Is organic food really better for you?

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Wherever you look, organic foods seem to be jumping off the shelves.  As one of the latest trends in healthy eating, more individuals than ever, are turning towards products carrying the “organic” label.  This has raised more questions than answers for most consumers.

Organic Food LabelsJust recently I was shopping at Whole Foods and noticed organic bananas.  Aren’t all banana’s organic?  Well, not really.  It’s not just about the food it’s about how the food is grown. The other thing to consider is that foods carrying the organic label tend to be more expensive and potentially bruise more easily. The major difference between bananas carrying an organic label and those which do not is the following: your typical bananas are grown with synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides to protect the crops from mold, bugs, and disease. Organic bananas are grown using natural fertilizers, insect barriers to prevent pests, weeded manually, and using the common practice of crop rotation.

Conventional farming versus Organic

When a food receives the organic label, it’s referring to the growing process and standards that farmers must practice to maintain organic qualification.  This refers to the way farmers grow and process the many different kinds of food they grow including fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to protect water and soil quality as well as reduce pollution. What I found surprising is that just because farmers adhere to an organic standard doesn’t mean they are less harmful to animals (more on that later).

Farmers growing organic foods don’t use the conventional methods to fertilize and control weeds. Large industrial crops growing soy for example are using RoundUp resistant seeds so crops can be sprayed with damaging pesticides and herbicides and thrive. Scary but true.

Is that Really Organic?

The best way to make sure a product is organic is to check the label.  If you want to learn more, call the company boasting the label and see if they can substantiate their claim.  Federal agencies require that organic foods to meet strict government standards. These standards regulate how such foods are grown, handled and processed. But don’t hold your breath. There are very few agents confirming these claims and they often don’t have your well-being in mind.

A good example of this includes products that contain 70 percent of organic ingredients. Based on the current guidelines they can say, “Made with organic ingredients” on the label. Said another way, 30 percent or almost one third of ingredients can be toxic but if manufacturers throw in a number of organic ingredients, they can label the product as such.

The motto here is to know before you buy.  Just because something is labeled as organic doesn’t mean that it’s 100% organic. Additionally, just because something is natural – fruits, vegetables, etc., don’t assume it’s organic.  Organic refers to how the food was farmed, which may or may not be through organic means.

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