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Organic Food - A Clarification
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Organic Food - A Clarification

Since I got interested in organic food, one thing above all surprised me - how small is the number of, even those that buy organic products, people that can say what is a difference between, let's say, "natural" and "organic". Many buy organic because it's hip, in trend, or someone told them it's healthier. And since it is used more and more in day to day living, my reasoning is that those who use it, think about using it or even those that don't intend to, should get informed about all the good and bad sides of food produced this way.

Once found only in the health stores, organic products are today regular feature in the most supermarkets. And while it was expected of those that go to the health stores to be informed about what they want to buy, in supermarkets there is abundance of people that are confused about benefits of buying organic products of the shelves. And couple questions arise: Which are organic products, what is the difference between them and regular ones, and why to buy them? Here I will offer some answers:

How to recognize organic product? In the U.S. it is regulated by organic certification program, organized and monitored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Products bearing it's distinctive seal have passed strict government standards, and are certified by the USDA for producing organic food.

There are few variation to this however, products that are 100% produced in the organic way are carrying 100 percent organic seal, products that have at least 95% organic content are carrying organic seal, and products that are from 70% to 95% organic may say "made with organic ingredients" on the label but may not use the seal. Below that products may only use term organic in their ingredients list. The seal is not mandatory, but most of the organic food producers choose to use it, and should be the first thing you look for on organic product.

It should also be mentioned that producers of organic food that sell less than $5000 a year are exempt from this rule, and may use label organic on their products without the seal, they are still obliged to follow USDA standards for organic production.

What is the difference? Difference between regular and organic food is in the process of making it. While regular food is produced by conventional methods, organic is not.

Conventional vs. Organic: In conventional agriculture chemical fertilizers are applied to the soil for the maximum efficiency in plant growth, in organic natural (manure, compost…) fertilizers are used to feed soil and plants. In conventional agriculture synthetic pesticides are used to reduce pests and disease, in organic beneficial insects, birds, manual traps and more methods are used. In conventional agriculture synthetic herbicides are used to manage weeds, in organic rotating of crops, hand weed and mulch are used. In conventional animals are given antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth, and genetically modified plants are used for maximizing the harvest. In organic none of this is allowed, animals are given organic feed, are allowed to the outdoors, and more measures as regular cleaning and rotate grazing are used to prevent disease.

There is also big difference in the processing of the regular and organic food, regulations ban or severely reduce the use of food additives, processing aids, and fortifying agents in organic food.

Why to buy organic? First to get one big misconception out of the way - it is not proved that organic food is safer or more nutritious than regular. Beside that there are some reasons that go for and against it, and at the end it up to you to decide.

Although neither regular or organic food do not exceed security thresholds for insecticide residues, those are considerably lover in organic food.

Organic production of food is much more environment friendly than regular. Many people decide to use organic products simply because it is one simple way to contribute to preservation of Earth.

There are people allergic to one or more additives used in processing regular food. And many more believe that additives are dangerous for their health and for that reason opt for organic food.

Any downsides? Yes there are many things you must know before deciding to go either way:

Because of more expensive farming organic food is somewhat more expensive than regular.

Organic food spoils faster because of lack of additives, so you must always be careful with it, good advice is also to buy fruits and vegetables in season whenever possible.

Because of organic production, appearance may be less than perfect - odd shapes, varying colors or smaller sizes.

Read food label carefully, food being organic does not mean that it is low on sugar, fat, salt or calories. And it should not influence great habit of reading food labels.

Hope this helps. I bet everyone expects to say something like - go organic. But I won't. You must make that choice considering facts from this article, and many more, whichever you consider relevant, and if you have questions related to this topic feel free to comment. I will do my best to answer them. Also good idea would be to try buying some products and decide for yourself how you feel about it.


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