Sunday, July 5, 2009

Is Your Organic Food Really Organic?

August 30, 2008 - Issue 1154

The USDA has announced that they are putting 15 out of 30 federally accredited organic certifiers they audited on probation, allowing them 12 months to make corrections or lose their accreditation. At the heart of the problems were imported foods and ingredients from other countries, including China.

Chinese imports have made headlines for contaminated pet food, toxic toys, and recently, certified organic ginger contaminated with levels of a pesticide called aldicarb that can cause nausea, headaches and blurred vision. Are those store-bought “organic” veggies from China truly organic? The recent actions by the USDA indicate there’s probably a 50/50 chance they don’t meet organic standards.

Attitudes toward organic foods have recently shifted, and this is a direct result of big business jumping into the fray. America’s largest corporations, eager to gain market share in the natural foods movement, have begun mass-producing “organic” foods, and as a result are slowly deteriorating the meaning and health benefits upon which the organic label was founded.

Buy Local and Organic

Buying local is therefore quickly becoming the “new organic” because it supports many of the things that the organic label once did, such as:
*Fresher, tastier and more nutritious food
*Supporting small, local farmers within your community
*Improved food safety
*Environmentally-friendly, sustainable farming practices (provided the grower is using organic growing practices, regardless of whether or not they’re accredited USDA organic, which can be a costly process)

Shoppers at the growing number of farmers markets around the United States has helped spur the rise in farmers markets, includes principles beyond just pesticide-free food. It’s also about supporting small farmers and ensuring that food is produced in an environmentally-friendly manner, by workers who are paid fair wages.

Permaculture is another growing movement – a grown-up version of the organic, locally-grown food movement – which I believe is the real future of healthy food. Michael Pollan, the New York Times author who wrote the book Omnivore's Dilemma, does a great job of explaining in this video. At its roots is a focus on the relationships between animals, plants, insects, soil, water and habitat -- and how to use these relationships to create synergistic, self-supporting ecosystems. Permaculture strives to mimic the natural ecologies found in nature, and food that is grown by these natural laws will inherently be healthy.

High-Quality, Healthy Food Shopping Guidelines
Whatever food you’re looking to buy, whether imported organic or locally-grown, from either your local supermarket or a farmer’s market, here are the signs of a high-quality, healthy food:
*Grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers (some non-organic foods also fit this description)
*Not genetically modified
*Contains no added growth hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs
*Does not contain artificial anything, nor any preservatives
*It is fresh
*It did not come from a factory farm
*Grown with the laws of nature in mind (meaning animals are fed their native diets, not a mix of grains and animal byproducts, and have free-range access to the outdoors)
*Grown in a sustainable way (using minimal amounts of water, protecting the soil from burnout, and turning animal wastes into natural fertilizers instead of environmental pollutants)

Most often, the best place to find these foods are from a sustainable agricultural group in your area.

Healthy Resources
For more information on where to find wholesome food from community supported agriculture (CSA) farms, check out this link, and for a list of grass-fed beef ranchers in the U.S. where you can find good-quality meats, please review my previous article The Selling of Organic.

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