Buy food with the USDA’s official organic seal, or even organic food at your local farmer’s market. It’s exciting. You think that you are getting healthier and more natural foods, and maybe you are. Your food is grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, and it is not genetically modified, or at least it hasn’t been in a while. If it’s meat, the animals were supposedly raised on a farm with healthy organic crops and ideally without cages, antibiotics, or growth hormones. It’s nice to think that you’re doing something for the animals and the world when you eat organic.
As far as the actual nutritional benefits, they’re debatable. Yes, there are studies that suggest that some have more antioxidants for example, but there are also studies that show that the differences are negligible at best, and organic foods are more likely to be subject to widespread disease that can kill crops, and either way, it’s going to cost you more, but if you’re asking if you can trust the label, you certainly wouldn’t be the first, and that is even more controversial.
Some have found that organic foods are not subject to the same standards across the board. There are some who even suggest that
organic foods are not regulated at all. According to journalist Peter Laufer, the organic market needs some serious thought and reform, serious changes. He has written a new book,
Organic: A Journalist’s Quest to Discover the Truth Behind Food Labeling. He looks for the origins of organic walnuts purchased at Trader Joe’s and black beans from Whole Foods.
Customers have become overly trusting of organic labels, which Laufer says have become
inappropriately seductive. He demands higher requirements for organic labels.
The US government technically got involved in classifying organic foods in the 90’s, and the definition was created by the National Organic Program. Some have long felt that the standards are watered down to say the least. There are 3 basic standards set down:
- It has to have no herbicides, pesticides, sewage, sludge, etc.
- 5% of the product can come from a list of about 500 approved substances that are not actually organic
- You only need 70% organic if you say
made with organic ingredients.
Considering the extra money, there are those who will simply blatantly ignore these rules.
There are some areas that do more certifying than others, Denmark for example. Austria also provides a subsidy if farmers are growing organic, meaning they can make even more. However, if they fail inspections by the government and do not meet standards, they will face fines and have to pay back the cash subsidy.
Frankly, the way things are moving, we will see more and more organic labels. We are even seeing them for a cheap price in Walmart stores, which to me does not smell like a good thing. It reeks like an invitation for lower standards. Personally, I have simply chosen not to waste money on organic, and I get most of my vegetables from a local farmer’s market or Bountiful Baskets. They give me options of organic if I care to pay more, but I don’t. Call it what you will.