Eating Organic – Our Health is Our Wealth

Organic is defined as (of food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents.

Once upon a time, organic foods were found only in health food stores. Now, organic food is a common feature at most grocery stores. Unfortunately, this has made a bit of a problem in the produce aisle.

For example, you can pick an apple grown with usual (conventional) methods, or you can pick one that is organic. Both apples are firm, shiny and red. They both provide vitamins and fiber. Which should you choose? Get the facts before you shop.

Why Organic?

Thanks to Only Organic for providing us with the information below:

1.     Only organic guarantees…

Organic is the most heavily regulated food system in the U.S. Only organic guarantees no toxic persistent pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or GMOs are used in production, and no antibiotics or growth hormones are given to livestock. Organic producers and processors are subject to rigorous announced – and unannounced – certification inspections by third-party inspectors to ensure that they are producing and processing organic products in a manner you and your family can trust.

2.     More nutritious

Recent studies have found that organic fruits, vegetables and grains have more antioxidants, fewer nitrates and cadmium and fewer pesticide residues than non-organic crops, making them more nutritious.

3.     Helps combat climate change

Organic farming practices help maintain of our soil. Healthy soil naturally retains photosynthesized carbon dioxide instead of releasing it back into the atmosphere.  This quality helps combat climate change.

4.     Fewer pesticides

Organic food must be grown without the use of persistent pesticides.  Eating organic food is one of the best ways to reduce your exposure to these toxic chemicals.

5.     GMO-free

The best way to ensure your food is GMO-free is to buy organic. GMOs are prohibited from the production and processing of organic foods.

6.     Fewer synthetic fertilizers

Organic farmers are prohibited from using most synthetic fertilizers. They maintain the health of their soil by using manure, compost and other organic material. Up to 40 percent of the synthetic fertilizers used on conventional farms end up in ground and surface waters, eventually polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans.

7.     No sewage sludge

Many conventional farmers spread sewage sludge as fertilizer on their fields. Sewage sludge includes anything that is flushed, poured or dumped into the waste water system.  Organic farmers are prohibited from using sewage sludge on their fields.

8.     Antibiotic-free meat

The overuse of antibiotics to foster growth in conventional livestock production has contributed to development of antibiotic-resistant strains of some dangerous microbes. Organic farmers can only treat livestock with antibiotics as a last resort for sick animals and the animals that receive antibiotic treatment lose their organic certification. This helps preserve the effectiveness of vital antibiotics for humans.

9.     Hormone-free meat

Conventional farmers give cows growth hormones briefly to boost milk output. These hormones can impair fertility in cows and lead to visibly abnormal milk and hoof disorders.  Milk from hormone-treated cows has been linked to increased risk of cancer in humans.

10.  Humane animal treatment

Organic famers and ranchers must accommodate the natural behavior of their livestock and meet health and wellness requirements, including year-round access to the outdoors, space for exercise, clean and dry bedding, clean water, shelter, and direct sunlight.

Organic Practices

Organic Farming

Organic farmers grow and process foods by following guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure sustainable practices and animal welfare. Some common organic strategies and tactics:

Soil: Organic farmers maintain the health of their soil by using manure or compost and other organic material instead of synthetic fertilizers. Biological fertilizers like compost, release nutrients slowly, build up organic soil matter, increase the capacity of soil to retain moisture and reduce leaching of nitrates into groundwater. Up to 40 percent of synthetic fertilizers used on conventional farms end up in ground and surface waters, eventually polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Beneficial insects: Some organic farmers introduce beneficial insects such as ladybugs, soldier beetles, green lacewings, big-eyed bugs and beneficial nematodes that eat harmful insects.

Crop rotation: Organic farmers often do not grow the same crop on the same field year after year. Crop rotation naturally replenishes the soil because as different plants contribute varying nutrients to the soil.  Disrupting the habitats of insect pests and weeds helps control them.

Buffers: Organic farmers designate the edges of their land as buffer zones.  This means the land is managed in accord with organic practices, but the crops grown on them aren’t sold as organic because some plants in the buffer may have been exposed to genetically engineered crops or chemicals used in conventional agriculture but barred for organic farms.

Cover Crops: Cover crops such as clover, rye, and wheat are planted between growing seasons to help replenish the soil with nutrients and prevent soil erosion. They also help maintain populations of beneficial insects. Cover crops can control weeds by smothering and shading them and outcompeting them for nutrients.

Organic Livestock Requirements

Organic farmers and ranchers must accommodate the natural behavior of their livestock and meet health and wellness requirements.  These requirements include:

  • Year-round access to the outdoors
  • Space for exercise
  • Fresh air
  • Shade
  • Clean and dry bedding
  • Clean drinking water
  • Shelter
  • Direct sunlight

Feed and Grazing: Organic livestock must be fed 100 percent certified organic feed, with an exception for trace minerals and vitamins necessary to meet the animal’s nutritional requirements. The land and pasture on which organic livestock are raised  must be certified organic and meet all organic crop production standards. Organic ruminant livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats, must have free access to certified organic pasture for the entire grazing season. Grazing seasons are specific to the farm’s geographical climate and range from 120 to 365 days per year.

