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The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

5 Myths About Organics

As the first national certified organic grocer in the US, Whole Foods Market® features organic choices whenever possible; it's a crucial part of our commitment to our shoppers and the planet. With more organic options than ever in every aisle, it’s time to clear up some common misconceptions. Here are five myths that we’re happy to debunk.

MYTH: "Organic" doesn't have a strict definition.

​FACT: Since 2002, all organic food products sold in the US are required to meet strict Federal standards managed by the USDA. These products are grown in environmentally friendly ways, without toxic or persistent agricultural chemicals. For example:

  • Soil and plants cannot be treated with toxic chemicals or persistent pesticides

  • No synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge can be used to promote growth

  • GMOs are not allowed

  • Animals are fed organic feeds and have access to the outdoors

  • Synthetic growth hormones and antibiotics are forbidden in animal production

Notably, the EU and Canada have similar, equivalent definitions of organic.

MYTH: Organic foods from other countries meet different standards.

​FACT: Any food products sold as “organic” in the US, whether grown in the US or any other country in the world, must meet the US organic standards outlined above.

USDA accredited certifiers around the world inspect farms and processing facilities to certify products to the USDA organic standards. The EU and Canada also have similar requirements (and a series of agreement between the US, Canada and the EU allow each to respect and accept the other two governments’ certifications).

MYTH: Organic food isn't affordable.

FACT: Prices for organic products reflect many of the same costs as conventional items in terms of growing, harvesting, transportation, and storage, but organic products must meet stricter regulations governing all of these steps and there’s often more labor and management intensive.

Only 4-5% of the food supply is organic so it doesn’t have the same infrastructure and distribution economies of scale as conventionally grown food, which contributes to higher prices. Organic farmers have the added cost of compliance with organic certification standards, and government programs do not subsidize organic farming.

The price of organic foods is increasingly competitive as supply and demand rises. Looking to save? Shop for our 365 Everyday Value® organic products, seek out sales, use coupons or buy only what you need from bulk bins with organic products and spices.

MYTH: Organic food is a fad.

FACT: What we now think of as organic farming was practiced for thousands of years as farmers worked in partnership with the land and the elements. In the 1940s, the widespread use of synthetic chemicals was introduced into agricultural practices to boost crop growth. A backlash developed among growers and consumers and the organic food industry was born.

Today, sales of organic products have grown, on average, more than 20% per year over the last 7-10 years, making it the fastest growing segment of agriculture! In 2011 the organics market topped $30 billion, representing a 9.5% growth over previous years.

MYTH: Organics don’t have nutritional benefits beyond their conventionally-grown counterparts.

FACT: There is mounting evidence to suggest that certain organic fruit and vegetable plants fight for their health—and yours— with a natural defense system of antioxidants and phytochemicals.

Researchers at Washington State University found that when a strawberry plant grows without persistent pesticides, it produces phytochemicals as its own pest control, and new studies are finding that those same phytochemicals may enhance the nutritional profile of the plant.

Phytochemicals are the same substances responsible for aromas and flavors, and there’s a strong suggestion that organic plants are healthier, and taste better, because they’re allowed to thrive without a synthetic chemical burden. Learn more about studies into the health benefits of organic foods.  

Where did you first learn about organic food? Share your experience in the comments below.

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46 comments

Comments

Kara Price says …

When I started having health issues about 3 years ago, I knew I had to do something. I wasn't really overweight, but was already exhibiting the same issues of my parents and family members who have a range of medical issues - hypertension, Type II diabetes, cancer, etc. I also did not want to become one of the millions of over-medicated Americans either. So, I turned to better nutrition. Specially, clean eating. Through my journey of clean eating, I discovered organic. At first I was skeptical, but the more I read and learned the most horrified I became at the U.S. food supply. I have a Whole Foods market nearby, not exactly convenient for quick stops, but it is within 20 minutes of my home. I'm thankful for good nutrition and to be able to eat food in its most natural state - as it was intended by our Creator.

Sue Eisenberg says …

I saw your link for coupons ... First I've seen this. Is there a mailing list that sends coupons? Since diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year, I no shop exclusively at Whole Foods. Would love to have coupons to defray the cost.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SUE - You can find our Whole Deal coupons online at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/whole-deal. You can also sign up for their specific newsletter online at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/newsletters to be notified when new coupons are available.

