Believe it or not there was a time when food had to be prepared; there were no microwaves, and families sat down at a dinner table and ate together. The invention of the microwave and foods from a package were supposed to give us more time to do things we enjoy, but in fact has made our lives crazier… meaning we eat on the go. We don’t take time out to enjoy our meals. Many of us can’t even get out of our cars to buy fast food, we prefer the drive-thru.
What’s the result of our extra time to do who-knows-what? We are getting fatter as a nation, and we can thank the food industry for that.
The word organic is now associated with being trendy and is usually found in upscale food markets like Whole Foods, but recently mainstream markets are adding organic produce to keep up with the competition. Americans are finally waking up that organic not only is healthier but tastes better; a perfect example is a tomato. Have you eaten a conventional roma lately? It has no juice, no flavor and is basically mush when you bite into it. The organic roma doesn’t need anything, it tastes delicious by itself.
Pesticides became popular after WWII. Farmers were sold on the idea by chemical companies that using pesticides would solve the pest problem and increase sales. It wasn’t long before pests became immune to the chemicals and farmers used more and the chemical companies increased their toxicity.
Today we even have a dirty dozen list…meaning there is so much toxic pesticide residue on that particular produce it can’t be washed off.
Then the chemical company Syngenta came up with the idea to make Bt corn, which is now regulated by the EPA (not the FDA) and listed as a pesticide… that’s right the corn is no longer considered plain old food. The pesticide has been injected into the corn’s DNA, which means no matter how hard you try to wash it off, you can’t because it’s inside the corn. You get a smidge of pesticide with each bite! Doesn’t that just make your mouth water???
Conventional farming also depletes the soil of vital nutrients which is passed on to the produce. Conventional produce has a lower nutrient density than organic because of this. That’s another reason we Americans need to take supplements…to make up for the lack of nutrients from Mother Nature. Beware, not all supplements are alike, but I will save that topic for a future post.
I will agree that organic is more expensive than conventional and some stores like Whole Foods charge a great deal more than, let’s say Von’s Market, but the main reason is that conventional crops are subsidized with your tax dollars. That’s right. Our government helps corporate farmers so McDonald’s and other junk food corporations like them can sell us cheap food. The same cheap food that’s making us sick. What a racket!
Organic farmers have to keep daily records of everything they do and are charged ridiculous fees by the same government officials who basically give money away to conventional farmers. It’s like our government wants us to get sick…but you didn’t hear that from me 😉 Treating sick people is big business, just ask any pharmaceutical sales rep. If you are interested in knowing just how much organic growers have to go through to get certified, click here.
I am on a tight budget like many of you, so in order to get as much organic in to my diet, I buy foods that are in season. I shop at local farmer’s markets. Luckily my local market, Ralph’s recently stepped up their organic produce section because they were being out sold by Whole Foods and Trader Joes. Their prices are lower and I don’t have to drive as far to shop, which helps me leave a smaller footprint on the planet. Costco is getting more organic choices… not a lot and actually no fresh produce, but they now carry USDA Organic extra virgin olive oil and some organic canned and frozen produce. Every time I shop there I fill out their request form… “Offer more organic choices!”
If I simply cannot find organic, I make sure to not buy from the dirty dozen list. This is a list of cleaner (when it comes to pesticide residue) choices:
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas (Frozen)
- Sweet Potatoes
And while I’m on the subject of organic, not all organic labeling is the same…when it comes to packaged or canned foods. The FDA allows up to 30% “other” ingredients, which could be genetically modified and still allow that manufacturer claim the product is organic. Trippy right! And its all legal! I say, “could be” genetically modified because we really don’t know because companies don’t have to say if it is, because our government doesn’t force them, like they do with other goods… like what’s in your mattress, so its up to me and you to stay informed. Below are some organic labels and what they mean.
100% USDA Organic
Its all organic baby … Raw or processed agricultural products in the “100 percent organic” category must meet these criteria:
- All ingredients must be certified organic.
- Any processing aids must be organic.
- Product labels must state the name of the certifying agent on the information panel.
May include USDA organic seal and/or 100 percent organic claim.
Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.
The ingredients has to be 95% organic; there can be other ingredients not organic but they cannot be on the prohibited list, like GMOs.
*Made with Organic Ingredients (no USDA stamp)
At least 70% organic ingredients
Remaining 30% can
be non-organic allowed ingredients (i.e. vitamins, citric acid, baking powder)
OR non-organic agricultural ingredients
Must list certification agent
Example: Cereal made with organic oats, raisins, and
Products with less than 70% Organic Ingredients
Any level of organic ingredients
No restrictions on
No certification claims can be
USDA Seal prohibited
Only mention organic in ingredient listing
Example: ingredients: organic oats, organic raisins
I found this information on the USDA website regarding organics and gmos. It is always updated and this post is from May 2013.
The use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table.
Organic operations implement preventive practices based on site-specific risk factors, such as neighboring conventional farms or shared farm equipment or processing facilities. For example, some farmers plant their seeds early or late to avoid organic and GMO crops flowering at the same time (which can cause cross-pollination). Others harvest crops prior to flowering or sign cooperative agreements with neighboring farms to avoid planting GMO crops next to organic ones. Farmers also designate the edges of their land as a buffer zone where the land is managed organically, but the crops aren’t sold as organic. Any shared farm or processing equipment must be thoroughly cleaned to prevent unintended exposure to GMOs or prohibited substances.
All of these measures are documented in the organic farmer’s organic system plan. This written plan describes the substances and practices to be used, including physical barriers to prevent contact of organic crops with prohibited substances or the products of “excluded methods” such as GMOs. On-site inspections and records verify that farmers are following their organic system plan. Additionally, certifying agents conduct residue testing to determine if these preventive practices are adequate to avoid contact with substances such as prohibited pesticides, antibiotics, and GMOs.
Any certified organic operation found to use prohibited substances or GMOs may face enforcement actions, including loss of certification and financial penalties. However, unlike many pesticides, there aren’t specific tolerance levels in the USDA organic regulations for GMOs. As such, National Organic Program policy states that trace amounts of GMOs don’t automatically mean the farm is in violation of the USDA organic regulations. In these cases, the certifying agent will investigate how the inadvertent presence occurred and recommend how it can be better prevented in the future. For example, they may require a larger buffer zone or more thorough cleaning of a shared grain mill. – See more at: http://blogs.usda.gov/2013/05/17/organic-101-can-gmos-be-used-in-organic-products/#sthash.ji8dvHff.dpuf
Now do you see why organic costs more? They not only have to defend their crops from pests with natural methods but they have to fend off airborne gmo seed contamination.
In 2008 a group calling themselves the Non-Gmo Project convinced companies to get themselves verified gmo free. It became very popular last year when many states had referendums to get gmo foods labeled. Only a couple of states (so far) have won the fight to know what’s hiding in our foods but a growing number of food manufacturers are voluntarily labeling because we want it. It’s basic Economics… meet a consumer demand and your sales will increase.
I hope this helps you find healthier food choices.
Peace Love and Healthy Eating!