It’s fairly simple. The organic seal indicates that food has been grown in ways that has passed nature’s own test for being A-OK. Organic farmers must work in sync with the environment. They also look out for the health of humans and animals by avoiding the use of harmful substances, like toxic pesticides
* grown with help from toxic pesticides
* grown with most synthetic fertilizers, or
* grown with genetically engineered seeds
The organic seal also guarantees that farmers:
* refuse to use antibiotics and growth hormones
* ensure animals have access to the outdoors
Growing organic helps improve water quality, keeps carbon locked up in our soil, and reduces our exposure to dangerous pesticides. Although pesticides are designed to kill pests, many pesticides can also pose risks to people. Toxic pesticides have been associated with health problems including cancer and endocrine system disruption, which can lead to developmental or reproductive problems. What’s more, the overuse of antibiotics in conventional livestock production has caused the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of some dangerous microbes. Organic farmers help keep antibiotics working by using alternative methods to treat sick animals.
1. Only organic guarantees…
Organic is the most heavily regulated food system in the U.S. Only organic guarantees no toxic persistent pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or GMOs are used in production, and no antibiotics or growth hormones are given to livestock. Organic producers and processors are subject to rigorous announced – and unannounced – certification inspections by third-party inspectors to ensure that they are producing and processing organic products in a manner you and your family can trust.
2. More nutritious
Recent studies have found that organic fruits, vegetables and grains have more antioxidants, fewer nitrates and cadmium and fewer pesticide residues than non-organic crops, making them more nutritious.
3. Helps combat climate change
Organic farming practices help maintain of our soil. Healthy soil naturally retains photosynthesized carbon dioxide instead of releasing it back into the atmosphere. This quality helps combat climate change.
4. Fewer pesticides
Organic food must be grown without the use of persistent pesticides. Eating organic food is one of the best ways to reduce your exposure to these toxic chemicals
The best way to ensure your food is GMO-free is to buy organic. GMOs are prohibited from the production and processing of organic foods.
6. Fewer synthetic fertilizers
Organic farmers are prohibited from using most synthetic fertilizers. They maintain the health of their soil by using manure, compost and other organic material. Up to 40 percent of the synthetic fertilizers used on conventional farms end up in ground and surface waters, eventually polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans.
7. No sewage sludge
Many conventional farmers spread sewage sludge as fertilizer on their fields. Sewage sludge includes anything that is flushed, poured or dumped into the waste water system. Organic farmers are prohibited from using sewage sludge on their fields.
8. Antibiotic-free meat
The overuse of antibiotics to foster growth in conventional livestock production has contributed to development of antibiotic-resistant strains of some dangerous microbes. Organic farmers can only treat livestock with antibiotics as a last resort for sick animals and the animals that receive antibiotic treatment lose their organic certification. This helps preserve the effectiveness of vital antibiotics for humans.
9. Hormone-free meat
Conventional farmers give cows growth hormones briefly to boost milk output. These hormones can impair fertility in cows and lead to visibly abnormal milk and hoof disorders. Milk from hormone-treated cows has been linked to increased risk of cancer in humans.
10. Humane animal treatment
Organic famers and ranchers must accommodate the natural behavior of their livestock and meet health and wellness requirements, including year-round access to the outdoors, space for exercise, clean and dry bedding, clean water, shelter, and direct sunlight.
Toxic Chemical Pesticides
Many of the foods marketed as “natural” have been grown with help from toxic pesticides. Though designed to combat pests on plants, pesticide residues remain on or in the food we eat. Some of your family’s favorite foods, such as apples, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and grapes, are covered with toxic pesticide residues.
Health problems, including cancer, infertility, asthma, and birth defects, have been linked to pesticide exposure. Pregnant women, children and the elderly are especially susceptible to the impacts of toxic pesticides.
What’s more, toxic pesticides frequently miss their intended targets. Nearby streams are often contaminated by pesticide runoff — polluting drinking water supplies — and harming wildlife, such as honeybees.
Many “natural” meats have been raised with help from antibiotics we depend on to keep our families healthy. In recent years, 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States have gone to chickens, pigs, cows, and other animals — regardless of whether the animals are sick. Using antibiotics to promote the growth of animals reduces the effectiveness of these life-saving drugs by making them more resistant to bacteria.
In some cases, farmers use antibiotics to treat sick animals. In most cases, antibiotics are used by feedlot operators trying to prevent infections caused by cramped and unsanitary living conditions. This practice has led to the development of superbugs, antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are hard to treat.
Some farmers use artificial hormones to make their animals grow bigger, faster, and to increase productivity. Despite being banned in other countries, some American meat producers and dairy farmers continue to rely on hormones, which pose numerous health risks. For example, rGBH, a growth hormone engineered to make cows produce more milk, has been linked to colon and breast cancer among adults and early puberty in children. Up to twenty additional artificial hormones are currently used in livestock production.
