Organic, natural, or conventional: so many choices for new parents

My daughter has officially reached the 6-month-old milestone. And over the past summer, both she and her mama have learned a lot. She’s learning to crawl, and I’m learning about the trends in modern baby care.

A few weeks ago, my daughter (pictured) came down with a nasty case of eczema after getting sick from a cold. I searched the baby aisle of Target, trying to find anything to stop the itching and make her more comfortable.

I discovered that there are “natural” or “organic” versions of nearly every baby product you can imagine – from diapers to baby wipes, shampoos to cold medicines, rice cereal to baby food.

And even though the organic baby products tend to cost more, it can be pretty tempting to spend a few extra dollars when you’re wracked with new-parent anxiety.

I can’t help but notice that the baby-care trends match the current food trends toward “healthy,” “organic” and “natural” ingredients. Specifically, moms worry about chemicals, whether it’s pesticides on apples or in cotton disposable diapers.

Trust me, I worry too. But as someone who works in agriculture, and as a backyard gardener, I know that pesticides and crop-protection products are a necessity in growing safe, healthy food.

Without pesticides, farmers would lose a significant portion of their food crops, which leads to food waste and rising costs at the grocery store.

Crop-protection products allow farmers to raise food on less land and to employ conservation practices like no-till and cover crop plantings, which reduce soil erosion and benefit water quality.

In addition, all pesticides approved by the Environmental Protection Agency are rigorous tested to prove their safety to human health and the environment. 

And the U.S. Department of Agriculture tests our food to ensure that pesticide residues don’t exceed a safe level.

In fact, pesticide levels are extremely low, even on conventionally grown foods. A child can eat up to 340 apples in one day without any effect, even if the apples have the highest pesticide residues recorded by the USDA for apples, according to a University of California study and the website Safe Fruits and Vegetables

Although many people buy organic because they think it’s healthier, research has shown the organic foods aren’t different nutritionally the conventionally raised foods.

The “organic” label isn’t a health claim. It means the food is grown without synthetic chemicals, although naturally derived chemicals can be used, according to USDA guidelines. Also important to note: There aren’t any organic labeling standards baby products, like baby wipes and diapers. 

So as a family on a budget (daycare eats up a good chunk of my paycheck), I’m OK with buying the conventional diapers, wipes and baby food. Yet I’m also not going to judge the moms who choose to buy organic. We moms know what’s best for our babies. I’m thankful for the U.S. farmers who grow whatever we need for our growing families.

By Teresa Bjork. Teresa is Iowa Farm Bureau's senior features writer.

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