USDA organic: know more about certified organic food

USDA organic: know more about certified organic food

Posted 06/24/2012 in Articles by Dan

Many people eat organic food under the assumption that it has greater health and environmental benefits than food produced through conventional means. But when you're standing in the produce section looking at two bananas, one costing 67 cents/lb. and the other, an organic costing 99cents/lb. it's a fair question to ask if eating organic food is really better for you and is it worth the extra cost? 
 
If organic food cost the same as conventionally produced food, it would be a no brainer – people would opt for organic every time. Organic produce isn't exposed to synthetic pesticides or herbicides, and animals on organic farms aren't pumped full of antibiotics or hormones. Organic foods taste better, and according to researches at the University of California, Davis, organic foods produce higher levels of phenolics – compounds produced by plants (such as antioxidants and ascorbic acid, or vitamin C) that are proven to be beneficial to your health.
 
Organic food also keeps the environment healthy. Farming practices take the long-term view, working to reduce pollution and conserve water and soil. Crops are rotated, preserving the soil, which fosters biodiversity and helps keep local ecosystems intact. According to the Environmental Working Group, organic farming used 50 percent less energy than conventional methods over a 15-year period. 
A study by the Organic Trade Association found that organic farming reduces pollutants in groundwater and creates richer soil that aids plant growth while reducing erosion. And because of the care and regulations taken to grow organic crop, sustainable farming also reduces pesticides that may end up in drinking water. 
 
The biggest opponent of organic food is cost. A quick survey of milk, chicken, salad, eggs, and bananas at a local Sprouts grocery store found that organic items costs 100 percent more than their conventional counterparts. So why do organic foods cost more?
 
Organic animal feed and organic grain cost more than their conventional alternatives. Due to lack of herbicides, farmers must hand-weed, which is more labor intensive and time consuming. Organic compost and animal manure cost more to ship. While rotating crops does preserve soil, it also reduces crop output. Not only do the production methods of organic food cost more – without preservatives organic food spoils quicker and can't travel far. And before farmers' can even start producing certified organic foods, they must apply and become certified, which can cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the type and scale of the operation. 
 
In a study done by John P. Reganold, et al, at Washington State University, Pullman published in the science journal Nature, researchers measured the effects of an organic, a conventional and an integrated (combination) apple production system on the sustainability indicators of horticultural performance, soil quality, orchard profitability, environmental quality and energy efficiency. They found that the organic production system had higher soil quality and potentially lower negative environmental impact than the conventional system. The organic system produced sweeter, less tart apples, higher profitability, and greater energy efficiency. Their data indicates that the organic system ranked first in environmental and economic sustainability.
 
So as you're in the produce section staring at two bananas contemplating if the price difference is really worth it, consider that organic food tastes better, promotes better health, has a positive economic outlook, and preserves long-term sustainability for our planet. 
 
Additional websites for those interested in organic food options include LocalHarvest.org, Organicstorelocator.com, and simplyorganic.com.

References:
  1. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v410/n6831/full/410926a0.html
  2. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v428/n6985/full/428796a.html  
  3. http://www.redbookmag.com/recipes-home/truth-about-organic-foods
  4. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/09/organic_green.html
  5. http://www.ams.usda.gov 
 
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iconoclast
Posts: 1
Comment
Stanford Study casts doubt on nutrition advantages of organic
Reply #1 on : Fri October 12, 2012, 10:48:19
In a research paper published in the September 2012 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr. Dena Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy, concluded that there are no significant nutritional benefits to organic food.

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