Organic foods are not specific foods, but are any foods that are grown and handled after harvesting in a particular way. In the United States, organic foods are crops that are raised without using synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or sewage sludge fertilizer, and they have not been altered by genetic engineering. Organic animal products come from animals that have been fed 100% organic feed and raised without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics in an environment where they have access to the outdoors...
The growth of the organic foods industry in the United States has been dramatic in the past 2 decades. It is estimated that organic sales have increased by nearly 20% annually since1990, with consumer sales reaching $13.8 billion in 2005. While initial organic food production primarily involved small farms and local distribution of fresh produce, today’s organic food system is a complex combination of small and large food producers,
local and global distribution networks, and a wide variety of products, including fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, and processed foods.
The organic food movement has the following goals:
improve human health by decreasing the level of chemical toxins in food
decrease the level of agricultural chemicals in the environment, especially in groundwater
promote sustainable agriculture
promote genetic diversity among plants and animals by rejecting genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
provide fresh, healthy, safe food at competitive prices
Until the twentieth century, all human food was organic. At the dawn of World War II, the few pesticides in use were derived from plants (for example, nicotine, rotenone, pyrethrum) or minerals (for example, arsenic and sulfur compounds). Paul M�ller's 1939 discovery of the insecticidal properties of DDT, in conjunction with military needs to control infectious disease, propelled the chemical industry to full-scale production, which continued after the war as DDT and other pesticides were put to agricultural use...
Since the implementation of the National Organic Standards in 2002, the USDA organic logo has provided an easy way for consumers to recognize organic products and to feel confident that they are buying a product that was raised, manufactured, and distributed according to the consistent, uniform standard set forth by the National Organic Program (USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service, 2000). The following organic labels are permissible:
100 percent organic:
Product contains 100 percent organically produced ingredients, excluding added
water and salt. The label is allowed to include the USDA organic seal and/or certifier’s seal(s).
Organic: Product contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients, not counting added water or salt; does not
contain added sulfites; and may contain up to 5 percent of nonorganic ingredients. The label may state “Organic”,“X percent organic” or “X percent organic ingredients,” and display the USDA organic seal and/or certifying agent seal(s).
Made with organic ingredients: Product includes atleast 70 percent organic ingredients, not counting added water and salt; does not contain sulfites (except for wine which may contain added sulfur dioxide); and may contain up to 30 percent of nonorganic ingredients, including yeast. The label may state “Made
with organic ____ (specified ingredients or food groups),” “X percent organic” or “X percent organic ingredients” and display the certifying agent seal(s), but cannot show the USDA organic seal.
Claim that product has some organic ingredients:
The product contains less than 70 percent organic ingredients, not counting added water and salt. The label may list which ingredients are organic in the ingredient statement and display “X percent organic ingredients” when organically produced ingredients are identified in the ingredient statement. The label cannot display either the USDA organic seal or the certifying agent seal.
Source: USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service, National Organic Program.
In the last 20 years the importance of the phytonutrient content of foods has been established. These compounds, including carotenoids,flavonoids, and other polyphenols, have been the focus of much study, and many are now provided
as dietary supplements. Flavonoid molecules are potent antioxidants.
The carotenoid lycopene has been shown to help reduce cancer risk.
The anthocyanin compounds in berries have been shown to improve neuronal and cognitive brain functions and ocular health and protect genomic DNA integrity.
Because of the health benefits of phytonutrients, they have been the focus of much recent research on the nutritional value of organic foods
According to the ARS ( Agricultural Research Service)
The term "phyto" originated from a Greek word meaning plant. Phytonutrients are certain organic components of plants, and these components are thought to promote human health. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and teas are rich sources of phytonutrients. Unlike the traditional nutrients (protein, fat, vitamins, minerals), phytonutrients are not "essential" for life, so some people prefer the term "phytochemical".
