What Is Organic Food?
Organic food is food grown without the use of most pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), ionizing radiation, antibiotics, or growth hormones. All farms and food processors wishing to grow and produce organic foods must be independently certified as organic facilities.
Why Eat Organic?
When you eat organic food, you are eating it as nature intended, with minimal human tampering.
- Organic food is free of genetically modified organisms, meaning that the species is a natural one, developed only by natural selection and breeding. While the effects of eating genetically modified organisms are largely unknown as of yet, eating natural foods has served us well for hundreds of thousands of years.
- As brought into the public eye by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the effects of pesticides on humans are also largely unknown. Under no circumstances, however, do the effects of pesticides on our health appear to be beneficial when compared with organic foods. The same can be said for synthetic fertilizers, sludge, and radiation.
- Organic food processes create a less toxic environment for all living things, both on and off the farm (synthetic fertilizer run-off has created a 20,000+ sq. km toxic dead-zone in the Gulf of Mexico).
- Eating organic reduces the embodied energy in food (by approximately one third) by cutting out high-embodied-energy inputs like synthetic fertilizers.
- Natural fertilizers (like compost) build healthier soil by returning all the natural nutrients to the soil, not just the ones that will produce big mono-crops, creating a more sustainable environment, full of biodiversity, and more nutritious food.
- Creating demand for organic food helps protect acres of farmland from harmful pesticides
- Taste tests have consistently shown that organic food simply tastes better.
How Do I Eat Organic?
Eating organic is as simple as looking for foods with an "Organic" label.
In the U.S., three levels of organic certification are possible:
- Products made with 100% certified organic ingredients and methods may be labeled as "100% Organic."
- Products made with 95% certified organic ingredients and methods may be marketed as "Organic."
- Products with at least 70% certified organic ingredients can include a label stating "Made with Organic Ingredients."
The remaining 30% is still strictly monitored and restricted.
- For products with less than 70% organic ingredients, the word organic may only appear on the ingredient list, for individual ingredients that meet organic standards.
How to Identify Organic Produce
In the produce section, organics have a 5 digit PLU code beginning with the number 9 (i.e. regular corn might be #5342, organic corn might be #95342).
- Biodynamic Agriculture goes beyond organic (esp. industrial organic) by treating the farms as holistic ecological systems.
- Nutriclean certified foods have past the most stringent standards for pesticide residue.
- Wildcrafted plants have been harvested from their wild natural environments.
Books About Pesticides and Organics
Articles About Organic
- Five Easy Ways to Go Organic (NY Times 2007)
Organizations Relating to Organic Food
Author: Nick Enge
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