Last week, Slate ran a terrific piece by Melinda Wenner Moyer about whether moms should worry about feeding conventional produce to their children. It's clear from the title — "Organic Shmorganic: conventional fruits and vegetables are perfcetly healthy for kids" — Moyer's hoping to reassure consumers.
Up front, Moyer sets the parameters for her piece. She says she's not going to exlore whether organic agriculture is better for the environment. Rather, Moyer wants to answer a simple question: are the pesticides on conventional produce harmful? She starts by first debunking a few myths about organic food:
First, let’s start with the fact that organic does not mean pesticide-free. As scientist and writer Christie Wilcox explains in several eye-opening blog posts over at Scientific American, organic farmers can and often do use pesticides. The difference is that conventional farmers are allowed to use synthetic pesticides, whereas organic farmers are (mostly) limited to “natural” ones, chosen primarily because they break down easily in the environment and are less likely to pollute land and water. (I say “mostly” because several synthetic chemicals are approved for use in organic farming, too.)
This is such an important point. Moms need to understand that by buying organic, they're not keeping pesticides out of their child's system. In fact, as Moyer points out, Rotenone, a pesticide organic farmers are allowed to use, is far more toxic by weight than many of the synthetic pesticides used in to produce conventional crops.
Moyer's whole piece is worth a read but one paragraph — where Moyer explains what motivated her to take a closer look at this issue — really caught my eye. She writes:
Instead of continuing to wonder [about the safety of conventional produce], I decided to dig into the literature and talk to toxicologists, horticulturists, risk experts, and nutritionists to find out whether the chemicals in conventionally farmed foods could truly pose a risk to my child. What I’ve discovered has totally surprised me—let’s just say I’m going to be a little more relaxed about what I serve kid No. 2.
Moyer did what more women should do–stop wondering, stop worrying, and stop spending money on organic produce when the cheaper conventionally grown produce is safe and healthy.