Organic fruit, or fruit grown and processed with no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, is becoming more readily available in grocery stores throughout the country. However, the prices are still significantly higher than those of nonorganic fruit, and many customers are not yet ready to make the switch. Most consumers still need information about why organic is a better buy and why it deserves more attention.
The Organic Label
The National Organic Program (NOP), part of the Department of Agriculture, has rigorous requirements about the processing and handling of fruits that carry the "organically grown" label. Some of the crop standards include: no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides used on the fields for at least three years before harvest, no genetic engineering methods for the crop or the fertilizer and pest and weed control done primarily through physical, mechanical and biological control.
Variations to Organic Standards
While the NOP does spell out a number of restrictions for farmers, they do allow some flexibility as well. For instance, they allow synthetic materials in fertilizers beyond the three-year period, they state that organic farmers should give a preference to organic seeds but do allow nonorganic seeds under certain conditions, and they allow biological and synthetic substances for pest control if other measures are not working.
Dangers of Nonorganic Fruit
In "New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer," a 2010 New York Times article, Nicholas Kristof discusses a President's Cancer Panel report about links between chemicals and cancer in foods and in the environment. The report notes that 41 percent of Americans will have cancer in their lifetimes and that some cancers are becoming more common. Kristof is astonished about the clarity of the report's message; while not stating that there is unequivocal proof of a link between pesticides, chemicals and cancer, the authors of the report point to significant cause for concern and advise that consumers be concerned as well. The report advises consumers to buy organic food if possible.
One Dangerous Pesticide
The list of pesticides and chemicals used on nonorganic fruit crops seems endless, and studies have not been conducted on them all. One chemical that has been studied is diazinon, which was developed to be used in nerve gas during World War II. Sean Gray, a writer for the Environmental Working Group, a website offering information about the environment, reports that in 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that all household uses of diazinon were unsafe. The EPA found that damage to the brain and nervous systems occurred even with limited exposure to the chemical.
As a rule of thumb, consumers need to use plenty of water to wash all fruit, whether organic or not. Fruit with thick skins or rinds have fewer pesticides. These include bananas, pineapples, melons, avocados and grapefruit. Fruits that consumers should consider buying organic include those with thinner skins such as apples, berries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears and tomatoes.