Looking Underneath the Organic Food Market
The organic food sector is growing. Many studies and their findings show that our conventional food is contaminated with chemicals and herbicides, and that contamination leads to diseases, tumors, mental illnesses and major chronic problems. Organically grown crops are not just better for our health but for the quality of the soil that provides the nutrients to our food.
What Is Considered Organic?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program has strict guidelines for becoming certified as an organic producer. Basically, produce grown without using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or ionizing radiation can be certified as organic. In animal products, the meat, dairy and eggs are produced without using growth hormones or antibiotics. Also taken into consideration are the protection of natural resources, biodiversity conservation and only using approved substances. This means a lot of testing for adherence to the guidelines, not to mention checking soil, water, contamination from neighboring fields and constant monitoring to approve products and get that seal from the USDA.
Is Organic Food Safer and More Nutritious?
The Mayo Clinic confirms that evidence continues to show the potential benefits to health of organic compared to conventionally grown foods. Moderate increases in nutrients, higher levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, lower toxic cadmium levels in grains and lower levels of residue from pesticides are some of the noticeable differences that contribute to overall health. Without additives, preservatives and GMOs, it stands to reason that food grown organically is safer, but the difference in nutritional value is very difficult to prove. Too many variables affecting nutrients in seeds, harvesting, handling and type of soil make research unreliable. However, peer-reviewed journals are finding higher nutritional values. An example in one study shows organic tomatoes having higher levels of phytochemicals and vitamin C than conventionally grown ones. It doesn’t mean organic labelling is healthy eating. Additives to so-called organic items like snacks, cakes and pre-packaged food can be detrimental to our health. Read the labels.
Why Does Organic Food Cost More?
Due to the time-intensive processes that smaller organic farms use and the diligent care that is needed, prices are typically higher. Federal subsidies are not given to organic farmers as they are to large, conventional farms. Environmental cleanup, that sometimes takes years, isn’t reflected in conventional growing. Also, the stringent guidelines, checked often, takes more management. There are ways to get organic food and stick to a budget. The larger stores are starting to stock more and that brings the prices down. Things like breads, cereals and grains that are labeled organic are relatively the same price as conventional. Shopping around, cooking more at home and buying frozen or in bulk can save money as well. Another option becoming popular are low carb meal plans. Boxes of organic produce are specifically made up for a particular meal containing all the ingredients so no shopping is needed.
What’s So Good About Organic?
It’s not just about the food we eat. The most overlooked topic is underneath the food we grow. The soil has been over-processed and isn’t given time to build up nutrients. The chemicals used to kill weeds and bugs goes into the soil and into the food we eat. The wind carries these sprays into other fields and contaminates perfectly healthy soil. Animal welfare is important for a delicious, bacteria and hormone-free piece of meat or fish. Caring for the environment and making crops sustainable will provide sustenance for our future generations.
Providing for our children and their children should be a priority. Helping sustain the small farmer who is doing everything he/she can to grow healthier, tastier and more organic food seems like a dream. The more demand for quality produce, the lower the prices. All these things contribute to viewing organic produce as the better alternative.