Is An Organic Diet Worth The Extra Cost?

  • Regina LopesSenior Nursing Assistant, Health and Social Care, The Open University

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The concept of organic food is revolutionising the food industry these days. But organic options are found to be more expensive than non-organic ones. Is this extra cost worth it? 

Anything that is produced naturally is organic. The food items produced by avoiding the harmful synthetic pesticides, fertilisers, antibiotics and hormones are organic. But organic farming involves more expenditure and comparatively less yield than conventional farming which increases the cost of the products.

Here comes the debate about the value and cost of organic farming. Even though they cost more, switching to an organic diet can reduce the risk of exposure to many harmful chemicals and help to preserve the ecosystem. 

What does “organic” mean?

“Organic” means the method by which the farmers produce and process their agricultural products without using any chemical methods. Organic products include fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat produced naturally.

Conventional farming involves the use of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, chemical fertilisers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and hormones in livestock. Organic farming which relies considerably on natural methods helps to maintain the ecological balance and biodiversity.

Organic farming includes

  • No synthetic fertilisers and use of organic fertilisers
  • No genetically modified food
  • Use of local resources
  • No agrochemicals
  • Crop rotation 
  • Lower water consumption
  • Lower energy use
  • Improved soil quality and water holding capacity1

Regulations in organic farming

Farming is regulated by law in the UK. To prepare, store, sell, import or export an organic product in the UK, a certification is required which has to be approved by the UK organic control body.2 Soil Association Certification limited is the largest and oldest organic certification body in the UK, certifying almost 70% of organic food here. 

Nutritional benefits

The assumption that organic food is more nutritious than conventionally produced ones remains controversy. Some studies claim that organic food are superior to conventional food while others say there is no significant differences.3 But they support the idea that organic food reduces the exposure to harmful pesticides and antibiotic resistant bacteria.4

Studies also show that people who prefer an organic diet follow a healthy lifestyle, eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grain products and less meat. They follow an active lifestyle and are less likely to smoke. All these factors may reduce the incidence of chronic diseases.5

Reducing pesticide exposure

It is an undisputed fact that an organic diet considerably reduces the risk of pesticide exposure. Many synthetic pesticides are considered as toxic chemicals and can even be potential carcinogens. It is a common myth that pesticides are not allowed in organic farming.

In fact organic farming also uses pesticides but generally the non toxic ones and more naturally occurring. In EU 26 substances are authorised as acceptable pesticides for organic farming because they are non toxic and some of them are even normal constituents of human diet.5

The pesticides used in organic farming are produced from natural substances and their production and use is regulated by a control body. Some of them are spearmint oil, citronella, quartz sand, beeswax, iron, potassium bicarbonate, rapeseed oil etc. Organic farming utilises methods like crop rotation, intercropping, resistant varieties, insect traps, biological control using natural enemies instead of extensive use of pesticides.6,7

Studies have shown that the occupational exposure to synthetic pesticides (while spraying) during the production of conventional crops can lead to increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, type II diabetes, cancer and can complicate pregnancy.5

In conventional farming there are strict regulations on the level of pesticide residues permitted in food items. The regulatory body has set up a Maximum Residual Level (MRL) of pesticide and it is way below the level considered safe for consuming.

A monitoring program by the UK competent authorities held in 2022 found out that 1.8% of the food samples contained pesticide residues greater than the MRL values. But it is always the consumer choice regarding the exposure risk. Whether you choose an organic or non organic diet, be sure to wash the vegetables and fruits well before eating them.

Cost considerations 

If you are planning to follow an organic diet then there is no doubt that you will have to spend more. But why is organic food more expensive?

High demand and low supply

There is no doubt that there is a huge demand for organic products. But only 2.9% of agricultural land in the UK is organic despite the increasing demand. Because of this imbalance in the demand and supply levels these products are more expensive.

Labour costs

In non organic farming the hectic work of controlling the weeds and pests are entirely taken care of by the tons of chemicals sprayed. But apparently organic farmers do not have this luxury. They have to rely considerably on manual power and additional labour which further increases the cost of their products.

