Why Organic

What do you mean by “organic”?

Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.

The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows:

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.

Some organic practices

Crop rotation. Alternating the types of crops grown in each field prevents soil depletion. It also controls pests by eliminating pest breeding grounds built year after year with a continuous crop

Planting cover crops, such as clover, adds nutrients to the soil, prevents weeds and increases organic matter in the soil. Soil with high organic matter resists erosion and holds water better, requiring less irrigation. Studies have shown that organic crops fare better than non-organic crops in times of drought and stress

Releasing beneficial insects that prey on pests helps to eliminate the need for chemical insecticides

Adding composted manure and plant wastes helps the soil retain moisture and nutrients. Just as falling leaves return nutrients to forest soil, composting replenishes the soil. Preventing animal illness through good nutrition and low-stress living conditions are keys to successful organic livestock farming.

Why should I buy organic food?back to top

1. Nutrient density.

Organic farmers nourish the soil that feeds our food. Research shows that organically- produced foods are higher in antioxidants and other nutrients than their conventional counterparts.

2. No persistent pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

Designed by intent to kill living organisms, persistent pesticides can be harmful to wildlife and human health, especially as they contaminate our food, air and water or accumulate in our cells. Synthetic fertilizers require large quantities of fossil fuels to produce, and contribute to soil degradation and ocean dead zones.

3. No synthetic growth or breeding hormones

Avoiding synthetic hormones (which are frequently given to conventional dairy and meat animals to alter reproductive cycles and speed up growth) means less stress for animals, and reduced human exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

4. No antibiotics.

Overuse of antibiotics in farm animals leads to the development of dangerous antibiotic- resistant infections. Organic farmers instead rely on natural measures to promote and maintain animal health.

5. No GMOs.

Genetically engineered crops are a relatively recent technology with potentially devastating impacts on ecosystems and human and animal health. Organic regulations forbid the use of genetically engineered seeds or animals (including clones).

6. Animal care.

Organic philosophy means raising animals in harmony with nature. Quality animal care keeps animals healthy and productive, naturally.

What’s synthetic pesticide? back to top

A synthetic pesticide is a poisonous chemical or mixture of chemicals that is intended to prevent, repel, or kill any pest. In agriculture, pesticides are used to kill insects, weeds, or fungi. However, synthetic pesticides present hazardous impacts far beyond their intended targets.


Synthetic pesticides evolved from the chemicals like mustard gas and nerve poison developed for chemical warfare in World Wars I and II. Seeking an outlet for their toxic chemicals after the war, manufacturers touted them as a way to control insects, fungi, bacteria, plants and other undesirable creatures (ie, "pests").

These new products provided some short term benefits, but came with many unintended consequences. Pests rapidly gained resistance to the chemicals, making them even more difficult to control than before. Also, pesticides killed many non-target organisms beyond pests; as their use increased, biologists noticed dramatic declines of beneficial insects and other animals. We continue to find ways synthetic pesticides are also toxic or carcinogenic to humans.

Synthetic Pesticides = Poisons

Pesticides have inherent toxicity because they are designed to kill living organisms that are considered "pests." Many pesticides are known to pose significant, acknowledged health risks to people—including birth defects, damage to the nervous system; disruption of hormones and endocrine systems; respiratory disorders; skin and eye irritations; and various types of cancers.

• Exposure to persistent organic pollutants through diet has been linked to breast and other types of cancer, immune system suppression, nervous system disorders, reproductive damage, and disruption of hormonal systems.

• Male Reproductive Development: Hormone-disrupting chemicals in commercial pesticides have been linked to testicular cancer and low sperm counts in men, and to birth defects in baby boys.

• Public health costs associated with pesticide-related acute poisonings and cancer alone, add up to an estimated $1.1 billion dollars per year.

• Parkinson's disease has been linked to pesticide exposure.

Impacts on Children

Pesticide exposure poses special concerns for children because of their high metabolisms and low body weights.

• More than 1 million children between the ages of 1 and 5 ingest at least 15 pesticides every day from fruits and vegetables.
• More than 600,000 of these children eat a dose of organophosphate insecticides that the federal government considers unsafe.
• 61,000 eat doses that exceed "unsafe" levels by a factor of 10 or more.

Prenatal Exposure

Most babies today are born with persistent pesticides and other chemicals already in their bodies, passed from mother to child during fetal development. 21 different pesticides have been found in umbilical cord blood, suggesting tremendous potential damage at a critical developmental time. Since a baby's organs and systems are rapidly developing, they are often more vulnerable to damage from chemical exposure. The immature, porous blood-brain barrier allows greater chemical exposures to the developing brain.

