Is Eating Organic Worth The Cost?

Food prices are up seven percent over last year. And if you want to feed your family healthier food, you may be considering organic.  But prices can be 25-50 percent higher.  Is it worth it?  Organic food is that which is free of pesticides, antibiotics, or hormones.  This month on WBTV, we investigated part of that which makes food organic.

On Sammy Koenigsberg’s Union County organic farm, the turkeys lived a good life.  They got exercise, sunshine, fresh air, and they ate green stuff.  Sammy says, “all the things we know are good for health.”  (We named ours “fowl-er” and it was delicious) And locally grown, too – which Sammy believes means better for you, better for the planet. He says, “92 percent of all our vegetables grow in the Salinas Valley in California, they’re shipped 1,500 miles and by the time we eat them, by the time stuff gets to the grocery store, it’s five days to three weeks old on average.”

Old, zapped of its flavor, and if it’s green beans for example – 60% of its nutritional value is gone.  On Sammy’s farm, whether it’s green beans, or eggs, or pork – locally grown and organic means fresher, tastier, and free of pesticides and hormones.  Sammy says, “yes, we don’t need guys in white lab coats to tell us if something’s nutritious.

But those guys can tell us about the pesticides.  We know high-level exposure can cause serious health problems and even death.  We bought both organic and regular lettuce at four local stores.  Three organic, three conventionally-grown.  EMSL labs tested all of our samples for more than 200 different pesticides.

Sammy says, “There’s six billion living creatures in a pinch of soil as big as your finger, and all those things have a purpose we don’t necessarily understand.”  We do understand that high levels of pesticides is harmful.  But if you’re spending more and buying organic to avoid these harmful chemicals, our testing found you may be wasting your money.  It found no detectable traces of pesticides, in any of the lettuce, organic or otherwise.

“There’s a lot of stuff behind there that people wouldn’t want to eat.”  Sammy believes we’d have more confidence in our food supply if we knew our local farmer.  “Our only contact with food now is the aisles of plenty in the grocery store.”

We tested for about 200 pesticides.  It’s good news that especially the most dangerous ones were not detected.  But one expert told me there are hundreds more in use that could have slipped through the cracks.  And then there’s this:  The government has been testing for pesticides in our food since 1990 and the ALAR scare in apples.  But this fall, the USDA abruptly halted that testing.  The Bush Administration said the $8 million a year program cost too much.

Food Reform


You’ve heard of health care reform… banking reform… energy reform…
But what about FOOD reform?

A slow, quiet movement is growing.

The theory goes like this – fix our food system – and this nation will make headway on achieving energy independence… AND lower health care costs.

It’s author Michael Pollan’s theory, and it’s gaining momentum.  He wants President-elect Barack Obama to work for sustainable foods.  Read more in his New York Times Article, “Farmer in Chief.”

I’ve been working on some stories about food – the science and philosophy behind what we eat.  Some of what I learned has been troubling.  But what’s encouraging, is the simple beauty of how we can fix what ails the system.

Watch next week – we’re testing a popular veggie for pesticides, and meet a local farmer who will change the way you think about what’s on your plate.



50 Green Tips


Stop Junk Mail, Plant a Tree, Buy Locally Grown Food.

For more ideas on how to live smart, check out the Little Green E-Book.

You’ll find 50 tips to make your life greener and tackle climate change.

And if you or your organization is working to advance sustainable life on our changing planet, let me know!

Email me at

My Carbon Footprint…

I’m committed to driving less.  Even though our car gets great gas mileage.  And I’m hoping driving less will mean living more.

So today, for the first time, we parked the car and rode the bus downtown.  Talked with a girl named April at the bus stop.  Memorable, sweet moments with a young lady looking forward to everything life has to offer.

She informed me I was at the wrong stop.  And since the bus was early, I missed it.  Then the one I was supposed to be on broke down.  CATS to the rescue with a bus that took us straight into the Center City.  Read the paper.  Met a gal named Brittany from our church on the bus, too.

I’m buying a 10-ride pass to try this again.

Because none of this great stuff happens when I’m in the car all by myself.  And it only cost me $1.30.

Global Poverty – or Global Warming?

Have you heard of the Copenhagen Consensus?

TIME Magazine believes it may be the most cost-effective way to save the world.

What would you do with $75 billion?

The most thoughtful response gets published here and a free “not plastic” SIGG water bottle.

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