There’s been a lot of talk about organics lately. Organic food, and all
things organic have become increasingly popular in the past fifteen years; organic food
production has increased by 20% a year since the 1990s, far ahead of other areas of the
food industry in both the developed and developing worlds. I don’t recall ever
seeing an “organic” section as a child, and now in almost every grocery store I go there is not only
organic produce, but a whole organic goods section as well. I wanted to learn a little
more about organic food for myself, and pass that onto other concerned consumers, so
the purpose of the blog this week is to talk a bit about what organics are, and to discuss
the benefits and concerns that have been raised about organic produce.
What does it mean when a product is said to be “organic”?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its Canadian counterpart, the AAFC, food that is labeled “organic” is produced without the use of conventional pesticides and must adhere to site specific conditions that foster cycling of resources, promote agricultural balance,
and conserve biodiversity. Organic produce is grown without synthetic ingredients,
bioengineering or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products are
awarded USDA approval if the animals are reared without antibiotics or growth
hormones. A USDA Organic seal is granted to foods that contain at least 95% organic
ingredients. Organic food thus differs from “conventional” food in that it must be free of
non-organic pesticides (including insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides), and may not
be genetically engineered or contain synthetic ingredients, including antibiotics or growth
hormones for meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
So why go organic?
Most people decide to go organic because they believe the product is “healthier” and
more nutritious for them and their families. Since the second world war, the quality
of food has declined. For instance, levels of vitamin C, and many other vitamins and
minerals in today’s fruit bear no resemblance to the levels found in wartime fruit.
However, organic food has been shown to contain up to 50% more nutrients, minerals,
vitamins, and fiber than produce that has been conventionally farmed. A blind study
conducted comparing organic and conventional apples also found the organic apples to
be firmer, sweeter, and less tart than the conventionally grown apples. Another reason
why a lot of people have decided to switch to organic is because they believe organics to
be safer. Pesticides used in conventional farming have been linked to nitrogen run-off
that pollutes groundwater, as well as residues that may increase the risk of respiratory and
nervous system problems, birth defects, and a variety of cancers (including breast cancer,
non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, myeloma, and stomach, prostate and testicular cancer). Some
experts have also posited that pesticide residue can be particularly harmful to children,
and may lead to problems with normal neurological development. The use of antibiotics
and growth hormones in conventional farming passes these substances into our bodies
when we eat conventional meat and dairy products and may also impede or negatively
effect development. The use of antibiotics may also be one of the causes of antibiotic-
resistant strains of bacteria.
A third reason why people have turned to organics is because
it is believed to be healthier for the planet. Some studies have shown that organic
farming is better for wildlife; organic farms have a richer and more varied wildlife than
conventional farms. Also, organic farms have been claimed to protect the climate.
Organic farms store more carbon than conventional plots. By storing more carbon in the
soil, organic farmers help to mitigate climate change.
There are plenty of reasons to go organic. If you want healthier, more
nutritious, safer and environmentally friendly food, you might want to incorporate more
organics into your diet. At Locus Lounge we serve up as much organic produce and food
as possible. Most of our meats are natural and do not have antibiotics or hormones. Most
of our produce is locally produced and as much as possible is organic. Come down to
Locus Lounge and eat healthy food that is more nutritious, safer, and better for the
environment. Make a difference with your fork!
If you want to learn more about organic food, check out these sites: