Lies You’ve Been Told About Organic Food

Organic food has become nearly as trendy as the latest celeb gossip. Except this trend is far less fleeting. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic sales reached $65.8 billion in 2016, and food accounted for most of it. Clearly we all have health in mind, but it’s possible we’re being duped.

So, before you decide to give your fridge and pantry a makeover, keep these myths about organic food in mind.

1. All foods labeled ‘organic’ are 100% organic

Fresh organic farmers market fruit and vegetable

A food doesn’t have to be completely organic to be labeled organic. |

Fun fact: A product doesn’t need to be completely organic to be classified as such. There’s a difference between something labeled “made with organic,” “organic,” and “100% organic.” According to the USDA, “organic” requires only 95% of ingredients to be certified organic, while “made with organic” requires only 70%. Opting for “100% organic” is the only way to be sure what you’re eating completely meets the highest standards.

2. It’s healthier for you

Organic fruits

Organic fruits aren’t necessarily healthier. |

It’s easy for people to mistake organic food for a healthier alternative to everything they eat. While organic whole foods can deliver slightly more phosphorus and omega-3 fatty acids, as mentioned by Harvard Health Publications, that doesn’t mean buying all organic products will automatically make you healthier. Opting for organic chips, cookies, and other packaged snacks doesn’t mean fewer calories. You’re probably getting the same nutritional value as you would with non-organic products, so don’t expect these specialty ones to help you lose weight.

3. Organic foods are pesticide-free

Tractor spraying soybean field at spring

Organic foods aren’t necessarily free of pesticides. |

A major reason why many people choose organic products is because they usually contain fewer pesticides. But keep in mind less doesn’t mean they’re completely pesticide-free. In fact, the USDA’s annual pesticide data summary reported just over 41% of samples contained no pesticides — granted, there are organic pesticides. What’s more interesting is there were still trace amounts of pesticides that don’t meet this criteria. Additionally, Harvard University’s Science in the News mentions pesticides have been associated with diabetes and cancer, regardless of type. So even if you choose to go organic, remember it doesn’t mean you’re eliminating all potential risk.

4. Natural is the same as organic

Farro, a type of whole grain

“Natural” and “organic” aren’t the same thing. |

“Natural” is a food label that’s often misinterpreted as being interchangeable for “organic.” In short: It’s not. Packaged foods that contain ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and those that are genetically modified can still be labeled as natural. Meat, poultry, and eggs can only be labeled natural if they’re minimally processed and free of artificial ingredients. But that doesn’t mean they’re hormone- and antibiotic-free. In many cases, natural foods don’t meet the organic requirements.

5. Going organic is more sustainable

Vegetables at a farmer's market

Organic farming isn’t always best for the environment. |

The Guardian says in order to produce the same amount of food conventional methods do, more land is needed when going organic. This means organic farming isn’t necessarily better for the environment. Organic product distribution can also be just as harmful for the environment as any other type of product distribution is. The Washington Post mentions you can still be contributing to the carbon footprint depending on where your organic products are from. If you’re buying from countries like China, Bolivia, or Armenia, you’re not doing the environment any real favors. For that, you have to go local.