Last week I touched on the importance of making healthy choices at the grocery store. This week I want to explain, in a practical manner, the variations associated with organically, conventionally, and genetically modified foods and crops.
Organic is quite the buzz word these days, and rightly so. As people become more educated about the common agricultural practices adopted by our country, they are able to make more informed decisions about the quality and nutritional value of food that's available for purchase.
The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows:
Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.
Organic food is produced using only natural fertilizers, such as manure and compost, natural weed control including crop rotation and mulching, and naturally derived (chemical & toxin free!) pesticides using ingredients like garlic, mint, and neem oil.
Organic meat, dairy, and eggs are grown and produced without hormones and genetically modified feeds. Animals have access to the outdoors, are provided clean housing, rotational grazing privileges and a healthy, organic based diet.
Packaged foods labeled as "100% Organic" are comprised of just that and may be allowed to carry a green USDA organic label.
Foods labeled as "Organic" must contain 95% or more of total organic ingredients.
Still other packaged food that is labeled as "contains organic ingredients" must be comprised of at least 70% of organic ingredients.
Dr. Mark Hyman, nutritional veteran of 35 years and author of the book, Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? , was recently asked by the Organic Consumers Association:
OCA: Can you explain why you think our forks are the most powerful tools to transform our health and change the world?
Dr. Hyman: Food and the way we produce and consume it is the nexus of most of our world’s health, environmental, climate, economic and even political crises. That’s why it is our fork, and what we decide to put on it every single day that is of the utmost importance. I truly believe that when we choose organic, grass-fed, local, sustainable foods, we are voting for a healthier planet.
And how about a healthier us!
Conventional food is grown using chemical & synthetic fertilizers, chemical herbicides and synthetic based pesticides.
Conventionally raised food production animals are inundated with growth hormones, antibiotics and medications (distributed to the animals to prevent them from getting diseases due to the filthy environments they are raised in). Rarely are these animals given access to the outdoors, and when they are it is generally a severely overcrowded and disgusting situation (google CAFO to learn more about where your hamburgers actually come from).
GMO's stand for genetically modified food or organisms.
Now, let me clarify something right now. Organic food is ALWAYS GMO-free.
A GMO is a plant or animal that has been genetically modified through the addition of a small amount of genetic material from other organisms through molecular techniques. Currently, the GMOs on the market today have been given genetic traits to provide protection from pests, tolerance to pesticides, or improve its quality. Examples of GMO field crops include Bt-potatoes, Bt-corn, Bt-sweet corn, Roundup Ready soybeans, Roundup Ready Corn, and Liberty Link corn.
Genetically modified foods are foods derived from GMO crops. For example, corn produced through biotechnology is being used in many familiar foods, including corn meal and tortilla chips. In addition, corn is used to make high fructose corn syrup, which is used as a sweetener in many foods such as soft drinks and baked goods. While the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) regulates genetically modified foods, it considers Bt-corn to be nutritionally equivalent to traditional corn (UK, College of Agriculture)
As of 2017, 94% of our Soybeans, 92% of our corn, and a whopping 96% of our cotton are GMO crops.
These plants, whose DNA has been altered and spliced in ways that cannot occur in nature or traditional crossbreeding, are being grown to be resistant to pesticides, retain longer shelf life, or produce their own insecticide! Unfortunately, they are failing to overcome the pests that plague them and in the process are stimulating the emergence of super pests!
Common DNA splicing modifications include Researchers inserting a spiders’ silk gene into a goats’ DNA in such a way that the goats would make the silk protein only in their milk. This “silk milk” could then be used to manufacture a web-like material called Biosteel.
And one of the earliest examples was the Flavor Saver Tomato which was injected with fish DNA to give it a longer shelf life. Unfortunately, someone with a shellfish allergy ate it and became very ill. It was immediately removed from the shelves because it was said to transport poorly.
As unbelievable as it may seem, genetically modified foods in the United States do not require special labeling to notify consumers. Even though over 35 countries throughout the world have completely banned GMO's!
I've put some really great articles below to further your education on what you are eating. I've also included a wonderful little video which touts the benefits of organic food.
Ready to grow your own Tomatoes?! Cause I am! So....
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