Let's focus on two questions that have been asked often in recent years since organic foods have taken off:
1. What is Organic Food?
"Organic" refers not to the food itself, but to how the food is produced. "Organically grown" means foods are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. They are minimally processed, many without added artificial ingredients, preservatives or irradiation. In short, organic food is grown as naturally as possible.
Organic also means that foods are produced without knowingly using genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a newer concern for many people (myself included). No organic farmer would knowingly purchase seeds that had been genetically modified. "Certified Organic" means that an independent organization (3rd party) has verified that the land where organic food is grown has been pesticide free for at least three years, and the farmers and processors are inspected annually to see that all their practices are being maintained.
The USDA has changed organic food laws, creating new standards for labeling. To use the term "Organic" on the front of the label (or to use the USDA Organic seal), the company must conform to the following standards:
- 100% Organic: 100% of ingredients in the product are organic
- Organic: 95-100% of ingredients in the product are organic
- Made with organic ingredients: 70-95% of the ingredients are organic
- If a product has less than 70% organic ingredients, it can identify the ingredients as organic in the ingredient list only, not on the front of the package
2. Why do people choose organic foods:
There is an increasing demand for organic food because consumers are beginning to understand the advantages that organic foods have over non-organic foods:
- Organic foods are safer. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60% of all herbicides, 90% of all fungicides and 30% of all insecticides to be potentially cancer causing. Organic foods do not contains a lot of, or any, harmful pesticide residues that may lead to cancer or other disease conditions.
- Organic foods are better for the environment. Synthetic pesticides or fertilizers diminish soil quality and leave residues in water and land. Organic farming strives to build and maintain healthy soil.
- Organic foods taste better. I know this may seem like an opinion, and it is, but usually is very true. Organic farmers are committed to getting the highest quality produce to the consumer. Most farmers who grow organic produce pick the fruit or vegetable when it is in the truly ripe stage, and as a result, at its peak in flavor.
- Organic foods are nutritionally superior. This, and the first, are the main reasons I've chosen to only eat organic produce. One study found a higher mineral content in organic produce. Another study found a decrease in nutrition content of conventionally grown produce compared to previous years. Because organic foods are grown in healthy soil, they often retain more nutrition that their non-organic counterparts.
This is just a basic overview of organic foods and why they're so important. Here's to healthy living =)