First, This.


The New York Times, in case you missed it, offered five ways to go organic.  It’s a kind of prioritization of guilt and anxiety, if you will.  The list is:  milk, potatoes, peanut butter, ketchup, apples. If you can’t do organic all the time, do it for those five products.  (I’d add meat right off the bat.  Hormones?  Pass.)

381 people have weighed in with their comments, and a surprising number of them centered around the belief–and I do mean "belief"–that organic peanut butter, particularly the grind-your-own kind, may be contaminated with an allegedly harmful fungus called aflatoxin.  The poor NYT writer finally jumped into the comments and promised to do some research and weigh in at a future date.

Other commenters protested the kid-centric nature of the list.  Peanut butter? Ketchup?  What’s next, juice boxes and nuggets? But nonetheless, there may be some rationale for prioritizing.  If you can’t always buy organic, where do you draw the line?  For me, it’s strawberries, and it’s completely irrational.  Those little fruits are so soft and so un-peelable that I just imagine them soaking up methyl bromide like a sponge.  (Strawberry growers are researching alternatives, but they still demand exemption from the methyl bromide ban).

I also think about those crops that are so close to organic it hardly matters.  Wine, for one.  I’ve talked to many winemakers who are organic except for the use of sulfites as a preservative. Many winemakers don’t want to use chemicals on their crop because it will affect the delicate bouquet of the wine.  So do I care about the label?  Not much.

What about you?  Is it all or nothing?  Do you prioritize?  Operate on whim?  Grow your own?


  1. Aflatoxin is not a fungus. It is a toxic secretion of a fungus. The aflatoxin-producing mold that grows on peanuts is an Aspergillus.

  2. I go organic on everything, if there is a choice. I don’t eat meat, so that’s one item off of my concern list. I’m not a vegetarian zealot, but I don’t understand how people can still enjoy eating meat with all of the added chemicals. I haven’t grown my own vegetables for a few years, but that is on the schedule for next year.

  3. The rule I’ve always heard is go organic for anything with a soft skin–stawberries, tomatoes, apples–and that rganic doesn’t matter for fruits and veggies where the skin isn’t eaten–oranges, watermelon, etc.

  4. I’m rather lucky as I get organic vegetables, and during the winter fruit, delivered year round from a local (that is about an hour and a half’s drive away from this mountain fastness) organic grower. We have an excellent shop which opened a couple of years ago selling organic foods and meat. The meat is a bit expensive and I don’t know what is going to happen to small suppliers now British Columbia has brought in a regulation that all animals have to slaughtered in large abbatoirs, they cannot be killed on the farm except for the consumption of the farmer. At least when you buy at the ‘farm gate’ you know precisely where the food came from and under what conditions it is grown, and that you are paying a living wage to the growers.

  5. Did I miss buying local and in season in this article? Organic is important but don’t you think local is as or more important? Once you grow it yourself you realize how much goes into growing a potato or an apple. Then you are willing to pay the price.

  6. Just to add my 2c: I am one of the people who are ‘sensitive’ to sulfides (I turn red immediately, and too much will give me hives). Organic NSA wines are pretty much all I get to play with. I don’t disagree with sulfite use at all, as they seem pretty harmless to most people. However, I do have to voice an encouragement to wine-growers who do not use them.

  7. The reasons cited for their organic picks were possible pesticide residues. But that’s only a small part of the reason for going organic. The amount of pesticide residue does vary from crop to crop. In some cases it’s negligible. In others (potatoes, especially) it can be significant.

    But organic farming isn’t just about the pesticides. It’s about caring for and growing topsoil by feeding it good food instead of three chemically isolated macronutrients (which is kind of like you or I trying to live on fiber supplements, protein powder, and vitamin pills). It’s about keeping pesticides, herbicides, and concentrated chemical fertilizers out of the waterways. It’s about sequestering carbon into soil humus. It’s about raising livestock in a humane manner. It’s about small farmers being able to make a living once again — and small farm efficiency getting five times more food per acre or more than mega-industrial farms. It’s about eating locally and seasonally instead of expecting strawberries in January and never wondering where they came from and why they taste like plastic.

    Therefore my top organic choices are “any organic alternative that I can find at the store,” since the store where I shop is offering more and more organic choices. I also pay attention to where the food comes from, and buy directly from the farmer when I can, either at fruit stands or from U-pick farms.

    And, of course, my top choice for organic foods is: “Lookit all this good stuff I grew in my garden!”

  8. I always buy organic milk and hormone-free eggs. I prefer local veg and thankfully we have a long farmer’s market season. Still wish it were easier though. I think about the fuel I use going to different places to purchase local/organic and know that can’t be good.

  9. Eggs. Anyone who doubts this, rent
    “Baraka”from Netflix. You will never eat another egg that is not freerange. Best solution to above?
    Grow your own. It’s time for us all to go back to the Kitchen Garden, just outside your back door. If you don’t have land, get a BIG pot. I have all my herbs in one big pot just outside my back steps. It will transform your life.

  10. Eggs, potatoes (or anything that lives in the ground), apples, and strawberries are a must.

    After that, I go for local first, then organic. During the summer we eat mostly from the garden which is local and organic!

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