Cynthia Curtis Harington is a nationally recognized nutritionist who writes for broadcast media and publications. Some of her articles are offered here at no charge. Others are available for a small fee which helps her continue to fund her research efforts.

Here you will find a selection of our free articles:

Fruits and Vegetables Labeled “Local” are not necessarily “Organic.”

“Local” is not the same as “Organic.” Supporting your local economy is fine,
but make sure you know exactly what you are buying.

You decided to “buy local,” believing the fruits and vegetables were grown nearby with loving care. You were proud to be supporting your local economy and believed you were saving on fossil fuels. What you didn’t know was that the seeds were irradiated, or worse yet, genetically modified (GMO), and that the plants were sprayed liberally with chemical pesticides which could be harmful to you and your family. Worse yet, the “local garden” was located 250 miles away.

Buying locally grown produce is an economic/environmental issue, not an indication of the quality of the food.  “Many people feel good about buying local, but could put their family’s health at risk by not asking if the produce is also grown organically,” explained Cynthia Harington, a nationally recognized nutritionist with over 30 years of experience in healthcare and wellness.

A fruit or vegetable labeled “Local” is not necessarily “Organic.” Harington explained, “The USDA has strict regulations for food labeled ‘Organic.’ There is no regulatory definition for ‘Local.’ It doesn’t guarantee anything.”

The theoretical economic benefits of buying locally grown produce are fairly simple. First, “Buying Local” is intended to keep more money in the local economy. Second, it is an attempt to reduce transportation costs and improve environmental and energy issues by avoiding long hauls. However, many fruits and vegetables cannot be grown in any given local area, so truckloads of produce are still brought in based on demand for those products.

Five helpful tips for understanding what you eat:

  1. “Organic” and “Local” are not the same.
    The strict set of rules governing “Organic” produce does not pertain to “Local” fruits and vegetables unless it is labeled “Organic and Local.”

  2. Look for the specific word “Organic” on the label.
    “Organic” food products are regulated by the USDA and produced by farmers under a strict set of rules.

  3. “Local” produce can be grown with pesticides.
    When the sign or label says just “Local,” the grower could be using synthetic herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers derived from sewage sludge.

  4. “Local” produce can be grown with genetically modified or irradiated seeds.
    The strict rules governing the seeds which can be used for “Organic” produce do not apply to “Local” produce. When the label reads “Organic and Local,” the produce has been grown with seeds which were not genetically modified nor irradiated.

  5. “Organic” = The USDA regulates that certified organic produce must be grown on a farm that, for at least three years, has used no synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers and has not planted any genetically modified seeds, used fertilizers derived from sewage sludge or treated seeds with irradiation. “Local” = no regulatory definition.