Organic Food, All You Need to Know Before Making the Switch.

Once found only in health food stores, organic food is now a regular feature at most supermarkets. And that’s created a bit of a dilemma in the produce aisle.

On one hand, you have a conventionally grown apple. On the other, you have one that’s organic. Both apples are firm, shiny and red. Both provide vitamins and fiber, and both are free of fat, sodium and cholesterol. Which should you choose? Get the facts before you shop.

What is organic farming?

 The word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to meet the following goals:
  • Enhance soil and water quality
  • Reduce pollution
  • Provide safe, healthy livestock habitats
  • Enable natural livestock behavior

  • Promote a self-sustaining cycle of resources on a farm
 Materials or practices not permitted in organic farming include:
  • Synthetic fertilizers to add nutrients to the soil
  • Sewage sludge as fertilizer
  • Most synthetic pesticides for pest control
  • Irradiation to preserve food or to eliminate disease or pests
  • Genetic engineering, used to improve disease or pest resistance or to improve crop yields
  • Antibiotics or growth hormones for livestock

Organic crop farming materials or practices may include:

  • Plant waste left on fields (green manure), livestock manure or compost to improve soil quality
  • Plant rotation to preserve soil quality and to interrupt cycles of pests or disease
  • Cover crops that prevent erosion when parcels of land are not in use and to plow into soil for improving soil quality
  • Mulch to control weeds
  • Predatory insects or insect traps to control pests
  • Certain natural pesticides and a few synthetic pesticides approved for organic farming, used rarely and only as a last resort in coordination with a USDA organic certifying agent

Organic farming practices for livestock include:

  • Healthy living conditions and access to the outdoors
  • Pasture feeding for at least 30 percent of livestock’s nutritional needs during grazing season
  • Organic foods for animals
  • Vaccinations

Do ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ mean the same thing?

 No, “natural” and “organic” are not interchangeable terms. In general, “natural” on a food label means that it has no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. It does not refer to the methods or materials used to produce the food ingredients.

Other common food labels should also not be confused with organic labels. For example, the guidelines for certified organic beef include — among a number of requirements — access to pasture during a minimum 120-day grazing season and no growth hormones. But the labels “free-range” or “hormone-free,” while they must be used truthfully, do not indicate a farmer followed all guidelines for organic certification.

Organic food: Is it safer or more nutritious?

 There is a growing body of evidence that shows some potential health benefits of organic foods when compared with conventionally grown foods. While these studies have shown differences in the food, there is limited information to draw conclusions about how these differences translate into overall health benefits.
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