Thursday, September 11, 2014

Buying (and eating) 'ORGANIC' - is it WORTH it?

The idea of Organic farming is a noble and worthy one, as is choosing to buy Organic food.  It is more than just a liberal, hipster, environmental-activist fad.  Organic means such farmers and the consumers who buy from them, are trying to do a better job of sustaining our planet and its limited resources, minimizing their environmental impact, as well as treating farm animals as humanely as reasonable, all while hopefully producing safer and tastier food.  When you choose to buy Organic you are making an ethical decision just as much as you are a health-conscious decision.  Honestly it is easier to make the case to buy Organic based on ethical and environmental reasons more so than for nutrition or taste reasoning, because the jury is still out on the latter.

Organic’ labeling is thankfully regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), so if you see a food labeled Organic accompanied by this official USDA ‘Organic’ Seal,  then you can trust it is certified organic.  (*If the USDA seal is not clearly visible on the front of the label then it is not certified Organic or held to any such regulated standards or inspections, even if the product claims to be organic!*)  But what does this certification mean exactly and what are the USDA standards if any?  And does the Organic label really mean the food is any safer or healthier?  The USDA defines certified ‘Organic’ to mean: food production using methods that preserve the environment and avoid most synthetic materials, such as pesticides and antibiotics.  Organic principles were first set forth and legislated by Congress contained in the Organic Foods Production Act.
Organic farms and processors are required to, (via
1.      Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
2.      Support animal health and welfare
3.      Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviours
4.      Only use approved materials
5.      Do not used genetically modified ingredients
6.      Receive annual onsite inspections
7.      Separate organic food from non-organic food