Posted on June 18, 2013 - by Crystal Cun
When savvy shoppers like us buy food, we often look for the “organic” label, since these products are the ones that are the most sustainable, ecofriendly and nutritious for us. Or are they? What does “organic” really mean, and does it deserve the trust that we place in it? Recently, the FRESH team was inspired by a new documentary from director Kip Pastor called In Organic We Trust to think about these questions and more. Below, we’re sharing some tips on how to understand the organic label. In addition, we’re excited to offer the In Organic We Trust DVD at a specially discounted rate of $18.99 for a limited time. Read on to find out more!
What Organic Means:
- USDA Certification: The organic label means that the ingredients came from producers who were certified by the USDA as upholding organic standards.
- Limited Pesticides: Organic produce is grown without synthetic and persistent pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Eating organic produce is a good way to reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
- GMO Free: Organic foods do not include genetically-modified ingredients.
- No Irradiation: Organic produce has not been exposed to irradiation, an ionizing radiation treatment used to kill foodborne pathogens and reduce spoilage.
What Organic Doesn’t Mean:
- Small Scale Producer: Unfortunately, food conglomerates have realized that premium prices equals larger profits, and they have bought many formerly independent organic operations. Many organic brands are in fact subsidiaries of larger mainstream companies, such as Kashi and Kellogg’s, or Muir Glen and General Mills.
- Locally Sourced: Much of the organic produce at your supermarket probably comes from CA, while the small scale farms in your community may be local, but not certified organic.
- Fair Labor Practices: An organic farm can be staffed by exploited workers who suffer poor pay and lack benefits. The Fair Trade label certifies that the food was produced by workers who were fairly compensated, but these requirements are not part of the organic standards.
- No Additives: If the product is not labeled “100% organic,” up to 5% can be composed of the 100+ non-organic additives allowed by the National List. Many of the additives are included because no organic substitute is available or for economic reasons, and while not all of them are harmful, the list does include items like cellulose (indigestible wood pulp) and carrageenan (linked to intestinal inflammation and colon cancer).
The Bottom Line:
- Know Your Farmer: Just because your local farmer hasn’t had the time or funding to get organic certification doesn’t mean they aren’t running a sustainable operation. It may be better to buy from someone you know and trust over an unknown, large scale organic farm elsewhere.
- Organic Still Means Something: While the label may not encompass all that we would hope, the organic standards are still a good start to differentiating the types of farms and producers we want to support. Remember that the label “natural” is unregulated and doesn’t mean anything, while “organic” does require adherence to regulations.
- Dirty Dozen: Maybe you don’t have the budget or the availability to buy only organic products. In that case, carry the Dirty Dozen card in your wallet or store it on your phone. This lists the top fruits and vegetables that carry the highest levels of pesticide residues. Strive to purchase organic versions of these foods where possible.
If you’d like to learn more about the facts behind the organic label, we highly recommend the film In Organic We Trust, which explores these issues.
Check out the trailer and purchase the film here: http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5958/p/d/freshthemovie/shop/itemDetail.sjs?store_item_KEY=2426
Ideas? Suggestions? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts on organic labeling and organic certification!
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