Facebook Pixel
EmpowHER Guest

How does organic fruit differ from ordinary fruit? Will just washing it be enough?

By Anonymous June 28, 2009 - 8:20am
Rate This

There is so much fruit in the stores right now, but when I see things like strawberries, blueberries, etc, and some are organic and some are not, I wonder what exactly is the difference in what I am eating. I know that pesticides can be used on traditional fruit and they can't be used on organic fruit but does washing the traditional fruit, is that enough? Or does the pesticide get inside the fruit?

Add a Comment1 Comments

Great question!

The label "organic" means the food must meet certain criteria (detailed below), but please beware-- this label does not always mean "better", "healthier" or "natural". There are some companies who, unfortunately, use this label more as a marketing term than as a real description of what you are buying.

Regarding the question whether to buy organic vs. conventional produce, a main concern are the "residues" left by pesticides. Washing fruit and veggies helps to remove some of this residue, but not all of it. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) created a Produce Shopper's Guide (free download), listing the produce that is most contaminated and least contaminated with pesticides. The EWG explains, "eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables will expose a person to about 15 pesticides a day, on average. Eating the 12 least contaminated will expose a person to fewer than two pesticides a day."

If you are not able to buy all organic produce, the best items to buy conventional are the ones with skins or peels that are not consumed (think: avocados, bananas, oranges, pineapples, onions, etc). The produce that is most important to buy organic are strawberries, lettuce, peaches and apples.

Here is the official (long-winded) definition of organic, by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), found at the OTA (Organic Trade Association) website:
"Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.

‘Organic’ is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole.

Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water.

Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agricultural products. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people."

OK...so what does this mean specifically for produce, to directly answer your question?

- Both "conventional" and "organic" methods use pesticides, but "organic" uses only natural pesticides and "conventional" uses synthetic pesticides. Interestingly, both types of pesticide may be harmful to humans, but the "natural pesticides" are thought to be much more environmentally-friendly, and not as harmful to humans.
- Yes, both natural and synthetic pesticides do "get inside the fruit" as you suggested, as these pesticides are in the soil from which the fruits use as nourishment to grow.
- You can read more about pesticides at the National Pesticide Information Center (approved by the EPA)

- Conventional produce allows "genetic modifications", such as use of hormones or other potentially harmful substances

Political reasons
- Buying organic may also means supporting smaller, local farms, but not always. You can read more about this here. Some researchers believe that organic produce contain more nutrients, as they are usually not shipped across the country (and, also saves gas--another resource).

From my personal experience, I have found some organic fruits and vegetables to taste better, and others I have not noticed a difference. I have a priority list of what I will buy organic (berries, apples, grapes, lettuce, broccoli...produce that we eat in large quantities), my next priority is to buy locally (less "food miles" traveled). Even though bananas are on the list of "OK to buy conventionally", I still buy the organic-version, as my 2 year old eats one every day. If I were buying them just for myself or husband, I would probably purchase the conventionally-grown bananas.

What are your thoughts about buying organic vs. conventional produce? What are your current purchases, and do you find it difficult to buy organic? If so, why? Is it cost-prohibitive, are the selections not as good?

June 28, 2009 - 1:49pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

All user-generated information on this site is the opinion of its author only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. Members and guests are responsible for their own posts and the potential consequences of those posts detailed in our Terms of Service.

Healthy Eating

Get Email Updates

Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!