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Is Organic Really Better?


By Jessica Goldbogen Harlan

Ever since my toddler started eating table food, I've fallen prey to the dilemma with which so many modern moms struggle: whether or not to buy organic. Scary headlines about toxins in our food (not to mention the environment) are everywhere I turn, and each time I go grocery shopping -- whether it's at my neighborhood farmer's market or the Wal-Mart across town -- organic offerings beckon. But is organic really better? And can I afford it on my already overstretched grocery budget?

If you've asked yourself these same questions, here are five important insights I've learned about going organic:

1. Organic means no questionable chemicals A lot of hard work goes into food that earns those "certified organic" stickers you see at the supermarket. To earn the "organic" label, farms must pass USDA inspections certifying that their produce is grown without the use of conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge fertilizers, bioengineering and other chemical interventions; and that their meat, poultry, eggs and dairy have not been given antibiotics or growth hormones. As for whether this makes organic foods better, the jury's still out. The USDA makes no claim that organic foods are safer or more nutritious than conventional edibles; however, organic proponents say otherwise. "Study after study has shown that organic foods have higher levels of vitamins, as well as trace minerals that are literally absent in many conventional foods," says Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, a nonprofit public interest organization that polices organic standards.

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