It’s a new year! So I figured it’s best that we start off on the right foot regarding organics. At this point, most of you know what that oh so convoluted term means but just to clarify, let me give it to you straight up!
As per wonderful Wikepedia, foods claiming to be organic must be free of artificial food additives like sweeteners, flavors and preservatives, and are often processed with fewer artificial methods, materials and conditions, such as chemical ripening, food irradiation, and genetically modified ingredients. Pesticides are allowed as long as they are not synthetic.
In addition, if livestock are involved, they must be raised humanely with regular access to pasture and without the common use of antibiotics or growth hormones. And their feed must be organic!
Seems pretty straight forward, right? Well, think again. In 2000, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) rolled out its “organic” guidelines. And, here they are:
Can only contain organic ingredients, meaning no antibiotics, hormones, genetic engineering, radiation or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers can be used. Can display the USDA organic logo and/or the specific certifying agent's logo (the USDA hires independent organic certifiers).
Contains 95% organic ingredients, with the balance coming from ingredients on the approved National List. These products can also display the USDA organic logo and/or the certifier's logo.
"Made with Organic Ingredients"
Must be made with at least 70% organic ingredients, three of which must be listed on the package, and the balance must be on the National List. These products may display the certifier's logo but not the USDA organic logo.
Bottom line, even if a product has the USDA organic label, it DOES NOT mean that your food is 100% organic. But I guess the real question is this:
DOES EATING ORGANIC REALLY MATTER???
Well, in September 2012 a controversial Stanford University study concluded that there was no strong evidence to prove that organic foods are more nutritious than or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives. Though, consumption can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure. I am sorry, but don’t you think that “reducing the risk of pesticide exposure” is enough to say that organic is truly healthier? I would have to say YES!
That being said, I don’t eat 100% organic. Don’t get me wrong if I could buy 100% organic I would across the board. I relish in farmer’s markets and health food stores. I like to buy my meats (those that I eat) from farms. I like to buy my fish from my local fisherman. But, THAT is just NOT my reality all the time. And quite honestly it is not many people’s reality. So this is what I do:
- I buy fruits and vegetables with The Dirty Dozen in mind—a glorious guide to pesticides in our produce. So, take strawberries for example, they have a high level of pesticide residues and my kids LOVE strawberries. So, when it comes to those robust bursts of red, I go organic.
- While I can’t foot the bill for organic animal foods across the board, I ALWAYS buy organic dairy (though an organic version of some cheeses are hard to come by) and when it comes to those meats that we eat, I aim for organic but if it is not an option, I ALWAYS go for the antibiotic and hormone free, vegetarian fed and humanely raised option like Murray’s.
- When it comes to packaged foods, I aim for organic, whether wholly or partially, but I am ideally hyper-concerned with what ingredients in my food are genetically modified—there are just too many reasons to be wary of GMO’s. And to help me along the way, I typically turn to the Non-GMO Project’s verification system so I can stay clear of those foods containing ingredients that are genetically modified (FYI, corn and soy are at the top of the list and get into most of our food products in some way, shape or form).
So, ideally I encourage consumption of organic food, but if you can’t, try what I do or some version of it. In the end, we are what we eat!
Let’s keep this conversation going. Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions. I would love to hear from you!