Why I Buy Organic

Coach Mark Smallwood of the Rodale Institute shares the one simple thing he looks for when grocery shopping and how it helps the environment, our health, our families and our communities.

When grocery shopping, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the many labels on food packages. Here’s how I make it simple. When I shop, I just look for just one label: the UDSA Certified Organic seal.Why? Because I am clear on the benefits of organic from the 60+ years of research we’ve done and continue to do at Rodale Institute opens in a new tab. I know how profoundly important organic farming is to our environment, our health, our families and our communities.

Rodale’s Farming Systems Trial opens in a new tab is America’s longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture. From 33 years of data, we’ve learned:

  • Organic yields match conventional yields.

  • Organic outperforms conventional in years of drought.

  • Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system.

  • Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient.

  • Conventional systems produce 40% more greenhouse gases.

  • Organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional.

We now even have data that proves organic farming can help reverse the effects of climate change opens in a new tab.

Sespe Creek Citrus Farm, Filmore, CA

I understand, though, that when you’re grocery shopping, you may not be thinking about the environment. You’re making healthy choices for your family. In that case, organic is still the right choice.

You probably know that conventionally grown crops have pesticide residues. A 2006 study opens in a new tab shows that schoolchildren eating a conventional diet tested positive for pesticide residue but that levels fell to non-detectable levels when they ate an organic diet for five days.  

There’s been a lot of research on the health risks associated with pesticides opens in a new tab —especially for pregnant women and children because their developing immune systems can be affected even more than others. In adults pesticides have been associated with a wide variety of disease risks opens in a new tab.

Though chemical pesticides are the most common means to control pests, they are not the only way. Rodale Institute focuses our research to help farmers employ effective biologically based approaches to insect management.

We diversify our field rotations and create larger field buffers and natural areas, filled with diverse native plants to attract natural pest predators (such as other insects and birds). We also study the habitat of the insect pests in order to create more attractive and effective traps that can be easily created and employed by farmers.

Organic growers rely on the surrounding soil and ecosystem biology to support their crops rather than the chemistry of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. From cover crops and no-till farming to compost and legume rotations, the concept of improving soil health has found its way into most of the projects on our farm.

You see, Rodale isn’t a “think tank.” We get our hands dirty around here — with the goal of giving farmers the tools and knowledge to increase soil health, crop quality and yields while simplifying farm management. That means I’m in the fields, doing the work and seeing the benefits of organic crops first hand.

All in all, I feel that organic is a better way to go — for me and my family as well as for the planet and the farmers.

Do you choose organic too? I’d love to hear why.

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