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The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

5 Myths About Organics

By Elizabeth Leader Smith, June 21, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Leader Smith

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.

Category: Organics




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.
06/22/2013 7:49:20 PM CDT
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.
06/26/2013 12:30:08 PM CDT
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.
06/26/2013 1:49:59 PM CDT
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.
06/26/2013 2:01:50 PM CDT
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!!!
06/26/2013 7:30:15 PM CDT
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.
06/26/2013 8:02:46 PM CDT
Maria C Enriquez says ...
I love organic, it's food grown the original way, nature at it's finest!!!
06/26/2013 8:18:36 PM CDT
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!!!!!!!
06/26/2013 9:20:41 PM CDT
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.
06/27/2013 7:05:30 AM CDT
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
06/27/2013 2:03:17 PM CDT
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.
06/27/2013 3:13:26 PM CDT
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.
06/27/2013 7:13:32 PM CDT
Mary Leonard says ...
Thanks for the very informative article I try to buy organic as much as possible.
06/28/2013 6:12:12 PM CDT
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?
06/28/2013 7:16:29 PM CDT
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?
06/29/2013 6:51:54 PM CDT
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.
06/29/2013 7:57:31 PM CDT
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?
07/06/2013 7:25:18 AM CDT
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.
07/08/2013 2:52:43 PM CDT
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.
07/11/2013 10:59:10 AM CDT
Fawn says ...
Well said by the company who pumps money into more stringent food lableing. Have to wonder about your agenda.
07/12/2013 10:52:16 AM CDT
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...
07/12/2013 10:55:07 AM CDT
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.
07/12/2013 11:27:03 AM CDT
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
07/12/2013 11:42:27 AM CDT
wesley d pate says ...
Great keep it coming
07/12/2013 12:56:25 PM CDT
Maritza Heg says ...
PERFECT ! Thanks !
07/12/2013 1:12:38 PM CDT