Many consumers incorrectly believe that the organic foods movement is a very recent one. However, the so-called Green Revolution actually began in the 1940’s when the industrialization of agriculture brought with it a shift in the practices and materials used in farming. “Conventional” farming is in reality not conventional at all when the agricultural history of mankind is considered. In fact, it could be argued that organic foods and organic farming is conventional and farming with the use of chemical fertilizers, synthetic pesticides and other “modern” practices are actually unconventional. Regardless, there is a growing movement all over the world calling for better availability of organic produce, meats and dairy products. Making a commitment to buy organic can be expensive, but many people feel that the benefits of organic foods and organic farming methods vastly outweigh the higher cost.
In the United States organic foods are highly regulated by the USDA. In order to advertise or promote as an organic farm or food product, the following conditions must be met by the farm:
*No use of genetically modified organisms
*No use of chemical fertilizers
*Food production may not use irradiation at any time
*No chemical food additives
*No use of industrial solvents
*No use of synthetic pesticides
Additionally, food products must meet other requirements in order to display the USDA Organic seal. Animals must be allowed regular access to fresh pasture and the outdoors. Foods may not be processed with any non-organic materials, even if those materials are not actually part of the food item. Value-added or processed foods that contain more than one ingredient must include all organic items in order to display the USDA seal. Food products made with 70% or more organic ingredients may display “made with organic ingredients” on the label.
Benefits of Organic Foods:
1.) Improves sustainability
Organic farming utilizes manure to replenish the soil, which is less damaging to the environment than chemical fertilizers. Additionally, organic farming practices use less water than conventional farming methods. Overall, organic food production also creates less waste.
2.) Reduces synthetic pesticides in soil, air, water and human bodies
Perhaps the most compelling nutritional and environmental benefits of organic foods comes from the reduction of synthetic pesticides- which despite even the most rigorous handling practices still make it into the air, soil and water. High concentrations of synthetic pesticides have been found in people that work on or live near conventional farms. Conversely, organic methods seek to disrupt the breeding cycles of pests or pick them off crops by hand, rotate crops and fields and use traps to manage pests. Organic farmers also employ the aid of beneficial insects and birds to deal with pests.
3.) Promotes better animal care
Because animals raised on organic farms must have regular access to open spaces and green pastures, there is far less chance for disease to develop or spread. Additionally, organic livestock or poultry must not be raised with the regular use of antibiotics and they must not be treated with growth hormones.
Despite the fact that organic foods are healthier for humans, animals and the environment, many people find that the higher price- usually 10% – 50% more than conventional foods- is cost prohibitive. However, by developing relationships with local farmers, shopping at farmer’s markets, natural or organic food stores or cooperatives, these expenses can be significantly reduced. Additionally, buying food that is in season will greatly reduce the total cost of an organic food bill.