Hembree Brandon 1, Editorial Director

August 29, 2016

3 Min Read
<p><em><strong>Any difference in quality/nutrition between organic and conventionally-grown foods may be more P.R. hype than reality.</strong></em>&mdash;Getty Images/Justin Sullivan</p>

So, OK, in a recent weekly newspaper food insert from a national supermarket chain, the “fresh produce” section advertised “southern yellow peaches” for 88 cents per pound, while “certified organic peaches” were $2.89 per pound. “Local” tomatoes were 99 cents per pound, organic $2.49.

Given that getting a decent supermarket tomato or peach is akin to winning the Powerball lottery — both usually harvested when just beginning to ripen and gassed or otherwise treated to retard spoilage — I decided to blow a few extra bucks, buy some of each, and see if there was any detectable difference in taste or quality.

There wasn’t.

The non-organic tomatoes were hard, mealy, and tasteless, as one has come to expect of store-bought at any time of the year. But, so were the more expensive organic ‘maters. Had they been placed side by side in a blind tasting, I doubt even the most discerning tomato aficionado could’ve distinguished which was which.

I followed the usual advice to put the peaches in a paper bag for a couple days to facilitate ripening. The regular peaches went in one bag, the organic in another.

I asked my wife to taste test them, but didn’t tell her which was which. “Both are blah,” was her verdict. “No peach taste, and the texture is nothing like a ripe peach should be.”

She thought the non-organic peach marginally better. Actually, both were pretty awful and we just tossed them — wasted money in both cases.

While I readily acknowledge these were totally non-scientific examples, using two of the most perishable items from the produce section, most veggies/fruits in supermarkets are several orders of magnitude away from “fresh,” “garden ripe,” or the other fanciful terms used in store descriptions.

From a nutrition standpoint, however, test after test has shown no appreciable difference between non-organic and organic.

In a world where the most popular food choices for American kids are chicken nuggets, fries, and a giant sugary soft drink, one can only wonder if, in another generation, anyone will even be eating veggies or fruits.

Those who feel it’s worth paying more — often quite a bit more — to buy organic and (supposedly) avoid pesticides, well, hey, the consumer rules, right?

But any difference in quality/nutrition may be more P.R. hype than reality. And even organic growers can use pesticides.

It basically comes down to this: If the consumer feels, for whatever reasons, organic is better/healthier/safer and is willing to pay a premium for it, that’s hunky-dory. But at the same time, don’t denigrate conventionally-produced foods that have been shown time after time to be just as healthy and safe, and which for many budget-constrained consumers may be their most affordable option.

About the Author(s)

Hembree Brandon 1

Editorial Director, Farm Press

Hembree Brandon, editorial director, grew up in Mississippi and worked in public relations and edited weekly newspapers before joining Farm Press in 1973. He has served in various editorial positions with the Farm Press publications, in addition to writing about political, legislative, environmental, and regulatory issues.

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