Organic food is food produced according to organic standards, which means crops grown without the use of conventional pesticides, as well as artificial fertilizers or sewage sludge, animals reared without the routine use of antibiotics and without the use of growth hormones and food processed without ionizing radiation and without the use of a wide range of food additives. It is produced on all levels without the use of genetically modified organisms. Historically, these farms have been small family-run farms.
Once only available in small stores or farmers' markets, organic foods are becoming much more widely available. Organic food sales within the US have enjoyed 17 to 20 percent growth for the past few years while sales of conventional food - while still larger in size - have grown at only about 2 to 3 percent a year. This large growth is predicted to continue, and many companies are jumping into the market.
There is evidence that organic farms are more sustainable and environmentally sound, among other benefits (see benefits). These claims are also still subject to dispute and are not settled among scientists. One vocal critic in particular, Anthony Trewavas from England, has written detailed critiques of organic agriculture.
Fresh food is seasonal and perishable. Vegetables and fruits are the most available type of organic, fresh food, and are closely associated with organic farming. They are often purchased directly from growers, at farmers' markets, from on-farm stands, supermarkets, through speciality food stores, and through community-supported agriculture (CSA) projects. Unprocessed animal products like organic meat, eggs, dairy, are less commonly available in their purely "fresh" form.
Processed food accounts for most of the items in a supermarket. Often, within the same store, both organic and conventional versions of products are available, and the price of the organic version is usually higher (see modern developments). Most processed organic food comes from large food conglomerates producing and marketing products like canned goods, frozen vegetables, prepared dishes and other convenience foods is beyond the scope of small organic producers.
Processed organic food usually contains only (or at least a specified percentage of) organic ingredients and no artificial food additives, and is often processed with fewer artificial methods, materials and conditions (eg: no chemical ripening, no food irradiation).
Identifying organic food
At first, organic food comprised mainly fresh vegetables. Early consumers interested in organic food would look for chemical-free, fresh or minimally processed food. They mostly had to buy directly from growers: "Know your farmer, know your food" was the motto. Personal definitions of what constituted "organic" were developed through first-hand experience: by talking to farmers, seeing farm conditions, and farming activities. Small farms grew vegetables (and raised livestock) using organic farming practices, with or without certification, and the individual consumer monitored.
Consumer demand for organic foods continues to increase, and high volume sales through mass outlets, like supermarkets, is rapidly replacing the direct farmer connection. For supermarket consumers, food production is not easily observable, and product labelling, like "certified organic", is relied on. Government regulations and third-party inspectors are looked to for assurance.
A "certified organic" label is usually the only way for consumers to know that a processed product is "organic".
To be certified organic, products must be grown and manufactured in a manner that adheres to standards set by the country they are sold in: Australia: NASAA Organic Standard. Britain: Organic Farmers and Growers Organic Standards. United States: NOP Program Standards. In the United States, the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C.A. § 6501-22) created the National Organic Program (NOP). The regulations (7 C.F.R. Part 205) are enfored by the USDA through the National Organic Program under this act.These laws essentially require that any product that claims to be organic must have been manufactured and handled according to specific NOP requirements. A USDA Organic seal identifies products with at least 95% organic ingredients.
For the environment
In several surveys that have looked at smaller studies to build an overall comparison between conventional and organic systems of farming a general agreement on benefits has been built.
In these surveys it has been found that:
Organic farms do not release synthetic pesticides or herbicides into the environment - some of which have the potential to harm local wildlife.
Organic farms are better than conventional farms at sustaining diverse ecosystems. That is, populations of plants and insects, as well as animals. When calculated either per unit area or per unit of yield:
Organic farms use less energy and produce less waste - waste such as packaging materials for chemicals. A study published by the National Research Council in 1993 determined that for infants and children, the major source of exposure to pesticides is through diet. A recent study in 2006 measured the levels of organophosphorus pesticide exposure in 23 school children before and after replacing their diet with organic food. In this study it was found that levels of organophosphorus pesticide exposure dropped dramatically and immediately when the children switched to an organic diet.
If you decide that you’d prefer fewer chemicals and other additives in your food, the choice isn’t an easy one. Organic sticker shock can hit the most stalwart of organic shoppers. The fact is that organic farmers produce more labor-intensive products and don’t enjoy the economies of scale or government subsidies that their big brothers in agribusiness do. But we found many ways to save on the cost of organic products.
Do a price check among local grocery stores for often purchased organic items and shop where you find the lowest prices. In the New York City area, for example, we found a 4-ounce jar of Earth’s Best organic baby food for as little as 69 cents and as much as $1.29. When it comes to fresh produce, remember that you’ll save by buying it in season.
You can find organic growers at most farmer’s markets, anda USDA study in 2002 found that about 40 percent of those farmers don’t charge a premium. For listings of local farmer’s markets and other sources, go to www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets and www.localharvest.org .Join the farm team. Buy a share in a community-supported organic farm and you’ll get a weekly supply of produce from spring until fall. The cost to feed a family of four generally ranges from $300 to $500 for the season. (Some farms also require you to work a few hours a month distributing or picking produce.) The savings can be substantial. A price study by a community-supported farm in the Northeast showed that the average $10 weekly cost for a shareholder’s produce supply almost always beat farmer’s market organic prices and often cost less than the same nonorganic items at a supermarket. Go to www.sare.org for a list of community-supported farms.
Order by mail
National providers will ship items such as organic beef ( www.mynaturalbeef.com ). Some local businesses, such as FreshDirect ( www.freshdirect.com ) in the New York City area and Pioneer Organics ( www.pioneerorganics.com ) in the Pacific Northwest, offer home deliveries. Other helpful sites are at www.eatwellguide.org and www.theorganicpages.com .
Be a supermarket spy
Make sure you get what you pay for by watching where produce sits on shelves. All grocers are legally required to stack organic fruits and vegetables where they won’t be exposed to water runoff from the misting of conventional produce, which could contaminate organic items with pesticide residue. If a store is not following that rule, you may be wasting your money by buying organic produce there.
I hope that this has been enough information to get you motivated to start buying local or organics for you family! My suggestion would be to start with dairy and meat and then move on to fruits and vegs! Don't forget to visit your local farmers markets and talk to the farmer you are buying from.
Please share any infomation you have on this topic or you tips for starting out!