Monday, March 29, 2010

Going Organic

Today’s post is lengthy, but I encourage you to read it through. One of the things that I am very passionate about it is providing a healthy stocked pantry for me and my family. Buying organic is one way that I can facilitate a healthy life for all of us. I got on the Organic band wagon with the birth of my first child (about 7 years ago) and have only continued to educate myself on the issue since. I will now say I am an organic freak. I think it all starts again with educating yourself and here below is just a tad bit of information to help answer some questions you may have.

What does the organic label really mean?

Unlike conventional producers, organic farmers can't use fertilizers made with sewage sludge, sow genetically modified (GM) crops (foods inserted with the genes of a different organism -- like a tomato with a fish gene), or sterilize goods by irradiation (which reduces spoilage and kills bacteria and pests). They also can't use most conventional pesticides. In addition, organic meat, dairy, poultry, and egg farmers must use only 100 percent organic feed, allow their animals access to the outdoors, and avoid using growth hormones and antibiotics.

Of course, standards don't mean anything unless they're enforced. Farms undergo yearly inspections and unannounced spot checks by USDA-accredited third-party certifiers. Farmers need five years of records, including invoices, and a plan that explicitly details their methods of pest control and fertility management.

Organic processed foods follow guidelines as well: If you see the "100% Organic" label, the product contains only organic ingredients; the "Organic" label means it has at least 95 percent organic ingredients; and a "Made With Organic Ingredients" label indicates at least 70 percent of the ingredients are organic. All other products can't use the term "organic" anywhere on the front of the package; it can only be used to identify individual ingredients in the small print near the nutrition information

Are organic foods more nutritious?
A few studies have shown higher levels of nutrients in certain items -- more vitamin C and phytochemicals in oranges, for instance, and higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in milk. Studies or no studies, the tenets of good nutrition still apply: Organic junk food (think: "organic Oreo") isn't good for you (but ok to treat yourself once and a while).
What are the benefits of organic foods?
By eating organic, you lessen your exposure to antibiotics, GM crops, hormones, irradiated foods, and pesticides. Organic production also helps the environment by not polluting groundwater with pesticides, contributing to widespread antibiotic resistance

Why is organic usually more expensive?
The hand labor required for pest and weed control ($400 to $1,200 an acre) costs far more than most pesticides (about $40 an acre). Organic feed for animals is pricier because it's comparatively scarce. In fact, supply has a lot to do with the cost of organics. At times there hasn't been enough of a product to satisfy demand, thus driving up prices. "As the volume goes up, organics should become less and less expensive.There's more to the issue, however, than the laws of simple economics. The government inequitably subsidizes conventional agriculture, un-naturally dropping the price of conventional food. "You're not necessarily comparing apples to apples," says Holly Givens, public-affairs adviser for the Organic Trade Association. "Plus, the nonorganic farmer might be using a pesticide that gets into the water, and he's not paying the cost of cleaning it up." Instead, she says, taxpayers get cheaper food, but they end up paying for the cleanup efforts.

Does washing produce remove toxins?
It's always a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables, if only to remove the dirt. "But since some pesticides can penetrate the skin of the plant," notes Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), "washing won't remove them."

The Complete Organics Buying Guide
What are you really getting when you pay a little extra for organic? It depends on the food. Here's an expert list of what to buy organic -- and when.

Fruits and Vegetables,Why Buy Organic?
When you eat conventional produce, pesticides and chemicals tend to show up in your body. The long-term health effects are unclear, but why risk it? The nonprofit Environmental Working Group studied 43 fruits and vegetables and ranked them according to contamination. Choose organic versions of the 12 worst offenders and you'll reduce your exposure by almost 90 percent: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes (imported), spinach, lettuce, potatoes.
Do You Know? A diet containing the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables exposes a person to an average of 15 pesticides a day.
Peanuts, Soybeans, and Corn,Why Buy Organic?
Peanuts rank among the top 10 foods contaminated with persistent organic pollutants, says the Pesticide Action Network. These chemicals linger in the environment for years and can also build up in the body's fatty tissues. As for soybeans, 85 percent of the 2004 crop was genetically modified (GM). Experts warn against buying GM foods since their effects haven't been adequately studied -- on us or the earth. The same warning goes for corn. nearly half of all corn planted in America in 2004 was GM.
Beef ,Why Buy Organic?
To enhance growth, conventional farmers often give their cows hormones. The FDA says they're safe, but the European Union disagrees -- and has banned their use. Farmers also give cows antibiotics even when they're not sick, contributing to antibiotic resistance. Cows excrete antibiotics and hormones into the environment, too, potentially harming local ecosystems. Finally, the "food" conventional cows eat (like manure) would make your stomach turn. Organically raised cows eat organic feed and grass.

Dairy,Why Buy Organic?
The red flag here is recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), a synthetic drug given to cows to increase milk production. Milk from these cows contains higher levels of a natural growth factor called IGF-1. Some experts link excess levels of it in humans to breast and prostate cancers. Although the FDA says it's safe, the European Union has banned the drug. Use of rBGH also increases infections in cows, prompting farmers to administer even more antibiotics.

Pork, Poultry, and Eggs,Why Buy Organic?
Farmers use antibiotics on these animals in the same preventive way as with cattle, again contributing to the rise of resistant bacteria and potentially harming local ecosystems. And, like cattle, conventional hogs and poultry eat a range of stomach-turning "foods." In a 2006 study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) of supermarket chicken products, more than half of the samples tested positive for arsenic. One of the IATP's recommendations? Buy organic.Do You Know? Healthy U.S. hogs and poultry ingest about 20 million pounds of antibiotics annually; in comparison, 3 million pounds treat sick people.

Chocolate and Coffee,Why Buy Organic?
Both crops naturally grow in the shade. But to meet increasing demand, farmers favor sun-loving varieties, resulting in clear-cutting and heavy pesticide use. Cacao, which is used to make chocolate, is one of the world's most heavily sprayed crops, according to the United Kingdom's Soil Association. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation tells us that if half of North America's 15 million college students chose organic, shade-grown coffee, they would prevent 3,885 tons of chemical fertilizers and 660 tons of pesticides from poisoning the earth.Do You Know? The organic standard doesn't cover fair trade. To ensure just compensation for farmers, look for both the Fair Trade Certified label and organic seal on chocolate and coffee.

I Hope this helped give a little in site as to why I am so passionate about providing organic food and meals for my family and I hope it does the same for you!

(Info from martha stewart Whole living)

xoxo CC


  1. i'm totally passionate about this! i recommend the book "growing up green" if you even have the time to browse through it.. i'm not taking all their advice but the facts and statistics are astonishing! i hope to grow a little vegetable/herb garden this year to cut back on some of the costs. last weekend i made pitas with falafel and veggies in in and i bought an organic tomato, cucumber, and onion at PCC last weekend and it cost me nearly 10 bucks!! i'm not saying it's not worth it but if i can save, then i will! i knew all our martha stewart training would come in handy!!! :) cheers to martha!

  2. Your right!! We always loved good old Martha! remember in high school we would record her shows on vcr (LOL). I miss the way her show used to be. Cant wait to hear about your garden. Great plan.

  3. i totally miss the way her show used to be!!!!! the good ol' days! remember we would do our own cooking shows too?! hahahahha! we're nuts!


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