I’m a frequent consumer of organic goods. I feel they are safer, healthier and better for the environment. I think it is fair to say that many share this view as the consumption of organic products has been steadily growing, reaching an eye-popping £2.09B in 2017 with organic personal care products comprising £61.2million! So, it really surprises me when I talk to people who prefer to buy non-organic. When I ask ‘why?’ many say the cost is prohibitive. Good point, some organic products are much more expensive. Another reason some cite for not going organic – studies proving that organic isn’t healthier or safer.
When I came across a 2016 desktop study commissioned by the EU Parliament titled, Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture it peaked my interest. I thought maybe this study would clear the air and tell us if organic really is better…or not. Unfortunately it didn’t! Results like this can be confusing and make it difficult to make an informed decision. I mean, either organic has benefits, or it doesn’t, right?! Needless to say, the study revealed some interesting findings that may help in drawing your own conclusion on whether or not to buy organic.
The EU study looked at organic agriculture, not specifically at the personal care market. Even so, there is a link between food and food by-products that are in our bath and body goods. Although we don’t eat our bath and body products, they can penetrate through and get into our bloodstream. With this in mind, here are some of the skin-friendly benefits from organic products:
- Higher levels of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) with organic dairy products and lower levels of childhood allergies (e.g.: 36% reduction in infant eczema when mum was on organic dairy diet. This reduction is likely the result of higher EFAs).
- Slightly higher antioxidant value in organic orange extracts.
- Organic strawberries and fermented beetroot juice exhibited stronger anti-cancer activity than non-organic counterparts.
If on the other hand, your skin cream isn’t 100% organic, those chemicals (e.g.: pesticides) could be entering your body. I don’t want to come across as a scare monger, so could is the optimal word here. The study revealed the following with conventional farming (and subsequent exposure to non-organic crops):
- Higher cadmium content in cereal crops. Accumulation has been known to cause kidney and bone disease, for example.
- Exposure among children to pesticides may harm brain development, including lower IQs in children when exposed to organophosphates (a type of pesticide). It is banned/restricted in 23 countries.
- Increased risk of allergic diseases.
So, based on these encouraging findings, it seems like organic is the way to go! Not necessarily says the study. The study in fact suggests that the beneficial findings surrounding organic are minimal. This seems a bit counter-intuitive to me. Why the ambiguity? After analysis of all the scientific data out there, the report says there is a “scarcity of studies investigating the potential beneficial effects of organic compared to conventional food consumption….” This leads me to ask: Why haven’t more conclusive studies been done? Cost is one factor. Also, a long-term approach is required to ascertain the long-term benefits of an organic diet….or in our case, an organic personal care regime. Thus, time represents another hurdle.
Finally, standardized testing. Currently, some tests which some could argue should be required under law are not. Take insecticides (a type of pesticide used to kill insects) for instance. The EU study reports that neurotoxicity testing is not required for insecticides prior to being registered as a legal substance. This is even though, “at least 100 different insecticides are known to cause adverse neurological effects in adults….” Another example of an adverse side effect from conventional agricultural activities is endocrine disruption. Although awareness around the impacts of certain chemicals on our endocrine system has come to light in recent years (e.g.: parabens), tests assessing the impacts of agricultural chemicals on our endocrine system is not required under law.
Like many policy papers, this report looked at a risk assessment in terms of currency. Bottom line, exposure to pesticides is costing our economy. “(C)urrent exposures to certain pesticides in the EU may, “cost at least € 125 billion per year as calculated from the loss of lifetime income due to the lower IQs associated with prenatal exposures.” It may seem a bit heartless to align health ailments and loved ones with dollar amounts, but it does in unequivocal terms ring home long-term benefits of going organic.
In light of the study, my mind hasn’t changed. I still believe organic is better and safer. Has this article changed or confirmed your stance on organic verus non-organic? The next time you buy a lip balm or bubble bath, will you go for the organic brand, the non-organic option, or will price rule?
Blog by, Tess Ackland
Tess is the founder and Director of ON! Juniper, a lifestyle brand that supports girl empowerment through building self-awareness, health and happiness. ON! Juniper hand-makes organic + natural lip balms and bath bombs for girls.
 Unless otherwise noted, the data contained within this article has been taken from the EU study cited within paragraph 2 of this article.