Organic Food - A Natural Lifestyle
People are concerned with the quality of the food they eat more than ever before. Pesticides, antibiotics, and hormone injections are frequently added to crops and cattle, creating many issues and worries in health minded citizens. Therefore, organic food was developed to ensure that people could trust that the food they were eating was grown under the most healthful and natural conditions. Organic food isn't so much a term that describes a particular type of food, yet it is a description of the processes used to grow and manufacture food.
Organic food is grown in carefully monitored environments. For food to bear the USDA Organic Seal of Approval, or to be Certified Organic, means that the growing process was monitored and met standards determined by state and federal laws. This includes inspections of farms, soils, food handling and processing equipment and facilities, and testing water. Foods that are grown organically use very little to no artificial ingredients or pesticides. The food is grown, cultivated, and harvested and kept in its purest and most natural state. The result is food that is certified to have been grown without the use of artificial preservatives, ingredients, hormones, and pesticides.
Another important aspect of organic food is that in the growing process, great emphasis is placed upon the conditions of the soil. Techniques and methods that encourage naturally renewable sources and conserve water and soil are implemented. Therefore, not only is the food the best according to quality standards and nutritious content (grown without the use of pesticides, hormones, or artificial means), but you can ensure that the soil is being enhanced and preserved for future farmers. At a time when most of the earth’s resources are being depleted without much concern for future generations, organic foods offers the assurance that farmers are doing their part to be environmentally conscious and earth friendly.
Since the processes that control the growth, harvesting, and manufacturing processes determine organic food; it is impossible to determine whether food is organic simply by looking at it. The only way to determine is food is organic is by looking for the USDA Organic Seal. For food to pass inspection and bear the Organic Seal they must be fall into a number of different categories. These are:
· 100% Organic - this ensures that the food was produced entirely of 100% organic ingredients
· Organic-for food to be labeled “Organic” it must be made with at least 95% organic ingredients
· Made with Organic Ingredients- this ensures that the food was made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients. It also certifies that the remaining 30% of the ingredients contained no genetically modified organisms.
· If a food product contains less than 70% organic ingredients it may list the organically grown ingredients on the side panel. However, the product may not state any claims of being organic on the front of the package.
The inspection process includes ensuring that the center of operations follows an organic system plan and keeps records to make certain that the facilities adhere to those plans. Inspectors make random checks to ensure that the facility is operating according to the system plan. It is also important to realize that it displaying the organic seal is voluntary; so it is possible that a product may be Organic and has chosen not to display the seal. However, if you see the seal, you can be certain that the product is organic. Also, there is a fine up to $11,000 for displaying the seal without meeting the USDA standards set forth by inspectors.
Farmers may choose to become organic and they will have to meet federal guidelines as well. First, it takes a three-year process to convert farmland and soil to meet organic standards. This process includes two years devoted to increasing the fertility of the land. During the first year of the conversion process, food may not be labeled organic or are given the USDA Organic Seal. Food harvested during the second year may be labeled “In Conversion”, and finally after the third year and meeting the requirements set forth by the USDA Organic inspectors, the food may bear the Organic seal.
The standards that the USDA Organic inspectors use were set forth through the Organic Food Production Act of 1990. After the passing of this act, the National Organic Standards Board was created. This act was part of the 1990 Farm Bill, and it allowed the Secretary of Agriculture to establish the National Organic Standards Board or the (NOSB). The Board consists of fifteen members, and they are in charge of developing standards in the organic farming industry.
Many people assume that if a food product is organic then it has used no pesticides at all. This isn't necessarily true, however the use of natural pesticides is allowed when farmers are faced with crop failure. Yet, there are strict restrictions put in place when organic farmers turn to natural pesticides as a last course of action. An organic farmer focuses more on the prevention of pests then they do on using pesticides or methods of pest extermination. For example, when the soil has been increased to healthy levels, the crops have better natural resilience to pests. They also encourage natural methods of pest control by encouraging insect predators, mating disruption, and planting crops that discourage pest activity.
There are some terms that may be confused with the word “organic”. It is important to understand that the label “organic” refers to food products meeting the standards set forth by the USDA’s National Organic Program. Foods may be labeled as natural, hormone free, or free range and not have the necessary qualifications to be certified as organic.
Sometimes people feel that organic food is more expensive then conventional store products and are intimidated to purchase them. However, it is good to know that not all organic produce is more expensive. Like any other purchase, if you are a comparative shopper, you can find organic products within your budget. When you do encounter products that may be more expensive, it is important to understand why. Typically, organic farming requires more work to pass inspections then other facilities. Also, organic farms do not receive the federal subsidies as other farms do; therefore their cost of operation is greater.