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To Buy or Not to Buy Organic: What You Need to Know to Choose the Healthiest, Safest, Most Earth-Friendly Food Paperback – March 2, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A slim, handy guide to how our food is produced and how to choose what to buy." -- Culinate.com, 6/8/07

I've been hesitant to question the organic label because it offers such an easy answer, and I've worried that if I begin to tug on that string, pretty soon my whole natural fiber sweater will be unraveled and I won't have a dominant food doctrine to blindly follow...Burke, who is a journalist and former chef, seeks to answer that question by delving into the politics behind the certified organic label and by defining terms, such as organic, local, sustainable and grass-fed. -- Liz Kohman, "The Versatile Vegetarian: Got questions about 'organic'? Book offers answers", The Courier News

About the Author

Cindy Burke is the coauthor, with Kim Severson (now the New York Times's high-profile food reporter), of The Trans-Fat Solution. She writes often about food, organic farming, and nutrition for numerous publications. She studied at the school for American Chefs in Northern California's Napa Valley, before working as a chef and food consultant. She lives with her family in Seattle, Washington.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1 edition (March 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1569242682
  • ISBN-13: 978-1569242681
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #737,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Gingersnap on March 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book answered all the questions I had about buying or not buying organic foods. I realized that I wasn't even sure what "organic" meant, and I certainly didn't know anything about the politics of organic farming. Ms Burke really knows her stuff and presents the facts clearly and well. (Of course, I would expect this from her, as I read a book that she co-authored entitled The Trans Fat Solution, which cleared up that whole transfat thing for me.)

Particularly valuable is the chapter entitled "The Dirty Dozen" - the 12 foods to eat only if they're organic. Strawberries topped that list, and potatoes, especially russets, also showed up. This is balanced by "The Clean Fifteen," fruits and vegetables that consistently test negative for pesticide residue. Happily, avocados and blueberries show up on that list. Then there's The Shopping Guide - priceless!

This book is a treasure trove of information, and a MUST READ for everyone who cares about making healthy food choices while keeping sustainable farming in mind. As I said - awesome!
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By NotAGreenFreak on March 16, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I received this as a gift, I did not expect to read the entire book (ok, I admit - any of it) about organic foods in one sitting. However, Burke has written an extremely interesting and helpful guide on exactly what to buy organic (the dirty dozen), what not to buy (the clean fifteen), and why. She also enlightens us on the erosion of the "Organic" standards caused by government lobbying by powerful supermarket/food corporations (think, Nestle and Coca-Cola).

Read this if you want to know whether its worth it (or even safe) to buy organics at your local supermarket, and if not, where to get them.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Crystal on June 13, 2007
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What a GREAT book! I learned so much from the author. She really did her homework and knows her stuff. This book inspired me to take the complete jump into organic living w/o fretting the grocery bill cost. She makes sense when she discusses this bill versus the health of your family and health costs. I don't even care anymore about the grocery bill because I know I'm making the most informed and healthy choices for my family. She has also inspired me to be more "green" and not just buy organic, but think about buying sustainable foods and at local farmer's markets. Never really grasped that concept and reasoning until now. Thanks so much!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jill Wiest on December 20, 2008
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Being a 15-year organic gardening veteran and seeing more and more organic products in the grocery store had me curious -- where did it come from and is it truly organic. Is it worth it to pay more for organic than non-organic. This book is for every individual who wanted those same questions answered. As an example, garlic is often used as a companion plant (for me it was with roses) to deter aphids. So obviously garlic isn't going to have pests on it, thus, little pesticide use, thus no need to spend the money on organic garlic. The author lists many, many foods that you should or should not buy organic, provides interesting stories from organic farmers, and also goes into exactly what is organic. The part that really sold me is how organic certification has become yet another piece of bureaucratic red-tape and even the big boys are jumping on the band wagon -- at a price to the smaller, local farmers (undercutting their prices). But the USDA organic standards are stretched by agribusiness - so beware when purchasing "organic" from a large company. Not to mention the costs to the environment by agribusiness. Excellent book and highly recommended for the experienced organic grower.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By buyo on April 13, 2008
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Because I haven't been able to grow a garden of late, I'm forced to shop for most of my groceries. What I wanted to know is what I should buy or not buy. The author answers this perfectly and efficiently with a list in the latter part of the book, stating the produce in question, buy organic or not, and the reasons why.

What surprised me was that she also talks about how FAR food frequently travels and the carbon cost as a result. Is it worth buying organic if it's traveled across the ocean? While I understood this before, her book has made scrutinize this aspect of my food purchases even harder than before.

The book was an easy read but I admit to glossing over some of the talk about why you should eat organic or buy locally. What I wanted was precise information to help make my shopping more effective. I got exactly that.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sasha on April 18, 2008
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This is an awesome book and answered just what I wanted answered. I was wanting to buy organic not just for my health, but also for the environment. But I know organic doesn't always equal environmentally friendly. And when do I buy local? If local foods aren't organic, should I get imported organic? This book talks about the environmental as well as health interplay in a really easy to read way. Its a quick read and has a very useful shopper's guide in the back. By far the best "organic buying" guide I've seen so far. Love it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Storm TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 19, 2009
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Like most books on Organics, the short version of this book is that when at all possible, you should buy Organic. However, unlike most Organics books, this book dives deeper and not only includes items you can (generally) safely buy non-organic versions of, but also reasons why the USDA Organic label may not always be required.

Oddly enough, this book can almost be called anti-Organic, as much of the contained material speaks to how the USDA's lackluster labeling process paved the way for lessened standards compared to many of the self-regulated organics programs. Much of what the author Cindy Burke argues is that while the Organic label is a step in the right direction, it is, in many ways, a step backward.

The book presents several good cases for Farmer's Markets and Co-ops where the consumer gets to know their farmer, rather than relying on a sticker provided by faceless corporate entity. I was also surprised to learn that several farmers voluntarily dropped their USDA-Organic label in protest of the government policies as well as due to the lessened standards on what quantifies an organic product. Some other enlightening facts included things such as the amount of Organic labeled foods that come from China, the USDA Pesticide Data Program as well as the steps needed for a farm to be certified USDA-Organic.

While most people will purchase this book for its list of the "Dirty Dozen," the list of which foods never to buy non-organic, I honestly found the rest of the book more informative. Whereas many books on Organic foods simply tell you to always buy organic from your local farmer and bar no further discussion on the subject, this book is different in that it actually provides examples of why to do so, how we came to where we are today, as well as practical ways to start integrating organics into your life.
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