Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

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Frugal Disciple
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Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Frugal Disciple » Thu Nov 13, 2014 2:59 pm

There are a couple of other posts on the forum discussing food and this is something that I thought would make a good separate discussion.

I have always thought that buying and eating organic fruits and veggies, grass fed, free range meats, or other similar quality foods as being better for my body and therefore would cost less in medical expenses in the long term. However, I don't think I have ever seen anything that substantiated this thought. I know that there are some on this board who believe that simply avoiding certain foods is much better long term than eating organic. I am starting to really evaluate this and determine if spending the extra money on organics is worth it, or if I need to look at some of the items in my diet as ultimately doing more damage than the benefit I am getting from organic food.

Does anyone know of any studies or resources that may have actual data discussing the long term costs and financial benefits of eating organic foods, etc.?

I think there are a lot of people (like myself) that think that it PROBABLY is better based on the evidence known about organics vs. everything else; however I have no evidence to back this up.

I mainly ask this because in evaluating my monthly food budget, I see a lot of areas I can save, but many of those would involve cutting out certain organic foods, which I am willing to do if that would mean a greater long term financial benefit or quality of life.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by livesoft » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:05 pm

Google finds things easily, for instance: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/20 ... he-expense
A recent study by scientists at Stanford University found that fruits and vegetable labeled organic are, on average, no healthier than less expensive conventional produce, although they have lower levels of pesticide residue.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Raybo » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:05 pm

I buy anything on the dirty dozen (http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-214) organic or I don't eat it. This includes when I go out to eat.

Most other produce I get organic, as well, but I am not as strict as I am with the "dirty dozen."

As for studies or other evidence about the health benefits of organic, I doubt any exist.

There have been other threads on this very topic and it usually devolves into there is no evidence that organic is any better than cheap, "safe" food. I expect this one will too.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Zecht » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:23 pm

It is far more healthy to eat balanced meals regularly than it is to get "organic," which I hate that term by the way. What do the users of that term think everyone does, eat inorganic material?

Anyway, the major benefit for some people is if you have weight, hormone, or chemical sensitivity issues. Many people react poorly to a variety of chemical substances that come into contact with food as it makes its way to the grocery section of your store. Because of this, you should consider a variety of options if you or your family members have sensitivity to certain products, but don't go overboard.

My SO has very sensitive skin, for example, that requires we use only baking soda based laundry detergent (e.g. no Tide) or skin rashes and irritation result. Because of this, we always use that same base of detergent and never change to another.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Chip Spoons » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:24 pm

livesoft wrote:Google finds things easily, for instance: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/20 ... he-expense
A recent study by scientists at Stanford University found that fruits and vegetable labeled organic are, on average, no healthier than less expensive conventional produce, although they have lower levels of pesticide residue.
As far as I'm concerned, the lower pesticide residue would be the principle reason to buy organic produce.

The animal side really comes down to the feed. There are differences between animals that eat what they were designed to eat (as much as modern farm animals were designed to do anything besides be eaten) compared to the same animals fed what might be considered an artificial diet. The three biggest examples are;

1. Cows and the milk (grass vs grain)
2. Chickens and the eggs they produce (bugs, seeds, grasses + some feed vs all feed)
3. Salmon (wild vs farmed)

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by surfstar » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:27 pm

Watch Penn & Teller's Bull_hit episode on organic foods :D
Should be on YouTube.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by chaz » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:29 pm

Better health?
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Frugal Disciple » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:30 pm

livesoft wrote:Google finds things easily, for instance: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/20 ... he-expense
A recent study by scientists at Stanford University found that fruits and vegetable labeled organic are, on average, no healthier than less expensive conventional produce, although they have lower levels of pesticide residue.
The article linked just discusses the findings and does not have a link to the actual study. Additionally, they focus on the fact that organics are not healthier nutritionally, but still have greater levels of pesticide residue. Does this pesticide residue have long term health implications? It doesn't address that. Also, are there any long term benefits to eating non-GMO foods? And it doesn't look at long term medical costs of people who eat organic vs. non organic.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by 4ransom » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:31 pm

