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The benefits of organic food

Any discussion of the benefits of organic food has to start with a definition of what organic food is. In the U.S., there are specific requirements about what certified organic means. These restrictions are vague and labeling requirements are certainly not as stringent as you'd think. Organic food benefits are many for truly organic food. Finding an organic food source that meets YOUR expectations for what organic is can be as simple as heading down to the local farmer's market.

Eating organic has important benefits because of the production practices of organic farmers. Organic food benefits include edibles that are free from pesticides, herbicides, and genetic modification, and in the case of livestock and poultry, no antibiotics or growth hormones, and the organic food must not be irradiated or grown in inhumane conditions. So when you're grocery shopping, how can you be sure you're reaping the benefits of organic food?

The labeling of organic food products can be misleading (as are most food labels these days). From the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website, here are the basics of what those labels mean:

  • 100% Organic - Products that contain only products raised and processed organically. (Water and salt excluded) Generally, these are single ingredient items.
  • Organic Must contain 95% or more organically grown components
  • Made with Organic Ingredients 70% or more of the product's components will be organic and individual organic ingredients must be itemized on the label as such.
  • Contains Organic Ingredients Less than 70% of the product is organic.

The USDA seal can only be placed on food labels of 100% Organic or Organic products.

Farmer's Market vendors that sell less than $5000 annually are exempted from USDA inspection. In the case of local growers, asking questions is the best way to find out how the farmer grows. In my experience, farmers are honest and willing to talk about how they raise their produce and livestock.

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Why Organic Food is Better

The following features of organic food are what suggest the benefits of organic food:

  • No Pesticides Pesticides have been linked to cancer and other diseases and pollute the air, soil, and groundwater. Beneficial plants and animals are destroyed alongside pests. If it kills an animal, chances are, it's not good for you.
  • No Herbicides Herbicides are also potent chemicals that can be avoided by eating organic.
  • No Genetic Modification the verdict is out on whether GMO products have negative affects on the people or animals that consume them. The know problem with GMO products is that they contaminate the gene pool, cross-pollinating with non GMO products. This will eventually lead to the loss of many nature designed foods to the advent of scientist designed foods.
  • No Irradiation There are no current verified links to irradiated food and radiation passing to the consumer. Irradiating food is justified by the fact that it eliminates the need for most chemical pesticides.
  • No Antibiotics Animals raised in poor conditions are often given a steady diet of antibiotics to keep them healthy until the slaughter. With a growing build up of resistance for antibiotics, the better solution is not to raise animals in awful conditions.
  • No Growth Hormones Meat animals are often given growth hormones to increase the rate they grow, thereby lessening the time to slaughter. Also, growth hormones result in a larger animal that will result in greater poundage from each animal. Animals suffer from growing so quickly and I'm hesitant to believe animal growth hormones don't affect the consumer.
  • Humane Conditions Animals raised organically have the benefit of living in more human conditions than those on feedlots or on battery farms. Their circumstances, even being organically raised, may not be ideal, but they are an improvement, nonetheless.
  • Sustainable Practices Growers are to use sustainable growing practices like cover crops, water preservation and soil improvement without chemicals. This is good for the dirt, good for the produce and good for us.

As you can see, there are many benefits of organic food. I encourage you to read your labels carefully. Buy from local organic farmers when you can, and keep in mind that many farmers cannot afford the fees incurred from being certified organic. Certified Natural certification is an alternative to the organic certification program in an effort to have farmers police and support each other in their organic growing practices.

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Posted in Agro Food Post Date 08/14/2015


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