Organic this. Organic that. These days it seems like there is a version of everything with an organic label slapped on! Whether you have forgotten why you started buying organic, or are considering swapping out your processed products, it’s about time we nailed down the benefits!
Warning: after this enlightenment you probably will feel a strong sense of duty to spread the word and get your friends to drink the Kool-aid. Don’t worry, we have the organic kind!
The Benefits Of Buying Organic
Just look up and down your grocery store aisle-ways. In a matter of a few years it seems the majority of foods now have an organic alternative. Even Wal-Mart has jumped on the band-wagon. While organic certainly does cost more, does the “organic” designation live up to the hype and the extra dollars?
First let’s take a look first at some of the advantages…
You know what your getting
Prior to the passage of the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990 and the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) in 2002, concerned consumers were left largely on their own to decide which products were made using standard organic farming practices. Misleading claims, lax oversight and abuse were common in the food industry.
With these federal standards, use of certain terms in the sales of consumable food products was regulated to give consumer some guidance. While we at GreenSceneGal think that these standards are far from perfect, at least consumers can be somewhat assured that the food they’re buying meet a higher standard. The USDA assigns it’s certification according to three levels:
- 100% Organic: To receive the highest designation, the entire supply chain of a product or must meet USDA standards including seed, soil, pest and weed management, water systems, contamination and record keeping. Farms or growers must re-up their certification through periodic on-site inspections.
- USDA Organic: If you see a “USDA Organic” or “Certified Organic” seal on your food products you can have some reasonable certainty that 95% or more of the contents or ingredients are free of synthetic additive like Chemical Fertilizers, dyes and pesticides.
- Made with Organic Ingredients: To use this wording, the product must contain more that 70% certified organic ingredients and the USDA seal can’t be used anywhere on the packaging.
Heck no, GMOs!
GMOs are organisms whose genetic makeup has been altered to help it resist elements and chemicals like pesticides and herbicides. While the debate is still out on any direct health issues from the consumption of GMOs, the environmental impacts are huge. With more than 80% of all GMOs worldwide modified for herbicide tolerance, the use of Roundup (the industry’s #1 herbicide) has increased over 16 times between 1996 and 2011. While it’s great at killing weeds, Roundup’s main ingredient glyphosate has now been linked to a long list chronic ipesses, including cancer.
While it’s legal to grow GMOs in the United States, a number of forward thinking countries have banned it outright. However if you’re an American – like me – make sure that the you’re buying is “100% Certified Organic” or “USDA Organic Certified”. These certifications ensures free of any GMOs or Genetically Modified Organisms.
Animal Health & Welfare
If it has the USDA Organic label, by law, those farmers are required to abide by certain animal-friendly standards. Like raising the animals with organic feed that isn’t chalk full of GMOs, growth hormones, and antibiotics.
Additionally USDA guidelines for livestock require humane treatment of animals including the freedom to roam and breathe fresh air for 30% of their day.
Organic agriculture is not only good for your body, its good for the environment. It seems like a stretch to say that organic farming is eco-friendly, but that doesn’t mean it is a lie. We all know pollution is a big problem. Conventional farms use toxic chemicals to protect and grow their crops.
These chemicals leak into water, poison our drinking supply, and can even affect animal life and precious ecosystems. Organic farms do not kill surrounding wildlife with pesticides. They keep soil fertile, conserve their water, and even use less energy.
Farmers that grow organic produce are prohibited from dangerous synthetic chemicals for fertilizers. The fertilizers (often manure) are natural, and the pest control methods, and weed removal should be based on naturally processed . By using methods like crop rotation and non-chemical rodent traps, happy plants grow healthy fruit.
While there isn’t a great deal of scientific evidence proving that organic products and food are healthier for you, evidence that suggests they are is hard to ignore. While we may be talking mild percentages here, there are a few cases proving that organic food contains more nutrients than conventionally grown products.
How About the Downsides To Organic?
Buying organic food isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are some drawback to purchasing organic…
As a smart consumer on a budget it can be particularly difficult to justify the price premium of buying organic. Organic produce does cost more – that’s a fact.
Organic farms that generally need to jump through more hoops to keep their certification and can’t take as many shortcuts as their conventional competitors. Shortcuts like pesticide and herbicides for example, to turnover a healthy yield.
Some organic food can spoil faster
Without preservatives, spoilage is typically higher with organic foods. But I’m a glass-half-full kinda gal and think that this could, however, be a good thing. Since exclusively buying organic I’ve found myself simply changing habits and getting used to purchasing smaller portions of organic perishables rather than bulk shopping.
I don’t throw out as much and I pay way more attention to storage, preparation, and consumption since it tastes so much much better.
While everyone needs to make their own decisions, shelling out a little more money for organic produce is definitely justified in our family. While the health benefits aren’t conclusive, the long term effects of antibiotics and pesticides definitely give us pause. On top of that, the negative environmental impact and animal treatment practices of conventional farming practices are not what I want to be supporting as a knowledgeable “Green Gal”.
Thanks again for reading…