Very good question. I am a farmer and grow both. My eyes, taste buds, and pocketbook tell me conventional is best. My gut tells me organic may be a little better, but I don't buy it. Like you all the research I have found does not convince me either way. I do know if everything was organic the world would have a lot more hungry people.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by stoptothink » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:37 pm

4ransom wrote:Very good question. I am a farmer and grow both. My eyes, taste buds, and pocketbook tell me conventional is best. My gut tells me organic may be a little better, but I don't buy it. Like you all the research I have found does not convince me either way. I do know if everything was organic the world would have a lot more hungry people.
Yep

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Tanelorn » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:40 pm

If it makes you feel better to buy organic, whether they're healthier or not, it probably improves your quality of life and with it your life expectancy a bit.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by livesoft » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:42 pm

Personally, I would prefer eating all GMO foods if I could as long as they were cheaper.

As for pesticide residue, I am counting on my cytochrome P450 to help me out with that. I don't want my intake of pesticide residue to ever get too low because I want my systems in place in case I am really poisoned.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Epsilon Delta » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:46 pm

Raybo wrote:As for studies or other evidence about the health benefits of organic, I doubt any exist.

There have been other threads on this very topic and it usually devolves into there is no evidence that organic is any better than cheap, "safe" food. I expect this one will too.
Why is it devolved to say "no evidence exists" when no evidence exists? Is it better to just make things up?

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Tinkerbelle » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:47 pm

I specifically buy organic to decrease the amount of pesticides I consume...especially when I am going to juice fruits/veggies since I don't peel the skin off.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Chip Spoons » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:48 pm

livesoft wrote: I don't want my intake of pesticide residue to ever get too low because I want my systems in place in case I am really poisoned.
Who wants to poison you?

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by flyingaway » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:50 pm

Epsilon Delta wrote:
Raybo wrote:As for studies or other evidence about the health benefits of organic, I doubt any exist.

There have been other threads on this very topic and it usually devolves into there is no evidence that organic is any better than cheap, "safe" food. I expect this one will too.
Why is it devolved to say "no evidence exists" when no evidence exists? Is it better to just make things up?
I guess this is similar to discussions about drinking tap water or bottled water.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Frugal Disciple » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:52 pm

4ransom wrote:Very good question. I am a farmer and grow both. My eyes, taste buds, and pocketbook tell me conventional is best. My gut tells me organic may be a little better, but I don't buy it. Like you all the research I have found does not convince me either way. I do know if everything was organic the world would have a lot more hungry people.
It is great to get the perspective of someone growing both. Thank You!
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Frugal Disciple » Thu Nov 13, 2014 3:57 pm

Chip Spoons wrote: As far as I'm concerned, the lower pesticide residue would be the principle reason to buy organic produce.
That has always been my concern as well, but is the amount of pesticide residue that you would consume actually dangerous to your health? Would that translate into higher medical costs or a lower quality of life? I'm not sure if anyone has the answers to these questions.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by randomguy » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:00 pm

Frugal Disciple wrote:
livesoft wrote:Google finds things easily, for instance: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/20 ... he-expense
A recent study by scientists at Stanford University found that fruits and vegetable labeled organic are, on average, no healthier than less expensive conventional produce, although they have lower levels of pesticide residue.
The article linked just discusses the findings and does not have a link to the actual study. Additionally, they focus on the fact that organics are not healthier nutritionally, but still have greater levels of pesticide residue. Does this pesticide residue have long term health implications? It doesn't address that. Also, are there any long term benefits to eating non-GMO foods? And it doesn't look at long term medical costs of people who eat organic vs. non organic.
There is very little evidence either way. It is easy to say the ROW (i.e. Europe, Japan, Australia) bans GMO foods but there wasn't a lot of science behind those bans. The US thought is make it legal until we prove it is dangerous. Those other countries chose to ban it until it is proven safe. The science right now is sort of leaning towards GMOs being safe but without 30+ years of people eating it, it is really hard to draw many conclusions. Things like it bumping up cancer risk by 10% are just to hard to tease out of data with so much other stuff (populations aging, getting fatter, ...) going on.

