Organic Food – How Important is it?
Top 10 Reasons to Buy Organic:
Reduce Pesticides – The EPA now considers that 60% of herbicides, 90% all fungicides and 30% of insecticides are carcinogenic (cancer causing). In addition they are linked to birth defects, nerve damage and genetic mutation. Pesticides are poisons designed to kill living things and can accumulate in the cells.
Taste Better – Organic farming starts with the nourishment of the soil which leads to a more nourished and better tasting vegetable or fruit.
Protect Water Quality -Water takes up two-thirds of our body mass. The EPA has found pesticide contaminants in the ground water of all states polluting the primary source of drinking water for all Americans.
Save Energy – Modern farming consumes over 15% of the country’s total energy supply. More energy is used to produce synthetic fertilizers than to till, cultivate and harvest all the crops in the U.S. Organic farming is still family owned labor-intensive farming with little reliance on fossil fuels.
Protect Future Generations – The average child receives four times more exposure than an adult to at least eight widely used cancer-causing pesticides in food. Your choices now create their future health.
Prevent Soil Erosion – The Soil Conservation Service estimates that more than a billion tons of topsoil is eroded from the U.S. croplands each year. This is seven times faster than it is being naturally built up. Organic farmers replenish and nourish the soil beds continually.
Help Small Farms – Many organic farms are less than 100 acres and many families depend on this as their livelihood. It’s estimated we have lost over 650K small farms.
Protect Farm Worker Health – Farmers exposed to herbicides have a six times greater risk of cancer. Every year the amount of workers poisoned with pesticides doubles. An estimated 1 million people a year are poisoned by pesticides.
Promote Biodiversity – Single crop planting in conventional farms necessitates more pesticides and leaching of soil nutrients. There has been a tenfold increase in the use of pesticides since 1947 and 1974. There are over 65,000 different chemicals used in the agriculture industry per year.
Support a True Economy – Organic produce may appear more costly but prevention is always cheaper than a cure of an illness. Additionally, there are hidden costs in conventional produce such as federal taxes to subsidize farmers and GMO crops, taxes for pesticide regulations and testing, hazardous waste disposal and environmental damage.
Defining Organic Regulations
Organic food has grown from a 1 billion dollar industry ten years ago to over 13 billion dollars annually. The growing consumer awareness of the relationship of good quality ingredients and our health is the drive behind these sales. Labels can be so confusing so we have explained the definitions below:
“Conventional Agriculture” Farms DO USE non-organic fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides to control insects, weeds and diseases.
“Organic Farming” Will be labeled organic, organically grown, wild, naturally grown, ecologically grown or biologically grown and is produced WITHOUT synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Organic farmers use composts, green manures, crop rotation, mechanical cultivation, botanical pesticides, minerals and biological pest controls to nourish crops and control weeds and pests. In California use of synthetic pesticides must be discontinued 12 months prior to planting an organic crop.
“Certified Organic” In California there are associations to promote and verify organic farming methods. These associations inspect and test the soil and methods of a prospective member to verify that they are farming in accordance with the California Health Safety Code standards. The soil must be free of synthetic pesticides for three years before planting an organic crop. Farmers who display the association’s name and logo for certification are adhering to a much stricter set of standards. The largest organization is California Certified Organic farmers (CCOF).
“No-Spray, No-Pesticide or Pesticide Free” No-spray labeling does refer to farmers who do not spray pesticides, however, fungicides and synthetic fertilizers are also part of an overall pest management program for conventional farmers. Additionally, “no-spray” does not eliminate the use of pesticides that are applied to plants through the water or soil. There maybe residuals from previous crops in the soil There are no legal or universal definitions for these terms.
“Integrated Pest Management (IPM)” IPM is a long term approach to pest control, which involves monitoring the insect population using pest resistant plants, beneficial organisms and mechanical controls. The goal is to reduce the dependency on synthetic pesticides. As pesticides are costly some conventional farmers will use this.
Defining Organics in Meats
In the meat and poultry industry organic is defined if:
Animals have not been treated with: antibiotics, growth hormones, or feed made from animal byproducts.
Animals must have been fed organic feed for a least one year.
Animals must have access to the outdoors.
The food hasn’t been genetically modified or irradiated.
Fertilizer does not contain sewage sludge or synthetic ingredients.
Produce fed to animals hasn’t been contaminated with synthetic chemicals.
What the Labels Mean:
“100% Organic” means product must contain 100% organic ingredients.
“Organic” means at least 95% of ingredients are organically produced.
“Made with Organic Ingredients” means at least 70% ingredients are organic.
“Free Range” or “Free-roaming” is a misleading term and applies to chicken, eggs and other meat. It simply means the animals have space to roam for and “undetermined period each day”. USDA standards are weak in this area.
“Natural” or “All Natural” does not mean organic. There is no regulated standard for this and a rancher or manufacturer decides to use this term or not. It is a widely overused term that has true meaning and no regulations to govern its use. The USDA defines “natural” as not containing any artificial flavoring, colors, chemical preservatives or synthetic ingredients added to the processing of the food. This does not eliminate antibiotics and growth hormones, pesticides and herbicides used in the growing of produce or the raising of animals.
Wild Caught vs. Farmed Seafood
Farm or wild fish can be labeled organic, despite the presence of contaminants such as mercury and PCBs. There are no USDA certification standards for seafood allowing producers to make their own claims. It is best to purchase wild caught seafood as their will be no additional additives or growth hormones added to their feed. Farm raised salmon for instance is given a “food pellet” diet which contains coloring agents to give their meat a red color. Farm raised fish have shown to have lower levels of Omega 3 as well. It is a more nutritious choice to choose wild caught salmon and other seafood.
Saving Costs on Organic Foods
Organic food is more labor intensive and is often grown by small farmers. Buy locally grown foods as much as possible to insure freshness and costs savings. Many cities host weekly farmer’s markets where many organic farmers can be found. Look for their “organic sign” or inquire at the Information Booth at the Farmer’s Market which farmers are growing organically. A few suggestions:
Purchase organic produce at farmer’s markets.
Purchase from on-line suppliers – shipped directly to your door.
Locate a “food co-op” or a “buying co-op” in your area. Check colleges, churches and many health food store bulletin boards. You can also search on-line by putting in the phrase “natural foods cop-op (your town)” in the search area.
Ask around among friends and family if folks are willing to share produce. Most produce is cheaper when purchased in bulk.