According to the USDA, organic foods are grown:
- Without using most conventional pesticides (there are still certain ones that are allowed in small amounts)
- Without fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewer sludge
- With no bioengineering
- With no exposure to ionizing radiation
In order to achieve USDA organic certification farms are also required to emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water. Food from a certified organic farm may have this USDA label on it:
On the other hand, when cost is an issue- conventional produce is better than no produce at all. Sometimes local organic asparagus costs $7.99 per pound and I don’t feel like taking out a loan before I go to the grocery store, so I buy conventional and it’s not the end of the world.
Some foods are more affected by pesticides than others. For a list of which foods are best bought organic, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list.
If you've got 90 minutes and would like to learn more about conventional vs organic foods watch The Future of Food here.