You are standing in the natural/ organic aisle staring at the endless products screaming their little advertising asses off at you and realizing what is this all about? How can I decipher what is good for my family and what isn’t?
Is organic and natural the same? Do I need to choose organic foods or will I be cheating my family? I am going to try to allay your fears a bit and tackle this subject so you feel confident in shopping for your family.
Ready let’s venture into the realm of organics and demystify it.
To start a little history
The organic movement started in the 1940s, surprised? This is when the use of chemicals started to become the norm in farming post World War II. The organic movement received a boost when Rachel Carson published her book Silent Spring which explored the loss of the songbird and the over use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. During the 60s and 70s the “Natural” movement took hold and organic food was only found in health food stores. However, it really didn’t become defined until the 80s and 90s. That’s when the USDA set their guidelines for organic plants and livestock.
Let’s begin with the basics
Organic foods cannot contain the following:
- Anything synthetic (No Fake, Fake, Fake)
- Certain non-synthetic products (Real but not so good)
- No ionizing radiation (No zapping allowed)
- No genetic engineering (Genetically modified organisms or GMOs)
- No synthetic fertilizers or pesticides (Natural pesticides can be used)
Organic foods can contain the following:
- Organic seedling
- Crop rotation to keep soil healthy and nutrient rich
Organic livestock must have the following:
- Ruminants have to receive 30% of feed from a pasture
- Certified organic feed the rest of the time
- Can be used for the health of the livestock:
- Vaccines, iodine and electrolytes (i.e. sodium and potassium)
Organic livestock must not have the following:
- No antibiotics (If an animal is sick the farmer will seek out alternatives first)
- No Growth hormones
Taking the pest out of pesticides
Pesticides can be used for organic plants
- Microbial: little microbes eat away at the invading organisms
- Plant: derived from the plants natural defenses.
- Non-toxic biochemical
Here’s why we need pesticides: pesticides protect the plant and us from various invaders including rodents, insects, weeds, mold, fungus and bacteria.
Pesticides used in organic farming are less harmful to us, plants, wildlife, (including insects) and are easy on the environment.
Just a note on pesticides. I grow an organic garden in my yard without any pesticides. This is not an easy task. Those buggers out number us and don’t have jobs so they have all the time in the world to eat my plants (Ok that is their job)…just sayin.
Oh Why Do We Have to Label Everything??
Here are the different labeling terms:
- 100% Organic– all ingredients and processing aids must be certified organic
- Organic– products can’t exceed a combined total of 5% of allowed non-organic content (excluding salt and water) Allowed baking soda, citric acid and enzymes
- Made with organic_ at least 70% of the product must be certified organic ingredients (excluding salt and water) remaining products don’t have to be organic, however, it can’t have the forbidden ingredients
- Made with less than 70% Organic- no USDA organic seal or the word “organic” on principal panel and must list organic ingredients as ‘organic’ ingredients
- All these designations cannot have ionizing, genetic engineering (GMOs) or sewage sludge (which begs the question when is it ok to use sewage sludge?)
Note: Farmers markets and/ or small mom and pop shops that make less than $5,000 annually don’t need to get an organic certification or verification. Good to know.
FYI: The term “Natural” is NOT regulated so it can be used for any reason. Sort of like the term “nutritionist” but that is for another post.
Great Info… but do I skip conventional produce and only eat organic???
Here is the bottom line
Choose organic when you can. If you can’t choose organic you can use (EWG) Environmental Working Groups’ Dirty Dozen™ here and Clean List™ here Consumer Reports also have a user-friendly guide here.
Both groups stress that the benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables out weighs the danger of exposure to pesticides. Cleaning and peeling will help to lower your exposure to pesticides but it does not remove all of it. Remember to wash conventional and organic produce.
EWG also recommends cooking leafy greens and hot peppers because cooking reduces the levels of pesticides.
Please let me know if this information helped in the comment below.
Hugs and Health
- Agricultural Marketing Services. National Organic Program. Available at http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/NOPOrganicStandards. Accessed on July 22, 2015
- Environmental Working Group. EWG’s 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Available at http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php. Accessed on July 26, 2015.
- All 48 Fruits and Vegetables with Pesticide Residue Data.. Available at http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php. Accessed on July 26, 2015
- Consumer Reports. Eat the Peach not the Pesticides. Available at http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/health/natural-health/pesticides/index.htm. Accessed on July 26, 2015.
- History of the Organic Movement. The Organic Institute. Available at http://theorganicsinstitute.com/organic/history-of-the-organic-movement/. Accessed on July 30, 2015.