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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

World of Difference Between Conventional and Organic Food

I have made up my mind. I even have dreams where I advocate for eating organic. I am certain that to take care of my family, our planet, and myself, choosing organic foods is the wiser choice.

I know that you have likely seen countless articles that either claim organic foods are better or ones that claim they are not. I think that the answer is within our grasp by applying good ole common sense.

We live in an age where we are told science knows best. I am pro science but I am also pro self-determination and using basic reasoning skills that do not depend on a PhD, test tubes, petri dishes or field sampling. For those of you who need science to confirm, there are some significant studies for review.

In a factual presentation shown below in two columns, the Mayo Clinic has outlined some significant differences between organic and conventional agricultural methods.



Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth.

Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.

Spray synthetic insecticides to reduce pests and disease.

Spray pesticides from natural sources; use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.

Use synthetic herbicides to manage weeds.

Use environmentally-generated plant-killing compounds; rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.

Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth.

Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.

To my mind, the major points of difference are significant. One method uses non-synthetic inputs and works with natural systems like crop rotation, beneficial insects, non-synthetic pesticides derived from things like cayenne to produce food. Animals are fed organic food and not given antibiotics and growth hormones and are allowed to be outside. This is organic agriculture. The other method uses toxic synthetic chemicals derived from petroleum to control weeds and insects and then applies synthetic fertilizers derived from natural gas to make the plants grow. Animals are given antibiotics and growth hormones and are held in confining and crowded conditions with no access to the outdoors. This is conventional agriculture.

plane spraying field with pesticides
Photo Courtesy Seleyn DeYarus

tractor spraying field with pesticides
Photo Courtesy Seleyn DeYarus

Now we arrive at the moment where a common sense evaluation comes to bear. Which approach sounds healthier to you? Which methods seem like they would work in harmony with earth’s ecosystems? Which system appears like it might cause pollution as a byproduct? Which system seems like it respects animals? Which system would you like to pick the fruit straight from the source and eat?

You may not arrive at the same conclusion as I do—that is the joy of self-determination—but for me, the choice is clear: organic. Many people like to point out that organic food costs more. I suggest that the costs that you are not calculating are the impacts to our individual and planetary health from exposure to chemicals, which ends up costing much more in the long term. For example, glyphosate (the active compound in RoundUp) is now found in the rain water in the Midwest during the growing season. Or the area known as the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico caused by nitrogen runoff from synthetic fertilizers from the heartland of America. These large-scale impacts suggest that we have passed a threshold of acceptable contamination of our natural world caused by how we are producing food.

My choice to eat organic has determined my professional life path as well. I own the only 100 percent organic gift basket company is the USA aptly named America’s Best Organics. Our mission is to grow demand for organic by introducing people to organic foods with our healthy and delighting gift baskets and thereby increase the amount of farmland producing food organically. This commitment to organic farming is grounded in years of encountering the science behind organic food and agriculture during my tenure at The Organic Center, a 501(c)3 that conducts and reviews research worldwide on the qualitative and quantitative benefits of organic food and farming.

organic strawberry field
farmer in organic strawberry field
Photos Courtesy Seleyn DeYarus

We live in a world that is driven by many different competing interests—some serve the greater good and many do not. Food is a monumental topic since we all must eat to survive—so it is also about money and power. Determining the process by which we can produce the best food for our world is a huge debate. I encourage you to investigate Genetically Engineered Organisms (GMOs or GE food), chemical-intensive agriculture and organic and biodynamic agriculture. The United Nations has issued several reports that conclude organic farming can feed the world. I will leave you with a few more links to assist in your inquiry into GMOs, food security, and why organic can feed the world. Enjoy the process of becoming better informed, knowing that the choices we make do indeed make a difference for our world and ourselves. May you eat and live well.

Seleyn DeYarusSeleyn DeYarus is a long-time advocate of the positive impact of healthy lifestyles on people and the environment. Based in Boulder, Colorado, she is majority owner and CEO of Best Organics, Inc., an organic and sustainable brands promotion company and provider of America's Best Organics gourmet gift basket collections. Learn more about Seleyn and find your next best gift at