Rudy Rivera says …

Saw food inc 2 yrs ago and the next day i was at Whole Foods shopping for grass fed beef. The food is tastier and it has been easy to keep weight off. My wife has lost 60+#'s in the last two years. Organic food became her fat loss medicine.

Debi Watts says …

There's a HUGE difference between regular and organic! I bought organic banana's the first time because the 'regular' banana's were green. I noticed a big difference and have started buying all my fruit and vegetables organic. I was put to the test by a blindfold... and I didn't miss the taste once. They just TASTE better!!!

Roxanne Waling says …

Excellent information about organic foods. Like the coupon link as well. I currently am under going chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer and have increased the number of organic products to my grocery list.

Maria C Enriquez says …

I love organic, it's food grown the original way, nature at it's finest!!!

Elliot Burstein says …

The bar has been lowered as far as Organic food requirements. It used to be Organic food was grown with composted soil as a specific, then farms that were transitioning from commercial to organic had to wait 3 years worth of time before being considered for organic status. The term un -sprayed with pesticides and herbicides was used for years 70's-late 80's which meant not completely Organic. The almighty dollar has control of what we eat and it's not all WF fault it's the sign of the times. Organic has become a somewhat loose term just like natural. If I had my way all food would be Organic. It's crazy to use poisons on the food that humans eat and let's throw in GMO's also!!!!!!!

Mindy says …

I was introduced to organic foods about 35 years ago when my first son was born. We lived in NMiami Beach, Florida, and we shopped at the Unicorn, which later moved to Aventura,Fl. And there WFM. Was born featuring a restaurant and stores combined. I've been shopping there ever since,but now in Sunrise,Fl.

Gina says …

No one at my store in Memphis, TN seems to be able to explain to me where Whole Foods stands on the canola oil debate. Facts seem to indicate this is a very dangerous oil. Why does Whole Foods use canola oil on almost every item in the pepared foods section and the hot bar? I have incredible respect for Whole Foods and the integrity/quality of the products offered. I have been a a loyal customer for almost a decade. I've heard the arguments from the opposition. There's even a petition and facebook page devoted to asking Whole Foods to stop using canola oil. I would like to know your side of the story. What is Whole Food's position on the canola oil debate? Thank you

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@GINA - There appears to be a great deal of confusion concerning the safety of canola oil. We believe canola oil is a safe and wholesome food and, therefore, will continue to sell it in our stores. There are no research studies indicating that canola oil is harmful to humans when consumed as recommended. We use canola oil in many of our Prepared Foods recipes because it is very versatile. Canola is fairly heat stable, so it is suitable for all types of cooking and it has a neutral flavor, making it suitable for all kinds of dishes. We use non-GMO canola oil in all of our in-house made Prepared Foods.

Cheryl says …

Thank You so much for that valuable information!! I do try to get organic when its available and also Non-GMO. I was so excited to hear that organic also means Non-GMO!! I will support organic and local farmers that do not use GMO seeds or toxins, hormones, antibiotics or synthetics but can't afford to be certified organic. OH, and the fact that organic is better for you and there are tests to prove it, is so up lifting!! For my kids were taught in school a few years back that there is absolutely no difference. When you mess with perfection you get imperfection, which if you think about it, results in imperfect bodies since we are what we eat.

Mary Leonard says …

Thanks for the very informative article I try to buy organic as much as possible.

Brenda says …

I love organic fruits and vegetables! People at work tell me that recent studies show that organic is not any more nutritional than conventional foods. I disagree, but I need evidence. Can you help?

John S. says …

I agree, there is mounting evidence that canola oil is a risky choice. If there is a concern why not choose something better like coconut oil?

Brandon O'Dell says …

Stating that "organic" means "no GMOs" within the context of these being "strict guidelines" is misleading. The USDA website explicitly states that inspected organic farms where evidence of GMOs are found do NOT lose their "organic" status as they do if traces of pesticides are detected. Instead, the farms are counseled on how to reduce and possibly eliminate the traces of GMOs in their foods. What this means is that "organic" certification does not guarantee no GMOs. They would have to start removing certification from organic farms where GMOs are detected, as they do with pesticides, for that to happen.

Suzanne says …

Might add that Sandy Gooch (the creator of what is now Whole Foods) knew it all -- decades ago! Do not understand why people are so intent of proving her and the organic food industry wrong. Do they just want us all to die?

