Should Kosher Veggies Be Organic?

by flickr user boubles used under Creative Commons license

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


It’s a sign of the times when the Orthodox Union starts taking its cues from the Certified Organic crowd. After 2000 years of formalized Jewish dietary law, Israel’s top Rabbi has threatened to revoke the kosher status of vegetables deemed excessively sprayed. 

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, the country’s top religious authority, said he would yank veggies’ blanket kosher seal of approval over “insane quantities” of insecticides. Although even the man with the plan acknowledged that there is no precedent for decertifying fruits and vegetables, he said that health hazards alone make spraying a religious concern. (Kashrut, the body of law dictating what is and isn’t kosher, forbids eating any known poison.)

Besides being a good green initiative and probably long overdue, there may be some business sense in this. Only 21 percent of people who buy kosher food do so for religious reasons; the rest choose kosher for its perceived health benefits. Because Jewish law forbids mixing dairy and meat, most desserts and snacks contain neither, making them an easy choice for vegans and vegetarians. Kosher animals aren’t fed other animals’ parts, and their care and slaughter is strictly supervised. Finally, many buyers simply believe that the religious certifiers do a better job than the government at keeping food clean and safe. The laws are literally so complicated, the main certifying body in America runs a hotline.

But fresh vegetables and fruits aren’t certified at all. Unlike animal products, which become kosher (or not-kosher) through an involved process of rearing, slaughtering, butchering, and preparation, fruits and veggies are born kosher. The only thing that makes the fruit of the earth unkosher are bugs.

Predictably, that’s led to a lot of spraying. Curbing this practice isn’t only good for the flock. It could also cement kosher’s reputation as a cleaner, safer food.

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

Dear Reader,

This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO, Mother Jones

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate