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Are the Benefits of Organic Food Worth the Price?

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Featured Media Resource: VIDEO: What Is Organic Food? (Epipheo)
Epipheo explains what organic food is and why “organic” doesn’t always equal “healthy.”

Do Now U

Are the benefits of organic food worth its price? Do you buy organic food? Why or why not?  #DoNowUOrganic

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Learn More about the Benefits and Costs of Organic Food

Over the past couple of years, there has been increased demand for and increased sales of organic foods as the general public has become more educated about how our food is grown and produced. The term “organic,” as it refers to food, means that fruits, vegetables and grains have not been treated with pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and the animals that produce meat, eggs, and dairy have not been treated with antibiotics or growth hormones. Studies have been able to demonstrate that organically grown produce may have more nutritional value than produce that was conventionally grown, but consumers still have questions about how much of a difference organic foods make to our overall health and if it’s worth the higher prices. The average price for a gallon of organic milk is $4.30 compared to $3.82 for a gallon of conventional milk, and a pound of organic beef costs about $6.75 when the price for conventional beef is around $3.95 per pound. One may question the benefits of investing in this organic trend and if it is worth the increased costs, especially when on a budget.

[media-credit name="USDA" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Top Ten States in Organic Sales 2014[/media-credit]

Proponents of organic foods point to several different benefits, including a higher concentration of antioxidants, better taste and supporting overall health. Organic food may have increased levels of nutrients because it was produced without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or genetic modification. One study found that concentrations of antioxidants were anywhere from 18 to 68 percent higher in organically grown crops. Many consumers also say that organic produce tastes better.


[media-credit name="Mark Goebel/Flickr" link="https://www.flickr.com/photos/sangre-la/3098749982/" align="alignright" width="400"]jc1767 montpelier vt vermont farmers market tomatoes[/media-credit]

The argument against organic food has four main points: cost, productivity, time and skill, and spoilage. The organic certification process is very lengthy and expensive, and the USDA has strict labeling requirements.  And, because a smaller amount of organic food can be grown per acre of land, many farmers cannot justify the spending. The process of organic farming is more labor-intensive, and the products have a significantly shorter shelf-life because they don’t contain preservatives. Studies also show that, despite popular belief, organic farming does allow a limited amount of chemicals to be used, and organic food may be no safer or nutritious than conventional food.

So what do you think? Is purchasing and consuming organic food worth the price you pay for it? Do you buy organic food? Why or why not?

More Resources

Website: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Organic Agriculture
This website presents the legal definition of “organic” in the United States, benefits for farmers and consumers, and discusses USDA’s support of organic food production.

Article: Consumer Reports
The Cost of Organic Food
This study compared 100 products from a variety of grocers to determine the difference in costs between organic and non-organic foods. Data tables are included in the article.

Article: NPR
Is Organic More Nutritious? New Study Adds to the Evidence
A new study has found that organic production may mean more key nutrients in foods, including omega-3 fatty acids, but there are still skeptics as to the real health benefits.

Article: LifeHacker
The Common Sense Guide to “Organic” and Other Food Labels

Learn about the terminology that appears on organic food labels.

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This post was written by Abigail Jones, Alex Hickey, Anthony Arcodia, Chandler Eckert, Emily Daffron, Mallory Reaves, Paige Simms, Sarah Rogers, Trisha Stocker and Victoria Mosby, students at Lipscomb University.

KQED Do Now U is a bi-weekly activity in collaboration with SENCER. SENCER is a community of transformation that consists of educators and administrators in the higher and informal education sectors. SENCER aims to create an intelligent, educated, and empowered citizenry through advancing knowledge in the STEM fields and beyond. SENCER courses show students the direct connections between subject content and the real world issues they care about, and invite students to use these connections to solve today’s most pressing problems.

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