Alecia says …

Before my second child started eating solids I decided that the foods she would eat would be organic. I discovered Earth's Best line of baby food products and when I searched for where I could purchase them, Whole Foods was one of the stores that was listed. A Whole Foods store had just opened in my city and my organic purchases began with baby food. The more I read about organics, the more I started to switch the foods we ate. Before long, organic products made up just about everything we purchased. The biggest argument I get from others when I mention that I purchase organic foods is that it's too expensive. I began to shop organic when my household was on only 1 income because I decided to stay at home with our child and it still fit into our budget. I use manufacturer and store coupons and watch for sales. There are so many ways to make organic purchases affordable and I feel so much better knowing that what my family eats is good for the earth and good for our bodies.

Page says …

The most shocking item I read here: "government programs do not subsidize organic farming". I had no idea and am appalled. Whole Foods folks: what is being done federally to advocate for changing this?! This is something I'm happy to fight for.

Fawn says …

Well said by the company who pumps money into more stringent food lableing. Have to wonder about your agenda.

irentit2@gmail.com says …

When organic foods vegetables and fruits are shipped in from other countries, like Mexico for instance, they're fumigated with nasty chemicals for bugs- making them non-organic. Seems like something you would have picked up on...

Linda says …

I was born and raised in Sonoma County. Born 1959. At that time my family was already practicing organic gardening. It's just the way it was done. You don't poison or mistreat your food! You also refrained from naming your meat animals unless it was named Ham, Bacon, or Steak or Hamburger. Had my picture in the OG magazine in 1964 with a giant sunflower my grandmother grew.

Ian Dixon says …

Foods labeled as organic do meet different standards that match the organisation that grants the ability to use that label. So one example would be Soil Association Organic here in the UK which is the stricter of the standards and requires that the land has been chemical-free for 5 years. A different standard only requires that no chemicals have been used for 3 years. Both can still be described as organic though

wesley d pate says …

Great keep it coming

Maritza Heg says …

PERFECT ! Thanks !

Tamara Turner says …

My father grew a backyard garden the entire time I was growing up. When I began gardening on my own, I was surprised to see all the products available for plant issues. I asked my dad which ones to use and he basically said "none of them" and then over time, taught me what I needed to know. He has been gone 14 years now and I never utilize what he taught me without being thankful for his organic practices.

Lily Farm Fresh Skin Care says …

Right on! Loved the article. As the only skin care company on the Planet, you can buy directly from the USDA certified organic grower, we are always trying to communicate the facts! Thanks for spreading the news and all Whole Foods Market does to support small USDA certified organic growers!! Lily at Lily Farm Fresh Skin Care We love Whole Foods Market!

Connie says …

In regards to fact #5, not only are they more nutritious, but they are MINUS the GE/GMO's, toxic fertilizers, toxic pesticides and toxic weed control chemicals. Why should their even be a debate about comparing the nutrition, when there is the toxic versus non-toxic element? That is most important to me regarding the health benefits of foods.

Clair Upshire says …

Let's debunk the myth of Canola Oil. According to the book "The Science of Skinny" by Dee McCaffrey, an organic chemist, (p 103 & 104): Canola oil in order to be shelf stable is highly processed with hexane, bleached and degummed. Also, high heat greater than 320F begins to turn the omega-3 fats into trans fats and should never be used for frying! I was surprised to learn Canola Oil was named so because it is manufactured in Canada and is actually a genetically engineered version of rape seed oil. The food industry developed Canola oil as a cheap alternative to olive oil and butter and was marketed as "heart healthy". If one is interested in staying away from processed foods, coconut oil is an excellent, stable and real food that can be used for frying and baking. I too was VERY surprised that Whole Foods has not moved away from Canola Oil.

Ivy says …

Thank you for this article. Education is the key to ridding our world of GMO's and other toxins.

Melissa says …

Thank you for the informative article! I love WF because it provides one stop shopping for all my dietary needs! I've been a vegan for most of my life, and I appreciate the variety of GMO free and vegan food choices at your supermarkets. I was wondering if organic fruits are ever coated with wax like many conventional ones are.