Disease prevention and treatment: Organic farmers aren’t allowed to use drugs routinely to prevent diseases and parasites. Instead they rely on animal selection and management practices. A few synthetic substances such as pain medication and dewormers can be used to treat organic livestock if preventive strategies have failed. In extreme cases, when both preventative measures and treatment with approved substances has failed, the animal must be given the appropriate treatment with prohibited substances such as antibiotics. However, after such treatment, the animal and/or its products cannot be sold as organic.

Organic or Not? Check The Label

According to Mayo Clinic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set up an organic certification program that requires all organic food to meet strict government standards. These standards control how such food is grown, handled and processed.

Any product labeled as organic on the product description or packaging must be USDA certified. If it’s certified, the producer may also use an official USDA Organic seal.

The USDA says producers who sell less than $5,000 a year in organic food don’t need to be certified. These producers must follow the guidelines for organic food production. But they don’t need to go through the certification process. They can label their products as organic. But they can’t use the official USDA Organic seal.

The USDA guidelines describe organic foods on product labels as:

  • 100% organic. This label is used on certified organic fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat or other foods that have one ingredient. It may also be used on food items with many ingredients if all the items are certified organic, except for salt and water. These may have a USDA seal.
  • Organic. If a food with many ingredients is labeled organic, at least 95% of the ingredients are certified organic, except for salt and water. The items that aren’t organic must be from a USDA list of approved additional ingredients. These also may have a USDA seal.
  • Made with organic. If a product with many ingredients has at least 70% certified organic ingredients, it may have a “made with organic” ingredients label. For example, a breakfast cereal might be labeled “made with organic oats.” The ingredient list must show what items are organic. These products can’t carry a USDA seal.
  • Organic ingredients. If a product has some organic ingredients but less than 70% of the ingredients are certified organic , the product can’t be labeled as organic. It also can’t carry a USDA seal. The ingredient list can show which ingredients are organic.

Organic food: Is it Safer and / or More Nutritious?

Some data shows possible health benefits of organic foods when compared with foods grown using the usual (conventional) process. These studies have shown differences in the food. But there is limited information to prove how these differences can give potential overall health benefits.

Potential benefits include the following:

  • Nutrients. Studies have shown small to moderate increases in some nutrients in organic produce. Organic produce may have more of certain antioxidants and types of flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. The feeding requirements for organic farm animals (livestock) usually cause higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These include feeding cattle grass and alfalfa. Omega-3 fatty acids — a kind of fat — are more heart healthy than other fats. These higher omega-3 fatty acids are found in organic meats, dairy and eggs.
  • Toxic metal. Cadmium is a toxic chemical naturally found in soils and absorbed by plants. Studies have shown much lower cadmium levels in organic grains, but not fruits and vegetables, when compared with crops grown using usual (conventional) methods. The lower cadmium levels in organic grains may be related to the ban on synthetic fertilizers in organic farming.
  • Pesticide residue. Compared with produce grown using usual (conventional) methods, organically grown produce has lower levels of pesticide residue. The safety rules for the highest levels of residue allowed on conventional produce have changed. In many cases, the levels have been lowered. Organic produce may have residue because of pesticides approved for organic farming or because of airborne pesticides from conventional farms.
  • Bacteria. Meats produced using usual (conventional) methods may have higher amounts of dangerous types of bacteria that may not be able to be treated with antibiotics. The overall risk of contamination of organic foods with bacteria is the same as conventional foods.

Cons to Buying Organic

One common concern with organic food is cost. Organic foods often cost more than similar foods grown using usual (conventional) methods. Higher prices are due, in part, to more costly ways of farming.

Food safety tips

Whether you go totally organic or choose to mix conventional and organic foods, keep these tips in mind:

  • Choose a variety of foods from a mix of sources. You’ll get a better variety of nutrients and lower your chance of exposure to a single pesticide.
  • Buy fruits and vegetables in season when you can. To get the freshest produce, ask your grocer what is in season. Or buy food from your local farmers market.
  • Read food labels carefully. Just because a product says it’s organic or has organic ingredients doesn’t mean it’s a healthier choice. Some organic products may still be high in sugar, salt, fat or calories.
  • Wash and scrub fresh fruits and vegetables well under running water. Washing helps remove dirt, germs and chemical traces from fruit and vegetable surfaces. But you can’t remove all pesticide traces by washing. Throwing away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables can lessen contaminants. Peeling fruits and vegetables can remove contaminants but may also cut nutrients.


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