Genetically Engineered Ingredients
Many foods labeled as “natural” include ingredients from crops that have been genetically engineered. Genetic engineering is a process that alters a plant’s DNA to make a new organism not found in nature. Crops like corn and soybeans — the building blocks of processed foods — have been genetically engineered to withstand large doses of chemical herbicides and toxic pesticides which pollute our air and water.
The whole picture
Organic food contributes to better health through reduced pesticide exposure for all and increased nutritional quality. In order to understand the importance of eating organic food from the perspective of toxic pesticide contamination, we need to look at the whole picture—from the farmworkers who do the valuable work of growing food, to the waterways from which we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. Organic food can feed us and keep us healthy without producing the toxic effects of chemical agriculture.
The population groups most affected by pesticide use are farmworkers and their families. These people live in communities near the application of toxic pesticides, where pesticide drift and water contamination are common. Farmworkers, both pesticide applicators and fieldworkers who tend to and harvest the crops, come into frequent contact with pesticides. Their families and children are then exposed to these pesticides through contact with them and their clothing. Pregnant women working in the fields unwittingly expose their unborn babies to toxic pesticides. Organic agriculture does not utilize these toxic chemicals and thus eliminates this enormous health hazard to workers, their families, and their communities. There is no national reporting system for farmworker pesticide poisonings. In California, one of the few states to require reporting pesticide poisonings, there was a yearly average of 475 reported farmworker poisonings from pesticides in the years 1997-2000 according to the report Fields of Poison 2002: California Farmworkers and Pesticides. As discussed in the paper, this probably drastically underestimates the true number of poisonings, since many cases are never reported for myriad reasons including rising health care costs that have heightened reluctance to seek medical attention, misdiagnosis from medical professionals, and the failure of insurance companies to forward reports to proper authorities. Acute pesticide poisonings for farmworkers are only one aspect of the health consequences of pesticide exposure. Many farmworkers spend years in the field exposed to toxic chemicals, and some studies have reported increased risks of certain types of cancers among farmworkers. The emerging science on endocrine disrupting pesticides reveals another chronic health effect of pesticide exposure (for more on endocrine disrupting pesticides, read the spring 2008 article in Pesticides and You). Children living in areas with high pesticide use are at great risk of health effects because of t heir high susceptibility to pesticides. In 1998, a groundbreaking study by Elizabeth Guillette published in Environmental Health Perspectives showed the severe developmental effects of pesticides on children in an agricultural area of Mexico. Pesticide exposure for pregnant women working in the fields can have devastating effects on their babies. One study compares three case studies of birth defects caused by probable pesticide poisoning. In one case that was brought to court and decided in favor of the plaintiffs, a mother exposed illegally to pesticides gave birth to a child without arms or legs. Looking only at pesticide residues in food as a measure of pesticide exposure ignores the fact that many foods that do not end up with high pesticide residues nonetheless involve toxic chemicals in production that put workers' health at risk. Pesticide use in production and farmworker exposure is a necessary consideration in looking at the whole pesticide problem. A shift to organic agriculture is the on ly way to eliminate toxic pesticide exposure for everyone..
Myth one: Organic farming is good for the environment
The study of Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) for the UK, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, should concern anyone who buys organic. It shows that milk and dairy production is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). A litre of organic milk requires 80 per cent more land than conventional milk to produce, has 20 per cent greater global warming potential, releases 60 per cent more nutrients to water sources, and contributes 70 per cent more to acid rain. Also, organically reared cows burp twice as much methane as conventionally reared cattle – and methane is 20 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2. Meat and poultry are the largest agricultural contributors to GHG emissions. LCA assessment counts the energy used to manufacture pesticide for growing cattle feed, but still shows that a kilo of organic beef releases 12 per cent more GHGs, causes twice as much nutrient pollution and more acid rain. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) relates food production to: en ergy required to manufacture artificial fertilisers and pesticides; fossil fuel burnt by farm equipment; nutrient pollution caused by nitrate and phosphate run-off into water courses; release of gases that cause acid rain; and the area of land farmed. A similar review by the University of Hohenheim, Germany, in 2000 reached the same conclusions (Hohenheim is a proponent of organic farming and quoted by the Soil Association).
Myth two: Organic farming is more sustainable
Organic potatoes use less energy in terms of fertiliser production, but need more fossil fuel for ploughing. A hectare of conventionally farmed land produces 2.5 times more potatoes than an organic one. Heated greenhouse tomatoes in Britain use up to 100 times more energy than those grown in fields in Africa. Organic yield is 75 per cent of conventional tomato crops but takes twice the energy – so the climate consequences of home-grown organic tomatoes exceed those of Kenyan imports. Defra estimates organic tomato production in the UK releases almost three times the nutrient pollution and uses 25 per cent more water per kg of fruit than normal production. However, a kilogram of wheat takes 1,700 joules (J) of energy to produce, against 2,500J for the same amount of conventional wheat, although nutrient pollution is three times higher for organic.
