This organic food overview is a quick orientation for people interested in organic food. It includes information not generally known to the public, which can impact the healthiness of your choices.
1. What is organic food really?
Occasionally when I mention organic food, I suspect that the listener thinks it’s some sort of crazy food fad, or perhaps that it’s not up to today’s quality or cleanliness standards. Nothing could be further from the truth. Essentially, it’s food — including meats, dairy and produce — that hasn’t been tainted in the growing by harmful elements such as pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and hormones nor prepared in a way that kills its nutritional value or adds harmful elements. It’s food that can properly nourish the body without introducing (or forcing the body to fight off) harmful elements.
Is organic food better than "conventional food" — your every day supermarket meats (containing hormones and antibiotics), or produce (sprayed with herbicides, pesticides and the like), or dairy products (in which the nutrients have been cooked to death)? That’s a good question. Yes, conventional food is cheaper to produce, but these additives and toxins are not good for us. We’re told that they’re at tolerable levels and that we need not worry. But, given that many people report feeling so much better when eating organic food (or, to put it another way, when ceasing to ingest toxins and other conventional-food additives), one has to suspect that these "little bits" of poisons or nutrient-destroyed food have a far greater effect on us than we are led to believe.
However, that isn’t nearly a good enough explanation; in fact, it’s a tough question to answer because the U.S.D.A. dictates what may be labeled organic. While this type of oversight and regulation sounds good, in reality, today’s "USDA Organic" standards consist of several levels, only the topmost of which might equate to what you have in mind when you think of "organic food".
Thus, since people don’t know what the various USDA Organic labels mean, they may be making choices that are not as good as they seem — and may not get the value they’re seeking from their food.
2. USDA Organic – the Standards
It may come as a surprise that the official USDA Organic labeling rules do not, except for the topmost label — 100% organic — correspond to what the average consumer might reasonably think of as "organic". Take a look at the chart to the right, most of which comes from the USDA website; do all of those designations imply what you’d think an item marked "organic" might be?
Without making suppositions about how these lesser designations came to be, I’ll say simply that "it is what it is" and "buyer beware".
We’ve heard it argued that, after all, not everything is available in organic form, that things are improving, and that organic markets might stock non-organic items so as not to present unappealing, sparsely-filled shelves to consumers. All that may be true, but it leaves us with a distinctly non-ideal scenario in which the ordinary consumer may be not know that even food bearing the USDA Organic label may not be as organic as he thinks. Especially if it’s the label is not 100% Organic.
3. What can you do?
We’d all like to be healthy and to feel as good as possible. Particularly as our population ages (have you noticed the far greater incidence of life-wrecking illnesses such as Parkinson’s and cancer?) — it behooves us to pursue the most healthful food we can in order that we can nourish our bodies well. But, if those are going to be the USDA standards, what can one do? I can think of some solutions; maybe you can think of more:
- Tell your friends, family and associates about organic food standards and the 100% organic definition
- Purchase only organic food as far as possible
- Stay up to date with what’s happening in the organic food industry
- "Organic food" isn’t the whole answer — find out what various foods do (and what false information has been fed into our society)
- Find some way, possibly with localized organizations, to help, assist, promote or produce food that goes beyond the lower USDA standards
- Take control of what you’re eating; don’t leave it up to advertisements or authorities. We can certainly choose our food wisely — ultimately, the responsibility lies with you.
4. Where can you get organic food?
We’ve listed some locations where you can get organic food, and will continue to do so. In the future, we hope to have a full-blown directory of organic markets, farms, etc.
- Organic Markets — you may have organic markets and health food stores in your area
- Farmers Markets — farmers’ markets are locales where local farmers sell their products direct to the public. Just look for the organic sign, and ask what they do; it pays to develop a relationship with local farmers!
5. Keep up to date
As I mentioned, organic food is not the entire answer. Our bodies need balance in order to work properly, and various foods do various things. As well, it’s an unfortunate fact that our society has been sewn with misinformation about foods and ingredients. We’ll be covering them here at We Want Organic Food — stay with us!
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