In 2000 the USDA (US Dept. of Agriculture) established guidelines for organic certification. Under the USDA rules, growers of fruit, vegetables, meat and milk are forbidden from using synthetic pesticides or fertilizer in food production. Also forbidden is the use of genetic engineering, irradiation (process of exposure to radiation) or sewage sludge (fertilizer made from cleansed product of sewage treatment). To be certified organic, livestock must be fed nothing except for certified organic feed and can’t be given any growth hormone. Livestock must also be allowed to be outside in pasture at least a portion of the day.
Organic farmers can use organic pesticides. Most of these pesticides break down in one day, however. Supposedly, organic pesticides may be used by a farmer as a last resort when other methods have not worked. One organic farmer commented that with respect to farmer’s markets the growers often say they are spraying all natural pesticides on their crops but that when you get down to it they are using chemicals that are not allowed on organic farms. This farmer mentioned that one of the farmer’s market growers was using synthetic pesticides on all the crops. So, while there is a lot of recommendation to go to a farmer’s market to get local and organic farmed veggies and fruits, it ‘s going to be relatively important to get to know the farmer you buy from.
Let’s talk about labels.
If you see a label that says 100% Organic, it should mean that fruits, vegetables, meats, milk and cheese were grown 100% without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides and that 100% of its ingredients are organic. In the case of meat or milk it means that all the USDA stipulations concerning hormones, feed, and time spent outdoors were met. If the label says Organic then the meat or produce or multi ingredient food has at least 95% organic ingredients. If you see Made With Organic Ingredients it assures consumers that no less than 70 percent of the produce, milk, or meat was produced using organic ingredients. If you see Contains Organic Ingredients label then it means that less than 70% of ingredients are organic. Take note that it could be that the product has just one organic ingredient and can use this label.
The ‘free range’ label: This is used interchangeably with ‘cage free’. The USDA regulates the use of either term when it comes to poultry, but not to eggs, and there’s no clear definition of how much outdoor access animals should receive.
The “natural” label. Natural has no real meaning in any food other than meat and poultry, which can’t have any artificial coloring, chemical preservatives, or ingredients. Although meat and poultry are supposed to have only minimal processing, there’s no certification process that meat or poultry producers must comply with in order to place this term on their labels.
The USDA does not claim that these products are safer or more nutritious. There has been no conclusive evidence that organically grown food is more nutritious than conventionally grown food. The decision to buy all Organic or to buy only certain foods grown and labeled Organic lies with ourselves. There are many personal reasons for why people buy organic.
Essentially, the difference between organically labeled foods and non-organically labeled foods is how the food is produced, processed and handled. Note that Organic food may spoil sooner because they are not supposed to be treated with preservatives or waxes.
There are various reasons for why people buy organic, but one of the reasons is to reduce exposure to pesticide residue. Another reason is for the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution and conserve water and soil.
If you don’t know if you should buy organic or not consider getting the Dirty Dozen organic and/or getting the Clean 15 (lowest pesticides). http://www.foodnews.org/EWG-shoppers-guide-download-final.pdf
If you already do buy Organic, what are some of your reasons? Do you buy everything, most, or just some organic foods/products?