By Louisa Shafia

The latest debate in the food world is over whether to choose organic or locally grown. Organic advocates feel you shouldn’t tolerate pesticide use under any circumstances, while locavores— people who favor locally grown food — say it’s more important to buy from local farms and conserve the fuel spent on transporting food long distances. To help you decide where you stand on the organic vs. local debate, here are some of the pros and cons of these two food philosophies.
Definition of Organic Food: Food grown without pesticides, genetically modified ingredients, irradiation, antibiotics, hormones, or fertilizer made from sewage sludge.Pros of organic food

  • Farm workers are not exposed to pesticides
  • Pesticides and fertilizers do not pollute soil and waterways
  • Some studies have shown that organic food is more nutritious and flavorful than conventionally grown food

Cons of organic food

  • Organic products can leave a big carbon footprint. Even if something was grown in China and exported to the United States, it can still be called “organic”
  • Many organic food products come from abroad, often Third World countries, where it’s difficult to ensure that US organic standards are truly met
  • The requirements for an organic label do not include the humane treatment of animals, fair labor practices, or ecologically conscious farming practices

Definition of Local Food: Food from local farms, gardens, or the wild. “Local” can mean 100 miles from your home to a day’s drive, depending on whom you ask.

Pros of locally grown food

  • Buying local helps to support small farms. More small farms means more genetic diversity of plants and animals, which makes the food system less vulnerable to disease
  • Supporting small farms keeps money within the local economy, saves local jobs, and preserves farmland and open space
  • Local food doesn’t contribute to air pollution and global warming to the same degree as food that travels long distances

Cons of locally grown food

  • Locally grown food is not necessarily pesticide-free
  • Many places are not suited to agriculture during certain times of year, like the Midwestern states in winter
  • Studies show that a diet of mostly plants, no matter where they’re from, is better for the environment than a meat-heavy local diet