Which organic foods are worth the switch?

Organic food has risen to become a major market over the past quarter century.

According to industry-standard surveys completed by the Organic Trade Association, 2008 organic food sales in the U.S. totaled nearly $23 billion. Although this accounts for only 3.5 percent of all U.S. food sales, it was a 15.8 percent increase from 2007, while the entire U.S. food sales averaged only a 4.9 percent increase.

Supporters say there are two major benefits to eating organic food. First, it's a socially and environmentally-conscious choice: Organic food supports sustainable agriculture rather than destroying the land and contaminating the environment, and it often better supports smaller local growers. Second, it's healthier to eat products that do not have toxins in them than to eat those that do.

In the scientific community, synthetic pesticides, herbicides and hormones are highly suspected of or have proven to be contributors to many illnesses. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that "individuals reporting exposure to pesticides had a 70 percent higher incidence of Parkinson's disease than those not reporting exposure." Another study printed in the Archives of Neurology in July 2009 found "elevated levels of organochlorine pesticides in postmortem Parkinson's disease brains.