Expensive fertilisers 

Organic fertilisers themselves are actually cheap when compared to synthetic ones. But they are far less concentrated then the chemical fertilisers. Hence they have to be used in large quantities which pushes up the expense. The transport charge for large quantities needed again increases the total cost of using organic fertilisers.

Lower yields

The yield of organic farming is considered to be 25% less than the conventional farming methods. Crops can be smaller in size and pest control can be unpredictable. This may increase the overall price of the organic products.

Organic certification costs

Even though the cost of getting the organic product certified is less, it has to be transferred to the customers so that the farmers can make a profit.

Coming to the real question here, is organic diet worth the cost? I would say, yes. You get less chemicals, less damage and more benefit to the earth. There are many big box stores that offer affordable organic options. Given below is a list of some fruits and vegetables that shows maximum residual pesticide levels. So it would be great if you can switch on to the organic versions of these.

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Kale, collard & mustard greens
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Bell & hot Peppers
  • Cherries
  • Blueberries
  • Green Beans


Is organic food really that much better?

Even though studies show that there is no significant difference between the nutritional value between organic and non organic food, organic food is better since it contains significantly less residual pesticide and other harmful chemicals. They are also better when considering the fact that they do not harm the environment.

Is it worth buying organic food in the UK?

It is worth it when you consider the reduced pesticide level and the benefit to nature. But current evidence shows that the agricultural products sold in the UK contain residual pesticides in accordance to the levels that are considered safe for humans. 

What is the downside to buying organic?

Organic food is often costlier than conventionally grown food.

What puts people off buying organic food?

Cost is the factor that discourages people from buying organic products. But there are some big house stores that sell considerably affordable organic food.

Does organic food still have pesticides?

Organic food is not pesticide free but they use pesticides that are non toxic and safe for the environment.

Is organic really organic in the UK?

Of course. Any products can be labelled and sold as organic only after certified by law and they are monitored and regulated regularly.


Organic diets continue to gain popularity in the world. Organic farming helps to sustain the health of soil and ecosystem. However, there is not much evidence that it has more nutritional benefits. But they are produced more naturally and hence have less amount of chemical exposure. The major factor that puts off people from buying organic products is their higher price but including some affordable options in your diet is totally worth it. So based on your priorities don't hesitate to make a choice whether to go organic or not.


  1. Gamage A, Gangahagedara R, Gamage J, Jayasinghe N, Kodikara N, Suraweera P, et al. Role of organic farming for achieving sustainability in agriculture. Farming System. 2023;1(1): 100005.
  2. Organic food tests and inspections. GOV.UK.
  3. Thaise de Oliveira Faoro D, Artuzo FD, Rossi Borges JA, Foguesatto CR, Dewes H, Talamini E. Are organics more nutritious than conventional foods? A comprehensive systematic review. Heliyon. 2024;10(7): e28288.
  4. Smith-Spangler C, Brandeau ML, Hunter GE, Bavinger JC, Pearson M, Eschbach PJ, et al. Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?: a systematic review. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2012;157(5): 348–366.
  5. Mie A, Andersen HR, Gunnarsson S, Kahl J, Kesse-Guyot E, Rembiałkowska E, et al. Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: a comprehensive review. Environmental Health. 2017;16: 111.
  6. Van Bruggen AH, Gamliel A, Finckh MR. Plant disease management in organic farming systems. Pest Management Science. 2016;72(1): 30–44.
  7. Zehnder G, Gurr GM, Kühne S, Wade MR, Wratten SD, Wyss E. Arthropod pest management in organic crops. Annual Review of Entomology. 2007;52(1): 57–80.

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Lakshmi Sunil Thulasi

Master of dental surgery
BDS, MDS Prosthodontics, RGUHS, India

Dr. Lakshmi is a dedicated dental specialist and accomplished research writer with extensive experience in both clinical dentistry and academia. She has years of experience in the dental field and as a senior lecturer in Prosthodontics. With a strong foundation in both practical and theoretical aspects of medicine she is passionate about inspiring and educating people through her work.

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