Personally I think it is much more important to eat a ton of veggies/fruit versus processed foods than the difference between organic and conventional.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by VictoriaF » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:09 pm

Raybo wrote:I buy anything on the dirty dozen (http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-214) organic or I don't eat it. This includes when I go out to eat.

Most other produce I get organic, as well, but I am not as strict as I am with the "dirty dozen."
Good point. Unfortunately, when eating in restaurants and at events, "balanced" meals usually include inorganic lettuce salads and "healthy" snacks include inorganic fruits and berries from the dirty dozen list.
Raybo wrote:As for studies or other evidence about the health benefits of organic, I doubt any exist.
There were not even proper studies of most vitamins, and those are much easier to conduct.
Raybo wrote:There have been other threads on this very topic and it usually devolves into there is no evidence that organic is any better than cheap, "safe" food. I expect this one will too.
The proponents of conventional food are more numerous, and in a financial forum they advocate it as a virtue of financial discipline. But there are also many Forum members who are knowledgeable about nutrition and spend whatever it takes to eat well.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by VictoriaF » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:14 pm

randomguy wrote:Personally I think it is much more important to eat a ton of veggies/fruit versus processed foods than the difference between organic and conventional.
It's a false dilemma. I do both, eat organic produce and avoid junk food.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by engineer4286 » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:22 pm

Well since there is no such thing as inorganic salads, fruits, and berries... it's tough to buy into the thought that some people "are just more knowledgeable" and thus organic is best. Science is a discipline that doesn't care about any preconceived notions or feelings, it simply observes and states data. I never understand the whole "organic" movement, they are like the anti-vaccine crowd in the fact they will never be convinced against their naturalistic fallacies so it's simply not worth trying. From a purely financial standpoint (as well as a scientific), my family will continue to massively consume the cheapest options to support farmers who can provide the best service to the most people.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by livesoft » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:22 pm

Frugal Disciple wrote:
Chip Spoons wrote: As far as I'm concerned, the lower pesticide residue would be the principle reason to buy organic produce.
That has always been my concern as well, but is the amount of pesticide residue that you would consume actually dangerous to your health? Would that translate into higher medical costs or a lower quality of life? I'm not sure if anyone has the answers to these questions.
I would not be surprised if one ibuprofen tablet does more damage to your health than a year's worth of eating non-organic spinach leaves.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by surfstar » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:29 pm

Another First World Problem! Maybe we need a FWP forum?


I just don't eat fruits and veggies - no pesticides for me! :wink:

*only partially tongue in cheek, also


The likelihood for the consumption of "non-organic" foods to actually affect your longevity? Immeasurable. Worry about Ebola first. Or lightning strikes.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Raybo » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:31 pm

Epsilon Delta wrote:
Raybo wrote:As for studies or other evidence about the health benefits of organic, I doubt any exist.

There have been other threads on this very topic and it usually devolves into there is no evidence that organic is any better than cheap, "safe" food. I expect this one will too.
Why is it devolved to say "no evidence exists" when no evidence exists? Is it better to just make things up?
By "devolve" I mean the usual internet discussion of the sort "my non-organic diet can beat-up your organic diet." Looks like that is where we are headed.

As for evidence, maybe we should discuss if religious beliefs make for a better life.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by SecretAsianMan » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:33 pm

Chip Spoons wrote:
livesoft wrote: I don't want my intake of pesticide residue to ever get too low because I want my systems in place in case I am really poisoned.
Who wants to poison you?
His children when he sues to invoke parental support laws?

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by coalcracker » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:39 pm

I buy organic when it comes to the "dirty dozen", but I am not 100% strict with it. Mostly I do this for my infant son's sake; I figure the damage is probably already done to my developed brain :happy

I think the stress of worrying about this issue would probably do more harm than just picking out whatever looks good.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Ged » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:42 pm

Frugal Disciple wrote: That has always been my concern as well, but is the amount of pesticide residue that you would consume actually dangerous to your health? Would that translate into higher medical costs or a lower quality of life? I'm not sure if anyone has the answers to these questions.
I mentioned this once before in a previous thread - organic farmers use pesticides just as conventional farmers do. The difference is which pesticides. Organic farmers use naturally occurring compounds as pesticides. If this sounds better, well it might not be. Toxicity has nothing to do with the origin of a material - synthetic or naturally occurring.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/sci ... ood-fears/

Stanford recently did a meta-study recently on organic vs conventional food:

http://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2 ... finds.html

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Dutch » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:42 pm

livesoft wrote:[I would not be surprised if one ibuprofen tablet does more damage to your health than a year's worth of eating non-organic spinach leaves.
I would not be surprised if it was the other way round

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by KyleAAA » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:45 pm

I'm not sure if it's financially worth it in that it will lead to lower medical expenses over time, but then, that's not why I eat it to begin with. If it's healthier, isn't that worth paying extra for?

