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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Can I Afford To Go Organic?

Being a parent, obviously one of the more important things in life is your children's health, and one of the question that my wife and I have been struggling with for quite a while is whether to go organic or not. If you look at the health benefits of organic food, such as:-
1. Lower pesticide residue
2. Higher nutrient level
3. Very good for children (as they are still developing)
4. Absence of potentially harmful food additives
5. Generally a better health outcome;
I should go organic. There's only one reason that's stopping us from going all out for organic food, which is this:-
5 apples for RM23.36, RM2.59 for 100gram.

Proof of Quality :)

Yes, what's stopping me from going all out is the price. Organic products (at least in Malaysia) usually cost 3x to 4x more than normal products. I can normally buy 5 apples from our usual wet market fruit stall for only RM5.00 but I need to pay close to RM24.00 for 5 organically grown apples. But I have to say, they taste extremely sweet and good, no doubt about that.

But regardless of what most organic food advocates argue, that you shouldn't put a price on quality of life, paying 4x more for something when your pay stays the same is extremely difficult for some, and near impossible to those who are in the lower income group. Putting the blame on cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, etc. and saying that in order to afford organic food, people just need to change their lifestyle, ie stop smoking, drinking, buying branded clothes, are just downright ignorant, shallow, self-righteous and arrogant. Why? Because they sounded as if quitting substance abuse and changing lifestyle are like changing clothes, and heck, some of us are not even using those substances.

Not only that, it is not unanimous in the scientific world that organic products are definitely better than non-organic products. There are still debates going on about organic vs non-organic. I'm not going to go into the debate, so if you want to read more about it, visit the following sites:-
1. Organic or Not Organic - A neutral and well written article on this subject
2. Organic Food & Farming (pdf) - A very thorough report to counter the argument that organic food is not necessary better than non-organic food.

The verdict, after doing my research, is that I'm still pro organic, for now. I'm sure in the near future, more research and evidence will be able to shed more light on this subject. Which brings me back to the issue of costs. My conclusion is that my wife and I will try to our best to go organic for food that are listed to have high pesticide content. What list you say? Well, Environmental Working Group (EWG), a not-for-profit organisation, has been compiling a lists of vegies and fruits, in fact, a list of 43 vegetables and fruits and rank them according to their pesticide content. I know that this is a US based list, but since I can't seemed to find any such lists provided by our local authority, that list is the best guide I can find.

Here's the Top 12 worst (highest pesticide content) and best (lowest pesticide content) vegies and fruits.
The Dirty Dozen and Cleanest 12 (Click to enlarge)

Click here to get the printable One-pager pdf file provided by

I also find this website to be helpful as an additional info to the above list.

Anyway, this is my take on organic food, I hope you find it useful, but like I said, as for me, I will try my best to buy organic food for the "high risk" food. You gotta decide for yourself what is best for you :P



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