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"Conventional" farmers use synthetic or chemical methods to fertilize
soil, control weeds and insects, prevent livestock disease, and
enhance yields. These methods include many health and environmental
"Organic" farming has been widely accepted as a way of farming
without man-made chemicals, and with great respect for the health
of consumers, livestock, and the environment for current and future
Integral to the spirit of organic farming are the following principles:
- Improve the quality and fertility of the soil
- Protect water quality
- Conserve water (reduce irrigation waste)
- Provide ethical treatment of livestock with minimal stress conditions
- Reduce soil erosion
- Use natural biological systems for pest and weed control
- Reduce the impact of agriculture on our environment, use renewable
- Produce high quality, safe food and products
In 2002, many companies capitalized on the growing number of people
who were willing to pay more for organic, safe and ethically produced
The USDA (US Department of Agriculture) issued rules around the
use of the term "organic" because of widespread misuse by companies
trying to market their conventionally produced products as organic.
The USDA established a national definition of the term "organic"
which encompasses a set of standards that governs the production,
labeling, and marketing of organic foods.
For fruits, vegetables, grains and fibers, organic means
- Safe soil: No synthetic pesticides, herbicides and soil fumigants;
free of sewage sludge; no lead salts and potassium chloride, among
many other substances, for at least three years prior to the first
- No modification: GMOs, irradiation and additives are prohibited,
no biotechnology enhancements
- Separate storage: handlers, food processors and food manufacturers
must separate organic products from non-organic products and take
steps to ensure that organic foods don't come into contact with
forbidden chemicals or substances.
For meat, milk, eggs and other animal products, organic
means the following:
- Timing: animals must be raised organically
from the last third of gestation (for livestock) or no later than
the second day of life (for poultry).
- Organic feed: livestock feed products must
be 100 percent organically grown. Hormone- and antibiotic-free:
no growth hormones, no antibiotics (sick animals must be treated-but
if an animal has been treated with a prohibited medication, it
can't be labeled and sold as organic.)
- Outdoor access for animals that graze: Each
animal must have shade, shelter, fresh air, direct sunlight and
room to exercise appropriate for its species.
- No commingling: Organic animal products must
be separated from non-organic products. Organic animal products
must not come into contact with prohibited chemicals or substances.
- No genetic engineering
Organic farmers avoid toxic practices that are used by
conventional farmers by engaging in some of the following beneficial
- Crop-rotation: alternating the types of crops
grown in each field, which in turn prevents the depletion of soil.
Pests are managed this way by eliminating breeding grounds that
build up year after year with a continuous crop.
- Planting cover crops: clover, for example,
adds nutrients, prevents weeds and increases organic matter in
the soil; organic matter resists erosion and helps hold water
better, requiring less irrigation.
- Releasing beneficial insects: beneficial insects
prey on pests and eliminate the need for dangerous pesticides
that harm consumers and leach into the soil and water for years
- Composting manure: composting replenishes the
soil, helps it retain moisture and returns more nutrients to it.
- Preventing disease: by giving livestock good
nutrition, ample outdoor access and minimal stress, animals are
stronger and more resistant to disease, and the need for antibiotics
Room for improvement in the organic standards:
Currently, the organic standards are only regulated with regard
to food, not to cosmetics or personal care items; for instance,
a personal care company can market its "lavender body oil" as organic,
whether or not that is true.
"Access to outdoors" for livestock is not defined, and many large-scale
corporations are taking advantage of the ambiguity. Outdoors can
mean feed-lots, or not on pasture. Access can mean 5 minutes.
Many large scale companies are taking advantage of the livestock
timing windows with dairy cows; maintaining pregnant cows conventionally
up until the last 3rd of gestation will still legally result in
an organic calf, though its mother may have been subjected to toxic
Up to 5% pesticide residues are permitted in organic foods.