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by engineer4286 » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:47 pm

KyleAAA wrote:I'm not sure if it's financially worth it in that it will lead to lower medical expenses over time, but then, that's not why I eat it to begin with. If it's healthier, isn't that worth paying extra for?
On to the "it's healthier" gambit.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by supertreat » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:50 pm

I think what most people who choose organic based on pesticide exposure don't realize is that USDA organic allows a certain list of pesticides be used. These are often times less specific pesticides that actually have longer half-lives and broader spectrum. They also aren't monitored as closely as the newer pesticides used in standard produce in the US. This article gives a nice rundown of the issue. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/sci ... ood-fears/

"n head-to-head comparisons, natural pesticides don’t fare any better than synthetic ones. When I compared the organic chemicals copper sulfate and pyrethrum to the top synthetics, chlorpyrifos and chlorothalonil, I found that not only were the organic ones more acutely toxic, studies have found that they are more chronically toxic as well, and have higher negative impacts on non-target species."
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by epilnk » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:53 pm

Most people choose to pay the premium for organic for one of two major reasons.

More nutrients: There is in fact a little bit of data here favoring organic, but the margins tend to be small and most of the data does not show an advantage. What advantage there is probably depends on the specific crop and the precise growing conditions, as well as time elapsed between harvest and market. As a general rule, if your goal is to increase your lycopene intake it is going to be more cost effective to eat a larger tomato than an organic one.

Less pesticide residue: Undoubtedly true, but probably a much smaller concern than you might think. For one thing, conventional farmers work to stay well below permitted limits, because a bad post harvest test result can lead to the rejection of an entire shipment. So growers have figured out how to get the maximum protection with minimum residue by timing their sprays. In some cases they finish spraying before fruit sets, for some crops they use something that is enviromentally degradable before harvest, or if they need protection while fruit is on the vine they may switch to a more expensive organic product for the final treatment. So the conventional produce doesn't have high levels to start with. And if you ask a group of environmental toxicologists what exposures they personally worry about, pesticides are way down their list and elicit little more than a chuckle. (The chuckle was the actual observed result though sadly, most people don't get much opportunity to party with groups of environmental toxicologists.)

There are other reasons to choose organic, many of which are too political for this forum. I can't think of a plausible economic argument, though.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by ryuns » Thu Nov 13, 2014 4:54 pm

I think the vast majority of people, the benefits of eating more fresh foods vastly outweigh any marginal benefit for eating organic. So even for those among us here who are fortunate enough to have an income high enough such that food doesn't make up a huge portion of our budget, there may be a benefit of avoiding the sticker shock. Anecdotally, I buy a lot more produce than I used to because I shop at a large farmer's market where prices are super competitive. I buy more, and it forces me to eat more.

This is a couple years old, but a nice little summary: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/orga ... 1209055264

But all things equal, there may be some benefits, but they are somewhat tenuous. From current research, they appear to be no more healthy, at least as far as we can follow. Many organic farms might be (vaguely speaking) "kinder" to the environment, but this is too difficult to measure to be particularly meaningful. If this is one's goal, buying local, in-season, and/or growing your own produce (or riding your bike to the store instead of driving) will likely have a far bigger effect than just switching to organic.

Pesticide residue has been studied and it seems clear that there is lower pesticide residue on organic, but it's unclear whether this has any direct healthy effects. (Edit to add: per supertreat's point, it stands to be repeated that organic farmers absolutely DO use pesticides, but it still stands that from the research I've seen, the measured residue on market organic produce is something like 30% lower.)