Jackie Horn says …

things are being posted and passed around on Facebook that say Whole Foods is in progress of negotiating talks with monsanto and other producers of GMO seeds and foods, and that these items will soon be in Whole Foods markets. Is this true, a rumor, or what are the true circumstances around this. What is Whole Foods position on GMO products, and are they already selling these items, and or will they be selling them in the future

Joy says …

I am so happy that I started shopping with Whole Foods!!!! Knowing I am getting what is good for me and not chemically enhanced... Thank You Whole Foods for keeping me as healthy as possible... I Love WHOLE FOODS products...

Ann says …

Relating to the debate of Whole Foods using Canola Oil, maybe Sunflower Oil would be the wiser option. It is very versatile as well, like canola oil. As a chef I understand not everything can be cooked in olive oil and grapeseed oil is by far more expensive. Olive oil can't withstand the heat that many other oils can. Food has a tendency to burn faster cooked in olive oil due to a lower flash point.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MELISSA - An approved food grade wax is applied to the fruits and vegetables for two reasons: to protect the product against dehydration and to prevent one fruit or vegetable that is breaking down from affecting the whole box. As the saying goes, one bad apple spoils the whole bunch. If you’d like to avoid produce waxes, the best way is to buy local and seasonal produce, as it is not usually necessary to apply wax to a product that only travels a short distance. Any wax applied to a produce item must be labeled on the box, so please ask a produce team member if you have any questions about a specific item. Only carnauba and wood rosin waxes may be used on organic produce. These natural substances have passed the stringent review of the National Organic Standards Board and are approved by the USDA for use on organic produce.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JACKIE - This is an extremely old rumor that (somehow) continues to be passed around online. We do not have any affiliation with Monsanto. Due to the pervasiveness of GMOs in the US food supply, there are products in our stores that contain GMOs. We believe you have the right to know what's in your food, which is why we announced GMO labeling a few months ago. Read our most recent update about our GMO labeling at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/three-month-update-gmo-labeling.

Sandra Alvarez says …

10 years ago I became very concerned about what is put in the foods we eat daily. And found that all the chemicals they put in our food is very unhealthy and I believe this is the reason why so many people get so sick. So i chose to try organic foods. And love it. A little expensive so i do my best.

Tracy Filippi says …

I want to correct the perception that irentit2@gmail.com has about imported organic fruits and vegatables. Produce from Mexico or any other country that is found to have a pest or disease harmful to U.S. agricultural products during the inspectional process may be fumigated as a condition of entry, destroyed or returned to the country of origin. However, if that commoditiy is organic and then fumigated to meet entry requirements, it is no longer allowed to be marketed as organic and must be repackaged prior to being offered for sale to the consumer. This comes at great cost to owner of the produce. Imagine re-stickering each piece of fruit in each case, in each box, on each pallet, in each truck, or each shipping container. Therefore it is generally not done for organics and the produce is returned to the country of origin or destroyed. With conventional produce they are not required to tell you the produce may have been fumigated. As mentioned in the article, there are many standards and processes in place both here in the U.S. and in foreign countries to ensure that when you purchase something labeled as organic, it is indeed organic according to USDA Organic standards.

Stephanie Gottschalk says …

I hope more people will realize the benefit of buying and consuming ORGANIC food. It could change the world

tomato says …

What about organic milk? Is this really better for you? Can someone explain what makes it organic vs other milk? Thanks

Cho says …

Please stop preparing your foods with Canola Oil. My skin breaks out when I consume food prepared with that oil.

John A. Camera says …

I have a household of 6 vegetarians, 4 kids under the age of seven, and we try to buy organic regularly. Due to the higher cost, my concern is knowing what foods are genetically modified and/or use persistent pesticides. I know that non-organic berries, peaches and corn are really bad, but are things like nuts, bananas and oranges really farmed that differently? Is there a resource where one can find out which foods are gmo and/or heavily ridden with pesticides? Thanks,

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JOHN - In regards to pesticide use, I would suggest looking for organic options as these will not be allowed to use specific pesticides based on USDA Organic Standards. You can also find a list of the high risk GMO crops at http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/what-is-gmo/.

miracle skin says …

Yes! Finally something about organic skin care.

Jon says …

While I do appreciate the blog post and the intent of the author, there are a lot of statistics provided without proper reference. Could you please link to the sources for numbers that your post claims?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JON - You can find additional info on our website at https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/organic-food/organic-food-faqs with external links at the bottom of the page.