Early and pervasive chemical exposures are suspected in the sharp rise of health problems including autism, obesity, asthma, brain cancer and certain other childhood cancers. Organic farmers do not use synthetic chemical pesticides.

USDA National Organic Program (NOP) regulations and other major international organic certifying agencies strictly prohibit the use of synthetic chemical pesticides. Organic growers use biological and cultural practices to handle pests, including crop rotation, the selection of resistant varieties, nutrient and water management, the provision of habitat for the natural enemies of pests, and release of beneficial organisms to protect crops from damage. Organic farmers may use natural pesticides from a list approved by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

Choosing organic foods significantly reduces your exposure to pesticides.

Multiple studies have shown that organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to pesticides. One University of Washington study analyzed urine from children ages 3 – 11 for organ phosphorus (OP) pesticides and found that children consuming conventional foods had concentrations in their bodies that were on average nine times the EPA-established safe level for human health. When the children’s conventional foods were replaced with organic equivalents, their organophosphate levels dropped significantly. When the children resumed a conventional diet, the chemical concentrations in their bodies went back up to original levels. Scientists concluded that, "An organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposures to organ phosphorus pesticides that are commonly used in agricultural production

How to check if something is organic

There are many different government managed agencies in the world which have their own standards of labeling products as organic.

The USDA world’s leading authority on organic food culture has identified for three categories of labeling organic products:

100% Organic: Made with 100% organic ingredients
Organic: Made with at least 95% organic ingredients

Made With Organic Ingredients: Made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms)

Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.

Is organic food better than conventional food? back to top

At this time, there is no definitive research that makes this claim. It is extremely difficult to conduct studies that would control the many variables that might affect nutrients, such as seeds, soil type, climate, postharvest handling, and crop variety.

However, some recently published studies in peer-reviewed journals have shown organic foods to have higher nutritional value.

Ever tasted a real tree-ripened peach, or a garden-fresh ripe red tomato? If so you'll appreciate that food tastes better when it's grown in its own time. Organically raised animals grow at their own natural pace, without artificial growth hormones. This means less animal stress and better tasting food! Clean water, quality feed, fresh air, healthy pastures, and nutrient-rich soil all contribute to the superior taste of organically grown food.

The connection between flavor and nutrition is clear to us, since a number of organically produced foods have also been shown to have superior nutritional value. Milk from pasture- raised organic cows, for example, has recently been shown to have significantly higher levels of vitamin E, Omega 3 essential fatty acids, beta carotene and other antioxidants [1] than milk from conventional cows raised in confinement. Locally produced foods also tend to be fresher, and are therefore more likely to contain more living nutrients. For example, researchers at the University of California, Davis, recently found that organic tomatoes had higher levels of phytochemicals and vitamin C than conventional tomatoes.

Healthy Lifestyle

If healthy living depends on knowing your body, then knowing what you eat and where it comes from is of equal importance. For several decades, industrialized production and mass marketing of foods have made it increasingly difficult for consumers to maintain or understand a connection with the source of their foods.

Does organic food taste better?
Taste is definitely an individual matter, but hundreds of gourmet chefs across the nation are choosing organic food to prepare because they believe it has superior taste and quality. An increasing number of consumers are also of the opinion that organic food tastes better. Because organic food is grown in well-balanced soil, it makes sense that these healthy plants have a great taste.

Why support organic farming? back to top

1. Reduce the Toxic Load: Keep Chemicals Out of the Air, Water, Soil and our Bodies

Buying organic food promotes a less toxic environment for all living things. With only 0.5 percent of crop and pasture land in organic, according to USDA that leaves 99.5 percent of farm acres in the U.S. at risk of exposure to noxious agricultural chemicals.

Our bodies are the environment so supporting organic agriculture doesn’t just benefit your family; it helps all families live less toxically.

2. Reduce if Not Eliminate Off Farm Pollution

Industrial agriculture doesn’t singularly pollute farmland and farm workers; it also wreaks havoc on the environment downstream. Pesticide drift affects non-farm communities with odorless and invisible poisons. Synthetic fertilizer drifting downstream is the main culprit for dead zones in delicate ocean environments, such as the Gulf of Mexico, where its dead zone is now larger than 22,000 square kilometers, an area larger than New Jersey, according to Science magazine, August, 2002.