Impact on Environment and Economy
An increase in organic farming would have a large impact on the environment, not only in the decreased amount of chemicals that are released in to the air and leached in to the water systems but on the over all size of the carbon footprint that conventional farming currently has. Research done at the Rodale Institute reviled “that organic practices can remove about 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air and sequester it in an acre of farmland per year. Thus, Rodale estimates that if all 434 million acres of U.S. cropland were converted to organic practices, it would be the equivalent of eliminating 217 million cars—nearly 88 percent of all cars in the country today and more than a third of all the automobiles in the world.” (Environmental Facts, 2008).
The impact does not stop at just health and environment. The economical impact should also be examined. Organic farming is not only good for the farmers because of the huge demand and short supply, but organic farming is also labor intensive and requires more workers than conventional farming. This in turn creates jobs that are much safer for the workers because there are no health threatening chemicals to come in contact with everyday. This also has an impact on the worker’s family as there are no chemicals brought home after the work day is over.
If the cost of organic produce were comparable to that of intensively farmed produce, would more people change their eating habits? Unfortunately, the higher cost is the main reason that many people avoid organic food even though most would agree that their health could suffer over time. The good news is that organic is gaining in popularity, and we may see a dramatic increase in the number of organic farmers and therefore see the prices come down. This will not only have a positive impact on the environment but on the economy as well.
Visit an organic farm and you’ll notice something: a buzz of animal, bird and insect activity. These organic oases are thriving, diverse habitats. Native plants, birds and hawks return usually after the first season of organic practices; beneficial insects allow for a greater balance, and indigenous animals find these farms a safe haven. As best said by Aldo Leopold, “A good farm must be one where the native flora and fauna have lost acreage without losing their existence.” An organic farm is the equivalent of reforestation. Industrial farms are the equivalent of clear cutting of native habitat with a focus on high farm yields.
Essential Fatty Acids
The increased amounts of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids in organic dairy were noted in Table 1. The
fatty acid content of breast milk from 312 Dutch women was studied to determine whether this
resulted in a human effect.
CLA content was measured in 186 women who ate a conventional diet, in 33 women who ate a moderate amount of organic meats and dairy, and 37 women whose diets contained at least 90-percent organic meats
and dairy. Statistically significant increases (from 0.25 weight % to 0.29 weight %) were found for the
women who ate a moderately organic diet compared to the conventional diet, and an even greater
increase (0.34 weight %) for those who ate the strict organic diet.
Reduce if Not Eliminate Off Farm Pollution
Industrial agriculture doesn’t singularly pollute farmland and farm workers; it also wreaks havoc on the environment downstream. Pesticide drift affects non-farm communities with odorless and invisible poisons. Synthetic fertilizer drifting downstream is the main culprit for dead zones in delicate ocean environments, such as the Gulf of Mexico, where its dead zone is now larger than 22,000 square kilometers, an area larger than New Jersey, according to Science magazine, August, 2002.
The latest annual report on pesticide residues in the UK showed that about half the fresh fruit and vegetable
samples tested contained pesticide residues.
Safety has only been established for individual pesticides in certain circumstances. The long-term effects of pesticide residues and the implications of ‘cocktail effects’ on human health have not been established. The Food Standards Agency states that ‘pesticide residues should be as low as is reasonably practical’.
Pesticide residues may reduce the fertility of humans and animals and the health of their offspring, as well
as disrupting the chemical communication systems that regulate the reproductive cycle.
A 17-year study carried out at the University of Denmark has shown that women with higher than average levels of pesticides such as dieldrin in their bloodstream have double the risk of breast cancer.
Dieldrin is an organo-chlorine pesticide which is now banned for use in the UK but which, as with many other pesticides, persists for many years in the environment and in animal tissues.
Why Reduce Pesticide Use?
< 1% of the pesticides actually reaches the pests;
> 99% enters the environment.
Contaminates drinking water:
Pesticides have contaminated the drinking water of 14 million
Americans in the Corn Belt and Chesapeake Bay regions
The Food Quality Protection Act (1996) recognizes that many
pesticides present unacceptably high health risks, particularly to infants and children.
From DDT to dursban, the EPA has removed scores of pesticides from
the food supply precisely because they were not safe to eat.