How to make sure that the food you’re buying is organic.
In the world today the things we put in our bodies could potentially be covered in pesticides and be genetically altered from the original version. We have become increasingly aware of these problems and for this reason have come up with labels to tell us what exactly we are eating and wearing.
The difference between organic and natural.
Many people believe that natural and organic are interchangeable, however they are not. Natural foods can include organics foods, but not all natural foods are organic. Basically, natural food means that it’s been minimally processed and is additive free, however it does not have to follow the standards set by the USDA. This can mean that pesticides were used on these products and some may even be genetically modified organisms.
What is a GMO?
A genetically modified organism can be anything from a fruit to vegetable that is genetically engineered. For example, seedless grapes cannot be organic nor can cloned fruits or animals. Cows injected with Bovine Growth Hormone are also not organic. It’s actually extremely difficult to even buy seeds that are not somehow cross-bred with other species to improve their growth and/or insect resistance. This means fruits and vegetables that you grow yourself technically aren’t organic.
To be organic, foods must follow these USDA regulations:
1. no use of irradiation, sewage sludge, or genetically modified organisms (GMO) in organic production
2. reflect NOSB recommendations on the national list of allowed synthetic and prohibited substances
3. no antibiotics in organic meat and poultry
4. 100% organic feed for livestock. (Source: MayoClinic)
How to find organic food.
So how can you tell if something is really organic?
Well the USDA has broken food stuffs into 4 different categories.
- 100% organic: everything is organic
- organic: 95%-99% organic ingredients. Remaining ingredients are not available organically.
- Made with organic ingredients: food must contain 70-94% organic ingredients and will not bear the USDA organic seal.
- Other: products with less than 70% organic materials. These will not have the seal. (Source: North Carolina Cooperative Extension)
Only 100% organic and organic will have the USDA seal of approval. Even with the USDA organic seal, it’s always best to check the list of ingredients before you buy something claiming to be organic (after all organic seal means 95%-99% organic ingredients). Check out the list of 38 allowed non-organic materials and see if what your buying complies with the regulations. (Source: The Daily Green). Many organic purists believe that foods labeled organic should be 100% organic and that the list is also outdated, especially regarding hops. There are, in fact, several breweries working on creating organic hops to create a truly organic beer experience.
Labels and seals from the USDA do some good when shopping at a store, but the best thing to do is to go to the local farmer’s market and ask the vendors (generally they are the actual farmers) their agricultural and livestock practices. Most food at a farmers market will either be organic or at least “natural”. If you don’t have one, there are plenty of sites online that offer organic foods and groceries delivered fresh to your door. If you live in the New York/Jersey area check out Organic Direct.