The USDA, the United States Department of Agriculture — the guys who oversee our country’s agriculture (meat and produce) — have changed the definition of organic food so that organic no longer means organic as we understand it, but conventional. Conventional food means anything goes, which can impact your health.
Just take a look at the chart to the right (also USDA.gov (PDF)), and you’ll see what I mean. Only at the top level of "organic" have we approached what most of us mean by that term. Seriously, who among us is thinking, "I’d like some organic [whatever] … with a little mercury thrown in"?
Anybody and everybody interested in maintaining their health should be aware of the USDA’s recent recharacterization of the definition of organic food. From the Organic Consumers Association’s June 22, 2007 press release:
USDA Announcement: Foods Carrying the USDA ‘95% Organic‘ Seal Are Now Allowed to Contain Factory Farmed Intestines, PCBs, and Mercury
The Organic Consumers Association filed a petition during the USDA’s short seven-day comment period on the issue outlining various problems with some of the proposed ingredients. The USDA is required to post all such incoming comments online, and 99% of the comments currently posted there show the public opposes the passage of this proposal.
The USDA’s passage of this proposal has resulted in the following:
- Anheuser Busch will be allowed to sell its "Organic Wild Hops Beer" without using any organic hops at all.
- Sausages, brats, and breakfast links labeled as "USDA Organic" are now allowed to contain intestines from factory farmed animals raised on chemically grown feed, synthetic hormones, and antibiotics.
- Products labeled as "USDA Organic" and containing fish oil may contain toxins such as PCBs and mercury (note: nonorganic fishoil products have this same risk, but despite the USDA ruling, it is against the National Organic Standards to allow such toxins in organic foods).
"It’s disheartening to see how profit motivated businesses like Kraft, Wal-Mart and Anheuser-Busch have more sway over the U.S. Department of Agriculture than family farmers, independent organic producers, and consumers," said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s National Director.
OCA’s Environmental Scientist, Craig Minowa, noted that foods labeled as 100% organic will still be 100% organic. "This rule applies to products that are 95% organic or less," said Minowa of the USDA’s decision, adding that "The ruling is yet another reason for organic-minded shoppers to carefully read ingredient labels, look for ‘100% Organic’ labels, and buy from local family farmers via your area co-op, farmers market or CSA."
[Bold and color added for emphasis. For the full text of the OCA’s Petition at democracyinaction.org, go to Alert: Another Sneak Attack On Organic Standards: USDA To Allow More Conventional Ingredients In Organics.]
Well, there you have it. Now you must look not just for the USDA Organic label, but for an indication that the item is 100% organic.
Here’s a thought: what if the middleman — for-profit corporations such as the ones mentioned in the above article — could be taken out of the buying equation? What if we could establish a system whereby we could obtain organic food directly from trusted farmers? I’d rather pay good money directly to the farmer for good, nutritional food than to people whose actions seem to indicate that it doesn’t matter how they make their profits. This isn’t something wrong with corporations; it’s the people who run specific corporations making the decisions to lessen the nutritional value of food and apparently successful in telling the USDA what to do.
Regardless of what happens here, we think it’s best — nay, imperative — to be informed so that decisions can be made based on correct information.
We want organic food. Regular food, not treated with chemicals, preservatives, radiation, etc., grown from soil that is alive and full of vitamins and minerals, instead of dead soil saturated with chemicals that bring death to bugs, etc. Yes, in residue form. But residues can accumulate in the body. Combine that with other residues from other "conventionally" treated food and it is then possible that our bodies could take on a similarity to the dead soil we get our "conventional" food from. We could all change our names to conventional. We can eat all day, gain too much weight and, at the same time, starve to death due to lack of nutrition.
Lets face it: we have to eat. We are the ultimate cash cows being callously treated.
Do we want to eat for good health? Or bad health? If we’re going to spend money, isn’t it wise to spend it on something that is good for us? If we want to keep our health, it behooves us to look into this.
We need to have a definition of organic food that means organic food and remains so. That way we can have the choice — healthy food or unhealthy food.
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