3. Protect Future Generations

Before a mother first nurses her newborn, the toxic risk from pesticides has already begun. Studies show that infants are exposed to hundreds of harmful chemicals in utero. In fact, our nation is now reaping the results of four generations of exposure to agricultural and industrial chemicals, whose safety was deemed on adult tolerance levels, not on children’s. According to the National Academy of Science, “neurologic and behavioral effects may result from low-level exposure to pesticides.” Numerous studies show that pesticides can adversely affect the nervous system, increase the risk of cancer, and decrease fertility.

4. Build Healthy Soil

Mono-cropping and chemical fertilizer dependency has taken a toll with a loss of top soil estimated at a cost of $40 billion per year in the U.S., according to David Pimental of Cornell University. Add to this an equally disturbing loss of micro nutrients and minerals in fruits and vegetables. Feeding the soil with organic matter instead of ammonia and other synthetic fertilizers has proven to increase nutrients in produce, with higher levels of vitamins and minerals found in organic food, according to the 2005 study, “Elevating Antioxidant levels in food through organic farming and food processing,” Organic Center State of Science Review (1.05)

5. Taste Better and Truer Flavor

Scientists now know what we eaters have known all along: organic food often tastes better. It makes sense that strawberries taste yummier when raised in harmony with nature, but researchers at Washington State University just proved this as fact in lab taste trials where the organic berries were consistently judged as sweeter. Plus, new research verifies that some organic produce is often lower in nitrates and higher in antioxidants than conventional food. Let the organic feasting begin!

6. Assist Family Farmers of all Sizes

According to Organic Farming Research Foundation, as of 2006 there are approximately 10,000 certified organic producers in the U.S. compared to 2500 to 3,000 tracked in 1994. Measured against the two million farms estimated in the U.S. today, organic is still tiny. Family farms that are certified organic farms have a double economic benefit: they are profitable and they farm in harmony with their surrounding environment. Whether the farm is a 4-acre orchard or a 4,000-acre wheat farm, organic is a beneficial practice that is genuinely family-friendly.

7. Avoid Hasty and Poor Science in Your Food

Cloned food. GMOs and rBGH. Oh my! Interesting how swiftly these food technologies were rushed to market, when organic fought for 13 years to become federal law. Eleven years ago, genetically modified food was not part of our food supply; today an astounding 30 percent of our cropland is planted in GMOs. Organic is the only de facto seal of reassurance against these and other modern, lab-produced additions to our food supply, and the only food term with built in inspections and federal regulatory teeth.

8. Eating with a Sense of Place

Whether it is local fruit, imported coffee or artisan cheese, organic can demonstrate a reverence for the land and its people. No matter the zip code, organic has proven to use less energy (on average, about 30 percent less), is beneficial to soil, water and local habitat, and is safer for the people who harvest our food. Eat more seasonably by supporting your local farmers market while also supporting a global organic economy year round. It will make your taste buds happy.

9. Promote Biodiversity

Visit an organic farm and you’ll notice something: a buzz of animal, bird and insect activity. These organic oases are thriving, diverse habitats. Native plants, birds and hawks return usually after the first season of organic practices; beneficial insects allow for a greater balance, and indigenous animals find these farms a safe haven. As best said by Aldo Leopold, “A good farm must be one where the native flora and fauna have lost acreage without losing their existence.” An organic farm is the equivalent of reforestation. Industrial farms are the equivalent of clear cutting of native habitat with a focus on high farm yields.

10. Celebrate the Culture of Agriculture

Food is a ‘language’ spoken in every culture. Making this language organic allows for an important cultural revolution whereby diversity and biodiversity are embraced and chemical toxins and environmental harm are radically reduced, if not eliminated. The simple act of saving one heirloom seed from extinction, for example, is an act of biological and cultural conservation. Organic is not necessarily the most efficient farming system in the short run. It is slower, harder, more complex and more labor-intensive. But for the sake of culture everywhere, from permaculture to human culture, organic should be celebrated at every table.

Is organic food expensive? back to top

Organic food costs more than conventional food because of the laborious and time-intensive systems used by the typically smaller organic farms. You may find that the benefits of organic agriculture off-set this additional cost. At the same time, there are ways to purchase organic while sticking to your Budget. Consider the following when questioning the price of organic:

• Organic farmers don’t receive federal subsidies like conventional farmers do. Therefore, the price of organic food reflects the true cost of growing.

• The price of conventional food does not reflect the cost of environmental cleanups that we pay for through our tax dollars.

• Organic farming is more labor and management intensive.

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