(The Best Years in Life)
The rage is on for organic foods. It’s
really no surprise because almost
everyone wants to eat better quality
food. Whole Foods Markets and other
grocers who sell organic foods are
packed, and even Target and Walmart are
now piling in the organics for their
customers. At this point, one question
begs to be asked: Where is all this
organic food coming from?
takes 10 years to convert conventional farmland into land suitable for producing
organic crops, according to most organic farmers and the Minnesota Department of
Agriculture. Although farmland that has not been treated with herbicides for the
last three years may be eligible for organic certification, other factors
significantly increase this time span.
land has been used for conventional farming for several years, it must be
conditioned in a slow process that increases the content of organic matter
through tillage. This in turn increases the soil’s water holding capacity and
promotes the development of biodiversity, which is needed to disrupt habitat for
pest organisms. The goal is a field in which soil fertility can be maintained
and crops can be sturdy enough to resist invasion from remaining pest.
Very little of the organic food now sold in the U.S. is grown in the U.S.
Although the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 established the rules that
must be met in order to label food as organic, there was little public interest
at the time. Alternative sites began promoting the health benefits of organic
food by 2004, but interest didn’t gear up until 2008, when two percent of the
food sold in the U.S. was organic. Even then there was not enough U.S. produced
organic food to supply everyone who wanted it, because of the 10 years needed to
convert fields. As a result, organics from Mexico and Central and South America
began showing up. By 2014, that number had exploded to 4 percent of food sold in
the U.S., with much of it coming from China.
In the year 2000, when the organic movement was
in its infancy, the National Organic Program (NOP) became the federal regulatory
structure governing organic food, with its enforcement arm being the United
States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The standards of the NOP were reasonably
rigorous, and centered on restoring, maintaining and enhancing ecological
harmony. Somehow it became gospel that organic foods were free of all synthetic
fertilizers and pesticides, but this was never a goal of the NOP.
According to the USDA, “Organic crops are raised
without using most conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or
sewage sludge-based fertilizers.” There is a big difference between the terms
‘most’ and ‘all’.
The USDA has also created a ranking system under
which the certified organic label can only be used on products that are 100
percent organic. The simple term ‘organic’ is used to refer to products that are
only 95 percent organic, leaving leeway for adulteration. There are very few
products on the market that bear the label certified organic. Nevertheless, the
USDA has done a fair job of upholding the standards it originally set.
What are the standards regulating organics in
Mexico or China?
Since most of the food labeled as organic now
comes from China or Mexico, the consumer has no idea as to what standards were
used in its production. Was the soil tested for heavy metals? If no pesticides
or herbicides were used on this crop, what about the last crop grown in this
soil? What contaminates were in the water used on the crop? Were pesticides and
herbicides used and not reported? Consumers have no way of answering these
questions. What they do know is that China is the most polluted country on the
The USDA does not routinely inspect food from
China labeled as organic. Private inspectors are certified to do that, yet the
USDA seal appears in large letters on the front of the package.
Linda Greer, a senior scientist at the Natural
Research Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, has visited farms in
China. In an ABC broadcast she stated that she would not buy anything labeled as
organic from China with the idea that it was truly organic, as there has been
much difficulty with item tracking.
Recently the FDA opened shipments from China and
found some food items contaminated with pesticides, bacteria and filth. Products
from China labeled as organic appear in many of the healthy image grocery stores
as well as in conventional grocery stores carrying organic foods.
Those who package foods labeled as organic from
China show no pride in that fact. If you want to rule out organics from China or
other foreign countries, you will need to look in the fine print on the back of
How to get food that is really better
We were never meant to eat food that traveled
long distances and laid in cold storage waiting to be bought. Our ancestors ate
food they grew on their land. They had a relationship with that food and the
environment around it, and they lived healthier lives with very few incidences
of the diseases that plague people today. Growing your own food can be a healing
proposition on many levels.
growing your own is not an option, get to know the farmers who live close by and
start a relationship so you can deal directly with the ones who impress you. A
third option is to join community supported agriculture (CSA). Through CSA,
local growers can distribute their products in various ways, such as by
membership or farm shares. Whichever of these you choose, the important thing is
to reestablish the relationship with your food that your ancestors once had.
Barbara is a school psychologist and the author of Dividend Capture, a book on personal finance. She is a breast cancer survivor using bioidentical hormone therapy, and a passionate advocate of natural health with hundreds of articles on many aspects of health and wellness. She is the editor and publisher of AlignLife's Health Secrets Newsletter.
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