The first time I purchased an organic product was in 2008 when I started making my own meals instead of eating in the school dining hall. What seemed at the time to be a minor decision between two types of milk ultimately changed my outlook on food. In the years that followed, I noticed an increase in the amount of organic options and I began hearing more about the differences. It was not until 2012 that I finally decided to delve deeper into the way food is grown and produced in the United States.
Organic food is not just a trend that is only attainable for those with disposable income. It is a way of life that has become increasingly more popular among those looking to improve their health and the quality of their food. Sales in organic food have increased from around $20 billion in 2008 to almost $35 billion in 2014. Organic food is now accountable for nearly 4 percent of total food sales as the public is becoming increasingly more aware of the sources and contents of their food.
The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) was created in 2002 after a demand from both consumers and producers for uniformity across the board. This act sets specific guidelines that govern the production, handling and processing of organically grown agricultural products. This excludes the use of antibiotics, genetic engineering, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and synthetic growth hormones.
For more information on organic standards and regulations visit: https://ota.com/advocacy/organic-standards
Choosing organic ensures that you are able to avoid various chemicals and unnatural ingredients. An alternative to organic is the Non-GMO verified label that is used to indicate that there are no genetically modified ingredients. This can be helpful when you are looking to purchase products with ingredients such as soy or corn. Corn and soy can be found in a large majority of processed foods, so it is critical that you ensure they are Non-GMO.
While the Non-GMO label is a helpful tool and has taken a lot of the guess work out of making purchases it is important to note this only accounts for the fact that it is not genetically modified. Any crop that is not USDA Organic is more than likely being treated with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. This means you are still at risk for all possible side effects associated with these chemicals. These chemicals not only pose potential health risks, but also pollute the soil and water.
For information about which produce to always buy organic visit the Environmental Working Groups' list: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php
Aside from being effective at eliminating insects from crops, pesticides have little to no benefits for the overall biosphere. Exposure to synthetic pesticides such as organophosphate has been linked to effects on brain development, behavior and fertility. Additionally, it has been linked to interference with the way testosterone communicates with cells, lowering testosterone and thyroid hormone levels. Another culprit is the herbicide atrazine. At its lowest levels this chemical has been effective in the feminization of male frogs. Atrazine has also been linked to breast tumors, delayed puberty and prostate inflammation in animals.
Armed with this information it was no longer possible for me to casually purchase non-organic produce without being painfully aware of the possible implications on my health. While it may not always be easy to find organic options, it is slowly becoming more readily available. As more people realize the importance of choosing organic over conventional, the selection and variety continue to improve. I hope that this snippet of the extensive research that has been done to help keep the public informed will assist you in better food purchases in the future. Please feel free to leave comments or questions in the section below.