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Founder of Organic Knowledge Alasdair Smithson

Is organic produce really worth it?

Australians have long paid a premium for produce from the organic aisle, and not every household has space in its grocery budget for luxury organic fruit and veggies. Some argue however that by purchasing cheaper, non-organic items, customers could be doing their health more harm than good due to harmful, toxic chemicals.

Modern-day practices have altered the way fruit and vegetable growers protect their crops, meaning consumers can’t simply wash off harmful chemicals like they used to, Alasdair Smithson, the founder of Organic Knowledge told Yahoo News Australia.

Traditionally, pesticides were sprayed over non-organic crops and could be washed away before  being eaten, but the same could not be said about produce today. “Pesticides nowadays are systemic, so that basically means they get into every cell inside the fruit or vegetable that they’re sprayed on,” Smithson said. “You can’t just wash it away because it’s absorbed by all the cells in the product.

Certain non-organic items retained higher levels of pesticides, posing greater risk to the health of consumers, the organic farming consultant said. “People talk about the dirty dozen in terms of different lines of fruit and veg that get sprayed more than others. Apples are one of the heavy ones, and strawberries are another. It’s especially the soft fruit which are susceptible to pests and diseases.”

Smithson said it could be beneficial to avoid items with exposed skin when buying non-organic, as opposed to bananas which had a layer of peel. “If you’re going to buy non-organic stuff, go for things with the skin on which at least will get rid of some surface chemicals.”

A scientific paper published in the British Journal of Nutrition revealed there was a significant difference in nutritional quality when comparing organic and conventional crops. The study found organic crops were up to 60 per cent higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally-grown crops.

Through analysing hundreds of studies, the research team concluded that switching to eating organic fruit, vegetable and cereals would provide additional antioxidants equivalent to eating between one or two extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

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