Beneficial methods not yet required by the current organic standards:
bio-dynamic farming, energy efficiency, regional or country of origin
labeling and social standards like fair wages for workers, family
farm-identification, and fair prices for the farmer.
Manufactures may use the term organic on labels as follows:
USDA Certified Organic: All of the product's content
is certified organic. Meets strict guidelines, set up by government
approved certifying associations, when grown, processed and handled.
These products may display the USDA Organic seal on the label.
100% organic: Product contains only organically
produced raw or processed ingredients, with the exception of water
Organic: 95% of the ingredients are organically
Made with organic ingredients: At least 70% of
the ingredients in the product are organic.
Which popular fruits and vegetables have the highest pesticide
The non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) reviewed the results
of nearly 51,000 tests for pesticides on produce collected by the
USDA and the FDA between 2000 and 2005. Based on this review, the
EWG came up with a list of the 12 popular fresh fruits and vegetables
that are consistently the most contaminated with pesticides, and
the 12 that consistently have the lowest levels of pesticides.
|Highest in Pesticides –
ONLY BUY ORGANIC!
- Bell Peppers
- Grapes (imported)
- Red raspberries
in Pesticides – ORGANIC BEST, BUT NOT NECESSARY
- Corn (sweet)
- Peas (sweet)
What are the advantages of organic?
Using organically produced products has many benefits including
- Higher nutritional value in organic produce:
Due to many decades of conventional farming, America's soil has
been stripped of vital minerals. This fact has been known since
1936 when Congress stated: "99% of the American people are deficient
in minerals... foods, fruits, vegetables, and grains now being
raised on millions of acres of land no longer contain enough certain
needed minerals and are starving us, no matter how much of them
we eat." Organic foods contain higher levels of vitamins and minerals,
because organically farmed soil maintains its richness in minerals
through the rotation of crops, and other farming practices that
allow the soil to regenerate and re-mineralize itself. This maintains
the nutritional content of the soil.
- Organic Produce Fights Cancer Better: Fruits
and vegetables grown organically show about 60% higher levels
of cancer-fighting antioxidants than conventionally grown foods,
according to research at University of California, Davis. The
research shows that pesticides and herbicides actually thwart
the production of phenolics chemicals that act as a plant's natural
defense and also happen to have potent antioxidant activity.
- Organic is Non-Toxic: The toxic burden our
bodies experience from pesticide exposure in conventional farming
may be responsible for many modern day diseases. When veteran
journalist Bill Moyers had his blood and urine tested as part
of a study of pollutant loads in the human body conducted by Mount
Sinai School of Medicine, 84 distinct chemicals were found-including
some that had been banned more than a quarter of a century before.
This toxic load is part of what cleansing seeks to eliminate from
- Organic Reduces Exposure to Organophosphates: Organophosphates
are persistent pesticides that remain in the environment and in
the human body for many years, and can be passed from mother to
child in the womb, as well as through breast milk. Most children
today are born with pesticide build-up in their bodies. In animal
studies organophosphate exposure has been linked to developmental
delays, behavioral disorders, and motor dysfunction.
- Organic means no-GMO: The true environmental
impact and long-term health effects of Genetic Modification of
crops (i.e., Genetically Modified Organisms, GMO) is not known.
Using certified 100 percent organic products is one way to keep
genetic engineering out of your food because the use of biotechnology
is not allowed in organic crops or livestock. It should be noted,
however, that because of the reality of occasional pollen drift
from conventional crops to organic ones, the USDA organic regulations
allow up to five percent of unavoidable, unintentional contamination
levels for certain prohibited substances, including GMOs, in organic
- Organic is More Ethical to Animals: The livestock
subjected to conventional farming methods are suffering tremendously.
It is difficult to grasp this concept because their suffering
is well hidden from the every-day awareness of grocery shoppers
and users of animal products. Buying certified organic animal
products helps protect livestock from horrendous conditions, though
there is still much room for improvement especially as organic
farming grows into large-scale mass productions.