Organic vs non-organic

It's a question that used to plague me as a young shopper, should I buy organic? When you're starting out in your career, not earning much money (or preferring to spend it on things like going out, or new shoes), suddenly the question becomes a matter or priorities.

Perhaps it's not til later in life that new shoes doesn't mean as much as giving back to Mother Earth, and so the question becomes more prominent.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the word "organic" refers to "the way farmers grow and process agricultural products....Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution." Sounds good right, though why does the consumer have to front the costs of the farmers moral and sustainability efforts?

The simple answer is - because we do. The farmers put the work in, so we can reap the benefits. And nothing in life is free, so if you want food free of chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers, be prepared to pay.

Large-scale conventional farming methods have overtaken traditional profuction practices, and the connection between food and supply has been lost. The result of this is produce that has been farmed to deadline, with little concern for quality (not to mention major supermarkets reportedly ripping off primary producers).

Concerning the nutritional benefits, the common thought is that organic produce is better for us, however some research states otherwise. Associate Professor Samir Samman, from the School of Molecular Bioscience at the University of Sydney, says there is little evidence to suggest that organic food is nutritionally better than conventional, non-organic food. 

In scientific journal Critical Reviews In Food Science And Nutrition, Samman states: "[when] the articles are scrutinised for scientific quality, only the better-quality articles are considered, only phosphorous remained significantly higher in organic food as compared with conventional foods.

"Phosphorous is not in any way a limiting nutrient in the diet. The presence of higher amounts in organic food has probably little significance. We conclude from the analysis that the nutrient composition differs very little between foods that are produced by organic and conventional methods."

"Some health professionals believe that organic foods have more nutrients and elicit favourable effects on health," Professor Samman says."This advice is given despite the lack of scientific evidence to support it."

Coming back to price (doesn't it always?), below is a comparision of organic vs non-organic produce. Prices for the non-organic side were taken from Australia's leading supermarket, with the non-organic side taken from Lettuce Deliver. The husband loves good pun, so why not?

The bottom line should be, do your best. Look at the prices and consider your options. You may not want to buy organic every week, though look at what's in season, and the prices should be favourable. Another tip is to shop at your local markets. We live in Marrickville, so are spoilt with the Organic Marrickville Markets down the road. There we can find our produce for the week, and get change from $40.