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Is Organic Produce Worth the Higher Price?

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Organic yields could be improved, too. In a farming study in Pennsylvania that’s been running for 43 years, organic yields have mostly kept up with conventional yields and have been 30 percent higher in periods of extreme weather.

Verena Seufert, a sustainability scientist who focuses on agriculture at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany, said that, although such yields are “very rarely achieved” in the real world, she’s confident that things could change for the better with more research into organic management.

While some studies show that soil on organic farms sequesters more carbon than soil on conventional farms, just how much carbon, and for how long, is hotly debated.

That said, healthy soil is critical to long-term food security. Dr. Seufert hypothesizes that organic soils are more climate resilient, but said there hasn’t yet been enough research to draw “solid and confident conclusions.”

If your only concern is climate change, the scientists agreed that the most impactful dietary choices you can make are reducing your consumption of animal products and wasting less food.

The scientists we spoke to all said they buy organic produce. But they cited people, rather than the planet, as their No. 1 motivation: On organic farms, workers are exposed to fewer pesticides.

“For me, that’s the key,” Dr. Bowles said. “The chemical exposure that conventional agriculture brings is very, very real for the people who are embedded in growing it. And that’s where I think organic has a very clear advantage.”

Organic food might be better for the people who eat it, too. One 2018 study suggested that organic food may lower your cancer risk, though the American Institute for Cancer Research says eating fruits and vegetables, organic or not, is what’s most important.

Dr. Seufert also noted that organic farming can benefit the environment in important ways, such as improving biodiversity and water quality. Ultimately, she hopes the rise of organics will push the industrial food system to consider environmental and human impacts, rather than yield and profit alone.

“I don’t think we can save the planet by eating organic,” she said. “But I do think it’s an important part of the solution.”

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