Is organic food really different than non-organic? Is it worth the extra money? These are questions facing all Americans today. We all hear the hype about pesticides on our crops and genetic modification of food but are these just scare tactics? Some people say organic is no more than a marketing scheme. The USDA “Organic Foods Production Act” has some clear cut rules about what food is able to be certified organic.
Produce – Must be grown and handled without the use of synthetic chemicals and must be grown on land which these synthetic chemicals have not been applied for the 3 years preceding the harvest. This includes soil amendments and fertilizers with synthetic ingredients, natural poisons such as arsenic or lead salts, and plastic mulches. It cannot be genetically modified. (Note – if the produce is not labeled organic check the sticker, the number organic produce will always start with a “9”)
Livestock – Must be fed organic feed (does not have to be grass fed) and cannot be fed plastic pellets, manure or formulas containing urea. They cannot be give growth promoters or hormones. They can only be given antibiotics, parasticides or medications when they are sick (as opposed to all the time). They cannot come in contact with non-organic meat.
Dairy – Must adhere to the rules above for at least 12 months before the dairy is sold.
Processing of any organic food- Must be processed on machines that do not allow for any prohibited chemicals to contaminate the organic food. Must not add any synthetic ingredients, heavy metals or toxic residues, sulfites (except wine), nitrates or nitrates. The packaging materials must not contain synthetic fungicides, preservatives or fumigants.
Just because food is not certified organic does not meant it is been covered with synthetic chemicals or the animal has been given antibiotics, but the only way to know for sure is to talk directly to the farmer or buy certified organic products. Remember, if a company has something to brag about, it will usually put it right on the package.