- How does growing food organically benefit our health? Food grown organically means that the farmers do not use harmful chemicals on their crops--chemicals like pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides. These chemicals, even in small does, have been known to increase the risk of contracting certain kinds of cancers, as well as reducing the effectiveness of the human immune systems. Especially at risk are children, pregnant women, and those people who already have autoimmune disorders.
- Why don't I want synthetic chemicals in my body? More and more evidence suggest that human exposure to pesticides is hazardous to our health. Not only in our food, pesticides are found in our drinking water, air and soil. They are used almost everywhere: schools, parks, malls, and office buildings, just to name a few. Besides the cancer and immune system links to pesticides, studies have shown pesticide exposure linked to a six-fold increase in autism spectrum disorder in children, the disruption of our endocrine systems and the regulation of our hormones, reproductive systems and embryonic development.
- How much organic food are Americans eating? According to the Organic Trade Association, 78% of American families purchase organic foods. Sales have exploded from $1 billion in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010. More than a fad, organic food is here to stay.
- Can food be organic if it is grown from GMOs? No. The USDA has strict guidelines prohibiting any contact with GMOs for any food labeled organic, either in growing, processing or handling. That means that organic farmers cannot plant GMO seeds, for example, and organic cows cannot eat GMO corn or other GMO grains.
- What are the criteria the USDA's National Organic Program uses to certify a product organic? The USDA “Certified Organic” label on your produce, meat, processed products (for example, soup and jam) and other groceries means that the product has met all the government standards on how the food is grown, handled and processed. Certified agents evaluate farms and businesses annually and require detailed descriptions of the product being certified, a written “organic system plan”, and a list of any substances applied to the land in the last three years. If the product meets 95% or more of the standards, it can be labeled organic. If the product is an ingredient in another product, for example, organic fruit and eggs in a pie made with conventional flour and butter, it can be labeled, “made with organic ingredients”.
- How does growing food organically benefit the environment? A lot of our groundwater has been polluted with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Since the use of those synthetic products are prohibited in organic food production, alternative methods have been used to add nutrients to the soil and avoid the loss of crops dues to pests. These organic methods include: using organic fertilizers like compost and animal manure, increasing biodiversity of species and crops, and enhancing soils by using crop rotation, minimum tillage, and nutrient and energy cycling. The long-term view of organic farming increases the sustainability of food production, as well.
We thought we'd mix it up a bit this month and write about the environmental and health benefits of eating organic food. First of all, what is organic food exactly? “Organic” refers to the way agricultural crops are grown and processed. They must be grown in healthy soil, without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, or petroleum-based fertilizers. Organic meat comes from animals raised without growth hormones or antibiotics and they have not been fed animal by-products. Here are some frequently asked questions about the benefits of eating organic:
SBS believes in the value of collaboration. Our post come from ideas and issues our team feels passionate about. We offer a combination of topical sustainability issues and applicable tips for every month of the year.