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Reading Exercise: Organic Foods

level: intermediate

Are organic foods really more nutritious than non-organic foods? Read about this issue in the reading practice exercise below. You can find the meaning of the words in bold in the vocabulary list under the text, and you can check your understanding by doing the Organic Foods Quiz.

organic fruit and vegetablesOrganic food is very popular these days. It can also be very expensive. Some organic food costs twice as much as non-organic food. Parents of young children, and even some pet owners, will pay high prices for organic food if they think it's healthier. But many others think organic food is just a waste of money.

There is one main difference between organic and non-organic food. Organic farms do not use agricultural chemicals such as pesticides that stop insects from damaging crops. In many countries foods that claim to be organic must have special labels that guarantee they're grown organically.

Some people think organic also means "locally grown", and originally this was true. But over time organic farming has become big business, with many organic foods now being grown by large agricultural companies that sell their products far from where they're grown. Processed food made with organic ingredients has also become more popular. At first, only small companies produced these products. But as demand overtook supply, big food companies that had been selling non-organic products for many years also began selling organic products. Small organic food companies found it difficult to compete with these big companies, and many didn't stay in business much longer.

Is organic food safer and more nutritious? This is an important part of the debate. Many farmers and consumers believe it is. They think agricultural chemicals can cause serious illnesses like cancer, but there isn't much evidence proving this is true. However recent studies have shown that eating organically-grown produce reduces your chances of developing heart disease. Many doctors think it's more important to stop dangerous bacteria from contaminating foods. These bacteria can contaminate both organic and non-organic fruit and vegetables, and doctors recommend washing produce carefully before eating it. Meat, fish and chicken can also become contaminated, so washing your hands before handling these foods is also very important. Many doctors also believe we should reduce the amount of sugar in our diets, and there is a lot of evidence to support this idea. They recommend carefully checking the list of ingredients on processed food and drinks for all the words that really mean sugar, like glucose, sucrose and fructose. And they remind us that the aim of most big food companies is to make lots of money, even if they damage our health while doing so. This means processed foods that are called "organic" can also be very unhealthy if they contain lots of sugar.

Most people agree that naturally grown food tastes better. Is tastier food worth the extra money? That's a matter of opinion. Whether organic food is healthier or not is still not clear, so more research is needed. However, consumers of organic food often say "better safe than sorry" when it comes to what we eat.

Vocabulary

Word Meaning
agricultural adj. related to farming
bacteria noun tiny organisms that can live in our bodies
better safe than sorry idiom being careful is better than taking risks
consumer noun a person who buys something
contaminate verb to make something a carrier of disease
debate noun a discussion in which opposing ideas or arguments are expressed
demand noun a product's popularity as shown by the number of people who want it
evidence noun facts that prove something is true
expensive adj. highly-priced or costing a lot of money
handle verb to touch, hold or move with the hands
ingredients noun the different foods, spices, etc used to make a meal or a dish
label noun the sticker, tag, etc. with information about a product
nutritious adj good for your health (of food and drinks only)
organic adj grown naturally without the use of pesticides
pesticide noun a chemical that stops insects from destroying crops
produce noun food that comes from a farm, like fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, etc.
produce verb to make or create something
process verb to make something with technology and machines in a factory
stay in business idiom to survive (of a company or person in business)
supply noun the amount or number of products ready to be sold
waste of money idiom a poor choice when spending money