Organic vs Conventional: That is the Question

Caroline Engle, Dietetic Student

In recent years, organic products have risen dramatically in popularity. A Gallup poll from 2014 stated that 45% of Americans seek out organic food when shopping. In 2016, sales of organic foods were about $47 billion, a $3.7 billion increase from 2015. Recent surveys suggest the main reasons consumers buy organic products over conventional is because they believe they are healthier and they want to avoid pesticides. So what’s the difference between organic and conventional?

Is one better for you?
Strict organic standards are defined by the USDA. The organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources and using only approved, non-synthetic substances. Conventional farmers also have to follow strict regulations. They can use some synthetic fertilizers and other approved substances. However, both conventional and organic farmers use pesticides approved by their respective guidelines. Both organic and conventional products are regulated to ensure the consumer is safe.

Is there a difference?
One of the main reasons consumers state they buy organic food is because they think it is healthier than conventional food products. However, studies show that there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient content or quality between foods produced by organic and conventional means. The main difference between organic and conventional is their farming methods, not their nutrient content.

Is one more expensive than the other?
While shopping, you may have noticed a difference in the pricing of organic and conventional products. One study found that on average, organic foods were 47% more expensive than conventional foods. These increased costs are due to organic farming being more expensive than conventional farming. Organic farms have to pay to be certified organic by the USDA and have to buy expensive fertilizers and pesticides that fall under organic regulations. Conventional farming is not as expensive, so the products are sold for less than the organic products.

The choice of organic or conventional food products is a personal preference. However, regardless of which one you pick, you can feel confident that you are choosing safe foods to nourish your family.