Organic vegetables and fruits gain in popularity each year. In 2009 mainstream markets sold 54 percent of the organic food produced in the U.S. Local farmer’s markets that sell organic food are spreading. Customers choose organic vegetables because they are more flavorful or to avoid ingesting harmful pesticide and fertilizer residues.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program is responsible for certifying organic vegetables. Organic growing farms, packing and processing plants are inspected to ensure that USDA organic standards are being followed. Strict guidelines are in place which disallow the use of synthetic chemicals or genetically modified products to grow food.
Organic vegetables are free of toxic insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers. Pesticides have been linked by the Environmental Protection Agency with birth defects, nerve problems and cancer, especially in children. A 2007 study at the University of California at Davis reported that tomatoes grown organically had 79 percent more flavonoids than tomatoes grown on other types of soil. Flavonoids are antioxidants that support the immune system.
In 2010 the Environmental Working Group published a list of fruits and vegetables known to contain dangerous levels of pesticides. Non-organic vegetables with the highest levels of toxic pesticide residue include sweet bell pepper, celery, lettuce and kale.The "USDA 100% Organic" label ensures vegetables with no toxic chemical residue.
Organically grown vegetables must meet national standards that are stricter than those for conventionally grown vegetables, and this may cause a cost increase. As more organic food is produced and purchased, its costs decrease. The Organic Trade Association reports that “U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $24.8 billion in 2009.”
Organic vegetables contribute to better health and give value to sustainable agriculture as a philosophy of “do no harm.” Organic vegetables are grown with methods that do not damage land, water, air or people, and do not contribute to the problems created by the nitrates in synthetic fertilizers, which are the major cause of global pollution, according to the World Resources Institute. Choosing organic vegetables is a simple way to participate in environmental clean-up.