Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What Makes It ORGANIC?

by Daisy Villa

I remember when a friend came over a few years ago to borrow some ketchup. Of course the bottle I gave her was organic. A week later she came over to give me a bottle of ketchup to replace the bottle I had given to her. She was really sincere when she told me she was replacing my organic bottle of ketchup with a bottle of “natural ketchup.” I did not say anything to my friend, but I remember that day well. Since I am now an organic vegetarian I would like to clarify what is and what is not organic.

Knowing how to read labels and understanding terminology is extremely important.

As the demand for organic products increases, many companies are turning to foreign markets. So far the demand cannot be solely met by American farmers.

I would like to warn you that those foods that are marketed “imported organic” may fall short and pose hidden risks for the American consumer. Organic products from other countries do not necessarily follow the required American guidelines. Some countries have nonexistent environmental laws, virtually no organic definitions, and have substandard labor laws and practices.

Ultimately, the question of organic centers not only on pesticides, but also agricultural practices. Organic products are so vast that I am going to focus on organic foods.

Foods labeled “free range,” “cage free” or “all natural” do not necessarily meet the definition of organic. Products labeled organic and 100% organic must meet the following standards:

ORGANIC: These foods can display the USDA Organic seal. They exclude water and salt and at least 95% of content is organic by weight. The remaining ingredients must consist of National List-approved non-agricultural substances or non-organically produced agricultural produced products not commercially available in organic form.

100% ORGANIC: These foods can display the USDA Organic seal. They exclude salt and water. These products must contain only organically produced ingredients.

MADE WITH ORGANIC: These foods cannot display the USDA Organic seal. They should be at least 70 percent organic in content. The front of the product can display “Made with Organic.” This is followed by up to three specific organic ingredients.

CONTENT IS LESS THAN 70% ORGANIC: These foods cannot display the USDA Organic seal. They are only allowed to list the organic ingredients on the ingredient panel. They cannot mention the word organic on the main or front panel.

Fresh produce have labels with a five digit number. Numbers starting with “9” indicate organic and numbers starting with “4” indicate that standard farming practices were used to grow the produce. Standard farming practices include the use of pesticides. If there is no label, you could very well be looking at GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) which are so toxic and dangerous. My recommendation to avoid GMOs is not to buy fast food and processed food. I also avoid corn and soy unless indicated as organic.

For many people, buying organic is not a simple issue. Principles such as animal welfare, local economy, environmental issues, labor and social concerns reflect one’s purchases in food and other products. I include myself in this group of people.

Besides food, I like purchasing products with as much organic content as possible  including bedding, clothing, towels, home cleaning products and skin care. I am expanding to water not only purified but alkaline water which is a whole other article.
I am far from being the final word on the organic question. All I can do is my best, by continually reading, learning, researching and surrounding myself with like-minded people and supporting people and organizations that are concerned with health, wellness and the environment.

Doing your best, is all you can do. Are you doing your best?
               Non Organic Label                                 Organic Label

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