Australians have long paid a premium for produce from the organic aisle - even a bag of brushed spuds costs more than double the price of non-organic.
From $6 avocados to a pack of $7 zucchinis, not every household has space in its grocery budget for luxury organic fruit and veggies.
Some argue however that by purchasing cheaper, non-organic items, customers could be doing their health more harm than good due to harmful, toxic chemicals.
Modern-day practices have altered the way fruit and vegetable growers protect their crops, meaning consumers can’t simply wash off harmful chemicals like they used to, Alasdair Smithson, the founder of Organic Knowledge told Yahoo News Australia.
Traditionally, pesticides were sprayed over non-organic crops and could be washed away before being eaten, but the same could not be said about produce today.
“Pesticides nowadays are systemic, so that basically means they get into every cell inside the fruit or vegetable that they’re sprayed on,” Mr Smithson said.
“You can’t just wash it away because it’s absorbed by all the cells in the product.
Certain non-organic items retained higher levels of pesticides, posing greater risk to the health of consumers, the organic farming consultant said.
“People talk about the dirty dozen in terms of different lines of fruit and veg that get sprayed more than others. Apples are one of the heavy ones, and strawberries are another.
“It’s especially the soft fruit which are susceptible to pests and diseases.”
Mr Smithson said it could be beneficial to avoid items with exposed skin when buying non-organic, as opposed to bananas which had a layer of peel.
“If you’re going to buy non-organic stuff, go for things with the skin on which at least will get rid of some surface chemicals.”
A scientific paper published in the British Journal of Nutrition revealed there was a significant difference in nutritional quality when comparing organic and conventional crops.
The study found organic crops were up to 60 per cent higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally-grown crops.
Through analysing hundreds of studies, the research team concluded that switching to eating organic fruit, vegetable and cereals would provide additional antioxidants equivalent to eating between one or two extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
Is the organic price worth it?
When it comes to affordability, organic produce undeniably comes out second, but Mr Smithson has argued the price difference is well and truly justified.
“From an overall health point of view, families and individuals should be looking to consume more organic food because ... you’re reducing your ingestion of chemicals into your body,” he said.
Herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilisers aren’t allowed in organic farming systems - a restriction that is not imposed on non-organic producers.
He also argued that from an environmental perspective, there was much to be said for organic farming having less of an impact on climate change.
“Agriculture in general is responsible for about 30-40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions which are contributing to the climate change problem.
“Organic farming has been shown to reduce those greenhouse emissions by 40-50 per cent basically because we’re not using chemicals in the soil or on the crops.”
Does it work out cheaper in the end?
He cited studies that had shown how nutritional density of organic produce exceeded regular produce by up to three times, which was also reflected in the price difference.
“From a purely nutritional density standpoint, organic produce can sometimes even work out to be cheaper.”
The organic market has grown about 15 per cent year-on-year Mr Smithson said, adding that he saw no sign of retail sales slowing down any time soon.
CEO of Australian Organic, Niki Ford, said despite higher production costs, demand for organic produce had continued to rise in recent years.
She said it was labour, weed management, certification, and supply chain costs that were the main contributors to higher priced organic products.
“However ... there is evidence that the gap is closing when it comes to purchasing certified organic vs non organic products,” Ms Ford told Yahoo News Australia.
Simone Tully from the Organic Federation of Australia said it was personal interest along with a surging demand for organic produce that attracted her to the industry.
“It’s really come from this grass roots consumer demand of wanting to know what’s in their produce,” Ms Tully told Yahoo News Australia.
“People are pushing back against GM (genetic modification) and being mislead about food products and labels,” she said.
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