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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.