Imported organic versus local non-organic foods

I went to the local health food shop the other day to get some organic raisins for my little boy. He loves raisins and wouldn’t want to eat his oatmeal in the morning without them. Although I can get Spanish raisins, we chose to buy these organic ones from California because regular grapes are one of the products that are heavily sprayed. Moreover, grapes are on the so-called ‘Dirty Dozen’ list by the Pesticides Action Network UK and highly advised to buy organically.

This made me think of a chat I had the other day with a friend who owns a health food café here on the white isle of Ibiza (The Rabbit Hole). We were discussing the pros and cons of eating imported organic food versus locally grown non-organic food.

Of course, from a personal health point of view, organic will always win as there are three big advantages of organic over non-organic (there are more and I will get into them some other time).

  1. Your food is grown with natural fertilizer as opposed to synthetic (which contains only a fraction of the nutrients of natural fertilizer). This ensures you that your food contains many more nutrients.
  2. Your food hasn’t been treated with synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and the lot. I don’t think the advantages of not having chemicals sprayed on your food doesn’t need much explaining…
  3. Organic produce is non GMO. And while the safety about GMO is still unsure, I suggest to caution when it comes to eating GMO produce (i.e. corn and soy are oftentimes GMO)

But, if we look at the bigger picture it seems almost ridiculous that we buy products that are flown halfway across the planet because they are organic. They may be healthier for us as food, but what about the carbon footprint of transport? That surely counts towards an unhealthy planet. And then the question arises; is our own health at this very moment more important than the planet’s health? And where is the break-even point? How far can an organic product travel to offset its carbon emission against the polluting practices used to grow non-organic food?

I don’t have the answer to this, but every time I buy an organic product from another part of the world I do realise I may have made a choice based on my own personal health ego. And thus what I try to do is eat as much as possible local. If I can get a local product of which I know the source (!), I would choose this over an imported organic product with an organic label on it. This supports the local farmers of whom more and more are heading towards organic production too. They may not have the government endorsed organic stamp on their food, but at least I know where my food comes from.

Close to my boy’s school there is a small local market with 4 stalls. We always shop at one in particular as the family who owns the shop grow all their own produce. I asked them if it is organic. They said yes… Of course they could be bending the truth which I would only find out if I was to visit their farm. Thinking of it, I may ask them today. Makes a nice little afternoon out for our boy as well as he gets to learn where his food comes from.

A few tips when buying non-organic food:

  • You can’t increase the nutrient level but you can wash off most of the chemicals used against pest. This is how you do it: Soak your produce in a mixture of water and vinegar for 10 minutes. The acid in the vinegar will remove the chemicals as they are all oil-based. Why are they oil-based? Because oil resists water so it doesn’t run of when watering the produce. That’s why a simple wash or rinse under the tap isn’t simply enough to get rid of it.
  • Produce with a thin skin (apples, grapes, strawberries, lettuce, kale etc.) are best bought organic as they tend to be sprayed more heavily. Thick skinned produce (avocados, watermelon, pineapple etc.) are normally less treated with chemicals as they are less prone to pests.

Let me know your thoughts on local non-organic versus imported organic foods. It’s quite a controversial topic so share your thoughts please.


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