The Real Expense of Food

Many people complain about the price of organic food. An organic apple costs considerably more than its conventional counterpart at a supermarket. But here’s what is expensive about conventional apples: the ecological toll of the chemical sprays used to grow them plus the health toll of those sprays both on the orchard workers and the people who ingest their residue.

And if you knew that the farmer down the road—who maybe has known your family for generations—was struggling and needed to charge a bit more to stay afloat and to compete with the larger corporations that are able to charge less per pound, wouldn’t you be willing to pay a little more? That relatively little price difference will provide us, our families, the farmers, and the earth with a huge bonus along with a sweet, healthful snack.

Larger farms will sell produce more cheaply by externalizing their costs onto society and the environment. They don’t pay the cost of polluting the water with pesticides, or for the soil erosion they cause, or the impact of petroleum-based fertilizers—we do! The price difference can be made up by limiting packaged foods—they add up—shopping wisely, and buying a farm share.

If you’re going to buy conventional produce, keep in mind that some fruits and vegetables are more contaminated than others. The Environmental Working Group has ranked pesticide contamination for almost 50 of the most popular fruits and vegetables, and have come up with the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of 12 fruits and vegetables you should buy organic whenever possible:

celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries (domestic), nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, cherries, kale, potatoes, grapes (imported)

Find more tips like these in “Planet Home: Conscious Choices for Cleaning and Greening the World You Care About Most.”

Published on: July 18, 2011
About the Author
Photo of Alexandra Zissu
Alexandra Zissu is a green living expert, environmental health journalist, eco consultant, speaker, and mom. She’s the author of The Conscious Kitchen, and co-author of The Butcher's Guide To Well-Raised Meat
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