We're still yet to see any data supporting the idea that GMOs are at all dangerous. One of the most compelling studies I have seen on the health effects was showing that animals fed GM feed were identical in every way to those not. Feedlot animals aren't human, but it's still compelling. This is a write-up.
http://www.neogen.com/blog/100-billion- ... d-is-safe/
http://grist.org/food/the-gm-safety-dan ... hats-real/

There are different philosophical views about GMO, but I find most are colored too heavily by people opinions regarding the companies that are involved in their research. I view it merely as a tool, and neither inherently good or evil. If you really want to wade in, this is the best resource on the topic I've ever found. Well-researched and unbiased.
http://grist.org/series/panic-free-gmos/
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Frugal Disciple » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:06 pm

Ged wrote: I mentioned this once before in a previous thread - organic farmers use pesticides just as conventional farmers do. The difference is which pesticides. Organic farmers use naturally occurring compounds as pesticides. If this sounds better, well it might not be. Toxicity has nothing to do with the origin of a material - synthetic or naturally occurring.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/sci ... ood-fears/
supertreat wrote:I think what most people who choose organic based on pesticide exposure don't realize is that USDA organic allows a certain list of pesticides be used. These are often times less specific pesticides that actually have longer half-lives and broader spectrum. They also aren't monitored as closely as the newer pesticides used in standard produce in the US. This article gives a nice rundown of the issue. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/sci ... ood-fears/
Great link, Thank you!
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by backpacker » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:08 pm

From the University of Kentucky.
The FDA stresses that pesticides pose much less of a safety hazard than other food contaminants, such as food poisoning microorganisms that cause everything from diarrhea to deadly botulism. The FDA also emphasizes that cancer-causing compounds that occur naturally in the food supply are a much greater threat than are synthetic carcinogens. In some instances, the chemicals applied to agricultural commodities can in fact safeguard from naturally occurring health threats. Thus natural does not always mean better, and chemicals do not always mean bad.
It's "intuitive" that "natural" foods "should" be more healthy because that's what human beings "were made" to eat. Unfortunately, the natural world is more complex than intuition would suggest.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by frugalguy » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:10 pm

Chip Spoons wrote:
As far as I'm concerned, the lower pesticide residue would be the principle reason to buy organic produce.
The lower pesticide residue is the reason I buy organic produce. I realize that there may be natural pesticides, but feel that manufactured additives are on balance worse than the natural equivalents. This is just an article of faith, partly based on a distrust of corporations and the information they disseminate about their products and practices, and I could be wrong, but it's what I believe and I act on. (I also admit to wondering if organic producers live up to the organic standard. But one CAN be too skeptical and one has to draw the line somewhere.)

My own main dilemma with produce - organic and nonorganic - aside from price is the bacterial contamination issue. I was all set to add raw leafy greens to my diet on a daily basis because now it's so easy with packaged pre-washed salad greens. That's until I was told that we STILL are supposed to wash the greens because there could be bacterial contamination that spreads when in sealed plastic bags.

Now, I have to go through the whole hassle of washing and draining of these bagged produce items. Needless to say, I don't eat the leafy greens as much as I had planned. This, despite the fact that I'm probably one of the few people on the planet who is addicted to arugula. :?

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Frugal Disciple » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:15 pm

frugalguy wrote: This, despite the fact that I'm probably one of the few people on the planet who is addicted to arugula. :?
I don't think you'll be getting a surprise intervention for an arugula addiction any time soon :mrgreen:
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by hiddensee » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:15 pm

There is no evidence that organic food makes any difference to health.

Organic food is about land use. If you believe that it would be good to return to 19th century land use methods with a corresponding decrease in the productivity per acre and increase in the price of food, then buying organic can be viewed as a sort of charitable donation toward that end. This was always the intention of the founders of the movement. It has been conflated with unsubstantiated health claims as a marketing exercise.
backpacker wrote:It's "intuitive" that "natural" foods "should" be more healthy because that's what human beings "were made" to eat. Unfortunately, the natural world is more complex than intuition would suggest.
People were not "made" to eat agricultural produce at all; agriculture is not "natural" and nor are the selectively bred plant species we use for it. The paelo movement is the more consistent application of these principles - for which, again, there is no evidence of health benefits.