Myth three: Organic farming doesn't use pesticides
Food scares are always good news for the organic food industry. The Soil Association and other organic farming trade groups say conventional food must be unhealthy because farmers use pesticides. Actually, organic farmers also use pesticides. The difference is that "organic" pesticides are so dangerous that they have been "grandfathered" with current regulations and do not have to pass stringent modern safety tests. For example, organic farmers can treat fungal diseases with copper solutions. Unlike modern, biodegradable, pesticides copper stays toxic in the soil for ever. The organic insecticide rotenone (in derris) is highly neurotoxic to humans – exposure can cause Parkinson's disease. But none of these "natural" chemicals is a reason not to buy organic food; nor are the man-made chemicals used in conventional farming.
Myth four: Pesticide levels in conventional food are dangerous
The proponents of organic food – particularly celebrities, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, who have jumped on the organic bandwagon – say there is a "cocktail effect" of pesticides. Some point to an "epidemic of cancer". In fact, there is no epidemic of cancer. When age-standardised, cancer rates are falling dramatically and have been doing so for 50 years. If there is a "cocktail effect" it would first show up in farmers, but they have among the lowest cancer rates of any group. Carcinogenic effects of pesticides could show up as stomach cancer, but stomach cancer rates have fallen faster than any other. Sixty years ago, all Britain's food was organic; we lived only until our early sixties, malnutrition and food poisoning were rife. Now, modern agriculture (including the careful use of well-tested chemicals) makes food cheap and safe and we live into our eighties.
Myth five: Organic food is healthier
To quote Hohenheim University: "No clear conclusions about the quality of organic food can be reached using the results of present literature and research results." What research there is does not support the claims made for organic food. Large studies in Holland, Denmark and Austria found the food-poisoning bacterium Campylobacter in 100 per cent of organic chicken flocks but only a third of conventional flocks; equal rates of contamination with Salmonella (despite many organic flocks being vaccinated against it); and 72 per cent of organic chickens infected with parasites. This high level of infection among organic chickens could cross-contaminate non-organic chickens processed on the same production lines. Organic farmers boast that their animals are not routinely treated with antibiotics or (for example) worming medicines. But, as a result, organic animals suffer more diseases. In 2006 an Austrian and Dutch study found that a quarter of organic pigs had pneumonia against 4 per cent of convention ally raised pigs; their piglets died twice as often. Disease is the major reason why organic animals are only half the weight of conventionally reared animals – so organic farming is not necessarily a boon to animal welfare.
Myth six: Organic food contains more nutrients
The Soil Association points to a few small studies that demonstrate slightly higher concentrations of some nutrients in organic produce – flavonoids in organic tomatoes and omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk, for example. The easiest way to increase the concentration of nutrients in food is to leave it in an airing cupboard for a few days. Dehydrated foods contain much higher concentrations of carbohydrates and nutrients than whole foods. But, just as in humans, dehydration is often a sign of disease. The study that found higher flavonoid levels in organic tomatoes revealed them to be the result of stress from lack of nitrogen – the plants stopped making flesh and made defensive chemicals (such as flavonoids) instead.
Myth seven: The demand for organic food is booming
Less than 1 per cent of the food sold in Britain is organic, but you would never guess it from the media. The Soil Association positions itself as a charity that promotes good farming practices. Modestly, on its website, it claims: "... in many ways the Soil Association can claim to be the first organisation to promote and practice sustainable development." But the Soil Association is also, in effect, a trade group – and very successful lobbying organisation. Every year, news outlets report the Soil Association's annual claim of a big increase in the size of the organic market. For 2006 (the latest available figures) it boasted sales of £1.937bn. Mintel (a retail consultantcy hired by the Soil Association) estimated only £1.5bn in organic food sales for 2006. The more reliable TNS Worldpanel, (tracking actual purchases) found just £1bn of organics sold – from a total food sector of £104bn. Sixty years ago all our food was organic so demand has actually gone down by 99 per cent. Despite the "boom" in organics, the amount of land being farmed organically has been decreasing since its height in 2003. Although the area of land being converted to organic usage is scheduled to rise, more farmers are going back to conventional farming. The Soil Association invariably claims that anyone who questions the value of organic farming works for chemical manufacturers and agribusiness or is in league with some shady right-wing US free-market lobby group. Which is ironic, considering that a number of British fascists were involved in the founding of the Soil Association and its journal was edited by one of Oswald Mosley's blackshirts until the late 1960s. All Britain's food is safer than ever before, In a serious age, we should talk about the future seriously and not use food scares and misinformation as a tactic to increase sales.