cover image A Field Guide to Buying Organic

A Field Guide to Buying Organic

Luddene Perry, Dan Schultz, . . Bantam, $14 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-553-38293-8

Perry, a teacher and consultant to the organic food industry, and freelance writer Schultz skillfully guide readers through the complexities of organic food production, distribution and consumption to help informed purchasing decisions. They begin by detailing the history of organic farming; federal regulations and the U.S.D.A. certification process; nonorganic practices of concern for consumers (pesticides, hormones, genetically engineered organisms and crops, etc.); and the effects of current production methods on the environment and society. Then, they give an aisle-by-aisle guide to supermarket and health food store shelves. Useful tools—such as label and ingredient comparisons, a brand guide, explanations of processing methods—will allow readers to confidently choose between conventional and organic products. In each section, the authors offer quizzes for readers to pinpoint the concerns that drive their choices: health, economic, environmental, social or culinary. Readers whose main motivation is to safeguard health may be surprised to learn that some organic products don't have clear advantages over conventional ones, while those who seek the freshest, best-performing products may be inspired to select organic items more frequently. Similarly, price-conscious shoppers will discover that some organic products do offer definite advantages for only a few cents more. The authors' balanced approach should appeal to those committed to organics and skeptics alike. (Aug. 30)