March 15, 2011

To Buy or Not to Buy Organic?

We're going to die no matter what we eat, so what does it matter? That was the conclusion I came to after taking a Science of Food class in college. But since it's been a few years and the professor of the class was a former geneticist for the USDA, I figured it wouldn't hurt to reexamine the issue.

One of the main reasons I originally decided organic food was a waste of money was that a video we watched in class talked about a young boy who died after contracting E. coli from organic spinach. In To Buy or Not to Buy Organic, Cindy Burke says the 2006 E. coli breakout in spinach was not in fact linked to organic produce, despite reports to the contrary. After learning that information, I became much more open to trying organic food.

What I liked about the book is that Cindy Burke tells you it's not actually worth the money to buy organic in every case. I'm more concerned about whether or not the food I buy is safe than whether or not the food I buy is supporting big business producers or the farm subsidy system. A chart in the back lists foods alphabetically and gives Burke's recommendation of whether it's best to buy organic, conventional, or local food for that particular item. Broccoli and cauliflower, for example, are naturally pest-resistant and contain very little pesticide residue even when conventionally grown. I also found it interesting that she recommends not eating organic fish at all since it's better to eat wild caught fish and fish must be farm grown to be certified as organic.

The thing I found troubling about this book was that I don't know how factual some of the information is. Cindy Burke says that you cannot trust the government to keep your food safe. While that may be true, how do I know I can trust the information a food journalist and former chef is giving me? It's difficult for me to think of an author as credible when she begins a sentence with "According to" She referenced one theory that the reason a woman's risk of breast cancer decreases the more children she breastfeeds is that the babies are draining toxins from her body. The first baby will get the worst of the toxins. While this is absolutely terrifying, from what I could tell it's just a theory of one man.

I would recommend To Buy or Not to Buy Organic if you're on the fence about organic food. If you're already 100% convinced it's a waste of money, it probably won't change your mind. This book did make me think switching to organic for some foods might be a good idea (potatoes, strawberries, and peaches for example), but I can't see us ever going completely organic. I'm not giving up Chick-fil-A anytime soon.

Do you buy organic?

Other Books Read in 2011


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