Organic strawberries are part of debated organic movement

Forty-one percent of American adults do not believe there is a difference between organically and conventionally grown food, according to Pew Research. 

At the same time there are many people who choose to shop organically for their produce, motivated by a number of reasons. A total of 55 percent of American adults believe there are benefits to eating organically. Jose Carpio, an organic strawberry farmer on Rodriguez Farm in Watsonville, Ca, believes that shopping organically is the healthiest option, especially with fruits like strawberries.

Holding out a strawberry, Jose Carpio sells his produce at the Town Center Farmer's Market

Holding out a strawberry, Jose Carpio sells his produce at the Town Center Farmer’s Market

“Sometimes people say ‘Oh we are organic, we don’t use pesticides,’ but it is much more that just no pesticides. You’ve got to take care of the water and the resources you use. With conventional you just spray chemicals to get rid of your problems,” Carpio said.

“Conventional” refers to the method of farming that is not classified as organic. Conventional techniques include using pesticides and fertilizers made with chemicals. Farmers use these products to combat the issue of insects eating their crops.

One of the most prominent health risks associated with consuming conventionally grown fruits and vegetables is the use of pesticides and their potential effects on the human body.

According to University of Washington’s Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health the use of pesticides can lead to a variation of serious health consequences.

“Studies have found that chronic, lower dose exposure [to pesticides] is associated with respiratory problems, memory disorders, skin conditions, depression, miscarriage, birth defects, cancer and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease” University of Washington’s Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health stated.

Carpio echoed these sentiments, explaining the most devastating effects that pesticide consumption can have on people.

“The most known [side effect] is cancer. Some kids’ brains don’t develop normally,” Carpio said.

The farm Carpio works on puts in substantial effort to deal with pests in the most environmentally friendly way. This is another area that sets organic farming apart from conventional.

“With organic you actually have to put in more work to get rid of the pests, get rid of the weeds. Conventional you just spray and kill things, with organic you have to find other ways” Carpio said.

Rodriguez Farm is most successful in their strawberry farming. Strawberries are their largest market, though they produce other berries as well. Carpio is passionate about the necessity for organic farming when it comes to strawberries.

“For strawberries it’s really important to be organic because it doesn’t have any protection. Bananas and other stuff have a layer, but strawberries don’t have anything,” Carpio said.

Students at Redwood have their own opinions about eating organically, especially in regards to how it affects the environment. Audrey Peck is a junior who is enrolled in both AP Environmental Science and Sustainable Agriculture.

“Especially in AP Environmental Science you learn a lot about synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and how that pollutes. One of the major benefits of organic agriculture is that you don’t use a lot of those detrimental chemicals, and because you don’t use chemicals that are man made you have to really work with nature and the earth instead of against it,” Peck stated.

Working in Redwood's garden, junior Audrey Peck waters some plants.

Working in Redwood’s garden, junior Audrey Peck waters some plants.

The use of harsh chemicals during the process of conventional farming also takes a toll on the ecosystem surrounding the farm.

“More than anything else I think runoff is a really big problem. A lot of chemicals and synthetic fertilizers that are used [in soil] get washed away and end up in lakes and bodies of water,” Peck said.

Peck considers herself part of the large movement that supports organic farming techniques. She believes  that using organic techniques is the best way to feed the community while preserving the environment.

“Agriculture is so important, but there’s a better way to do it without degrading the environment, and I think organic farming is really the solution to that,” Peck stated.

Giving a tour around Redwood's garden, junior Audrey Peck shows an organically grown strawberry

Giving a tour around Redwood’s garden, junior Audrey Peck shows an organically grown strawberry

However, for many people like Susan Lange, a frequent Safeway customer, the benefits of eating and producing organic produce are not so clear.

“I’m not sure that it matters to be quite honest. I’m not sure it’s going to increase the longevity of my life. I don’t know that if I ate all organic I wouldn’t get cancer. I’m not convinced of that,” Lange stated.

She further explained her position by describing why it is that she questions there are real advantages to living an organic lifestyle. With the limited information that she feels is available to her, she believes she is not able to draw an accurate conclusion about eating organic.

“I don’t know whether one vitamin is really any better than another vitamin. There would have to be some kind of conclusive evidence to show me that someone’s going to live longer,” Lange stated.

Lange’s opinions reflect those of many members of society today. There is a lot of debate over the real benefits of organic eating, and whether the whole movement is based on a false conception of healthy living.

On some occasions, Lange does buy organic products. For Lange, taste is a huge reason that she chooses to buy some organically farmed fruits, like strawberries.

“I actually think that organic strawberries taste way better. If you shop at a farmers market where you know the vendors and farmers have just brought them, you can really taste the difference,” Lange said.

The stigma that exists surrounding consuming organic produce goes beyond just the taste of strawberries. Many people are firm believers that eating organically is better for a person’s overall health and wellbeing. This notion is one that many people find others trying to convince them off, Lange said.

“My nurse practitioner has been trying to shove it down me lately. She’s gotten on this real big kick about organic and getting these vitamins that are FDA approved,” Lange said.

Society has built up a huge culture surrounding all things organic, whether is be the environmental implications or the healthier lifestyle if presents to consumers. Until there is definite proof surrounding the advantages of organic eating, people will formulate their own opinions whether they are for or against organic.

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