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VictoriaF
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by VictoriaF » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:18 pm

frugalguy wrote:My own main dilemma with produce - organic and nonorganic - aside from price is the bacterial contamination issue. I was all set to add raw leafy greens to my diet on a daily basis because now it's so easy with packaged pre-washed salad greens. That's until I was told that we STILL are supposed to wash the greens because there could be bacterial contamination that spreads when in sealed plastic bags.
Bacteria are good, they diversify your gut microbiome.
frugalguy wrote:Now, I have to go through the whole hassle ofl washing and draining of these bagged produce items. Needless to say, I don't eat the leafy greens as much as I had planned. This, despite the fact that I'm probably one of the few people on the planet who is addicted to arugala. :?
I was not consuming much arugula, until the last summer. I was traveling through Switzerland and buying packaged salads at local supermarkets. Organic arugula was usually the most appealing, and I ended up eating a lot of it. Frequently, I ate it straight from the package, without washing it. My microbiome now has some Swiss "blood."

Victoria
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by retiredjg » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:28 pm

I don't know if this question is answerable. It would take lifetimes and thousands of people to come up with data and it is impossible to have a control group. And where to you put someone who eats organic including meat vs organic without meat? Or organic but smokes weed vs organic with history of never smoking anything? There are just too many variables.

But I also don't think it matters if organic is worth it financially or not. I buy mostly organic/pastured/grass fed/local/all that other stuff that goes along with it. I think it is better for me, for the soil, for the waterways, and for the other animals on the planet. Where I live now, it also supports local small farms. It's just my preference and I have enough money do it that way. If things go awry, that might change.

This is a personal decision and if the decision revolves around money that likely means someone who can't afford to actually make an unfettered choice.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by frugalguy » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:29 pm

epilnk wrote: For one thing, conventional farmers work to stay well below permitted limits, because a bad post harvest test result can lead to the rejection of an entire shipment. So growers have figured out how to get the maximum protection with minimum residue by timing their sprays.
Are you talking about growers in the US?

A lot of produce is imported. I think there are differing standards wordlwide.

Undoubtedly there are inspections at the border/customs. Even so, it would be hard to believe pesticides would be top on the list. Fungus and insect pests might be a higher priority to protect domestic crops from epidemics. As a cynic, I'd think protection of home-grown crops (and the balance sheets of their producers) from imported disease would be higher on the list than meeting pesticide limits to safeguard the health of the populace.

Additionally, I remember during the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, there reportedly weren't a lot of rigorous tests for radioactive substances in either imported products or domestic products that could have been exposed to radiation. I'm not saying there weren't any inspections -- there were -- but from what I read, they were not consistent and not as prevalent as one woud have hoped.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by just frank » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:34 pm

I find the lack of evidence compelling that there is no benefit to eating organic. Several studies have shown that yields per acre are lower for organic crops, implying that more land would have to be cultivated, and that is a net negative for the natural environment, and also possibly for the climate. Agriculture-related habitat loss is the #1 hit to natural ecosystems, period, and organic agriculture only makes that worse.

Folks seem to think farms are 'natural' if they don't use pesticides or synthetic chemicals, but a farm is just a place that used to be natural habitat until someone ran off or destroyed the native flora and fauna.

People are so squirrely about what they eat, food toxicity is very carefully monitored. I worry more about the things that people don't worry about....fire retardants in sofas and other upholstery, car and diesel exhaust, gasoline fumes, outgassing VOCs from carpets, OSB cabinets and paints, sprayfoams, etc.

So, I don't buy organic food, buy I DO have an organic sofa w/o flame retardants, an airsealed garage maintained at negative pressure wrt to my attached house, steel cabinets, active ventilation in my house, use low VOC paints, etc.

Since I got my EV, I am surprised by how much I can smell car exhaust when I walk around....driving down the road I can smell the different exhausts put out by the different cars that pass me, very clearly...I'm like an ex-smoker who can now smell stale smoke on all the other smokers for the first time.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by randomguy » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:41 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
randomguy wrote:Personally I think it is much more important to eat a ton of veggies/fruit versus processed foods than the difference between organic and conventional.
It's a false dilemma. I do both, eat organic produce and avoid junk food.

