming methods use alternative ways to fertilize, control weeds and prevent livestock disease. For example, instead of using chemical weedkillers, organic farmers utilize sophisticated crop rotation as well as natural fertilizers.

There are several factors influencing a consumer’s decision whether or not to buy organic products. Some shoppers purchase organic items simply because they prefer the taste. Other shoppers choose to go organic because of concerns about pesticides, food additives and the environment.

“Honestly, I eat organically because it’s reassuring to know what’s going into my body,” Ferris music industry management junior Bianca Vasovski said. “The unknown is scary. I like to know exactly what’s going into my body.”

On the flip side, some consumers choose conventionally grown products over organically grown products because organic food is often priced higher due to more expensive farming practices. Also, since organic fruits and vegetables aren’t treated with waxes and preservatives, they may spoil faster, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“It’s hard to eat organic all the time because it’s expensive,” Vasovski said. “But I do it whenever I can.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has established an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards. These standards regulate how foods are grown, handled and processed, according to the Mayo Clinic. All products labeled as organic must be USDA certified.

But is organic food more nutritious? The answer isn’t yet clear. According to the New York Times, a recent study by scientists at Stanford University found that fruits and vegetables labeled organic are, on average, no healthier than conventional produce. In the study, it was noted that the organic products did have lower levels of pesticide residue. Research in this area continues.

Ferris students interested in learning more about organic farming can do so locally at the Big Rapids Farmers’ Market which is located just south of City Hall. The Farmers’ Market is in operation from May 11 to Oct. 19, according to the City of Big Rapids website. It is open on Tuesdays from 1 to 6 p.m. and on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“To me, eating locally is just as important as eating organically,” Vasovski said. “I think it’s important to help sustain the local economy and support your community.”