Victoria
Sure. But there is also a couple aisles full of processed organic food at my local supermarket. I am guessing that those wouldn't be selling if people aren't buying. Organic/non organic is at the end of the optimizing what you eat decision matrix.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by epilnk » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:44 pm

Dutch wrote:
livesoft wrote:[I would not be surprised if one ibuprofen tablet does more damage to your health than a year's worth of eating non-organic spinach leaves.
I would not be surprised if it was the other way round
Whereas I would be stunned if either trivial input had the slightest impact at all.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by epilnk » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:52 pm

frugalguy wrote:
epilnk wrote: For one thing, conventional farmers work to stay well below permitted limits, because a bad post harvest test result can lead to the rejection of an entire shipment. So growers have figured out how to get the maximum protection with minimum residue by timing their sprays.
Are you talking about growers in the US?

A lot of produce is imported. I think there are differing standards wordlwide.

Undoubtedly there are inspections at the border/customs. Even so, it would be hard to believe pesticides would be top on the list. Fungus and insect pests might be a higher priority to protect domestic crops from epidemics. As a cynic, I'd think protection of home-grown crops (and the balance sheets of their producers) from imported disease would be higher on the list than meeting pesticide limits to safeguard the health of the populace.

Additionally, I remember during the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, there reportedly weren't a lot of rigorous tests for radioactive substances in either imported products or domestic products that could have been exposed to radiation. I'm not saying there weren't any inspections -- there were -- but from what I read, they were not consistent and not as prevalent as one woud have hoped.
I'm more familiar with domestic than imported, but I believe international shipments are routinely sampled for residue testing. Fungus and insects are definitely watched for but I don't think radiation is routinely screened for, for obvious reasons.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by frugalguy » Thu Nov 13, 2014 5:56 pm

just frank wrote:I worry more about the things that people don't worry about....fire retardants in sofas and other upholstery, car and diesel exhaust, gasoline fumes, outgassing VOCs from carpets, OSB cabinets and paints, sprayfoams, etc.
I give some consideration to the above things and take precautions whenever it's practical. Most of the time it isn't practical, however. Perhaps that is one reason organic foods are so popular. Consumers have a choice.

For me, the pesticide issue boils down to the fact that most of my favorite fruits are on the lists of foods with the heaviest concentration of pesticides. Things like peaches and strawberries. If everyone ate a balanced diet and spread all their fruit equally among citrus, berries, melons, etc., there may be less of a worry. But in practice, people tend to have favorites that they consume more often, if only due to availability. So in my case, I decided to emphasize organic berries and be more relaxed about the status of other types of fruit.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Quickfoot » Thu Nov 13, 2014 6:02 pm

To put it simply absolutely not. Organic may or may not be better for you, people have deeply held convictions but there is little evidence either way. If eating organic is important to you emotionally and you can afford it then go for it. Even if organic is better for you the difference is likely to be so small that it isn't statistically significant. Most the organic marketing scene is powered by unfounded fear, much the same as the recent unfounded and completely ridiculous fear of a domestic Ebola outbreak. People *feel* organic is better for them so companies make a product for those people. Unfortunately *feelings* are usually not overly correlated with reality.

If you are wanting to be healthier and financially responsible at the same time you would be better off improving the quality of your diet with non organic food. That means more fruits and vegetables, less red meat and processed carbs and go to the gym 3-4 times a week for an hour of cardio. Science has proven those types of diet and behavior changes are likely to increase your lifespan as well as result in you feeling better.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by tadamsmar » Thu Nov 13, 2014 6:44 pm

Fruits and veggies have lots of natural pesticides.

I once had a bad case food poisoning from a couple of bites from a zucchini that had excessive levels of cucurbiticin, a natural pesticide.

Also, organic farmers use a long list of approved pesticides. They use different pesticides.
Last edited by tadamsmar on Thu Nov 13, 2014 10:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by livesoft » Thu Nov 13, 2014 6:53 pm

epilnk wrote:… but I don't think radiation is routinely screened for, for obvious reasons.
Perhaps you meant radioactivity?
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