(Health Secrets) The rage is on for eating organic. It’s really no surprise because almost everyone wants to eat better quality food. Whole Foods Markets and other grocers endorsing eating organic and selling
organic foods are packed, and even Target and Walmart are now piling in the organics for their customers. At this point, one question begs to be asked: Where is all this organic food coming from?
It takes 10 years to convert conventional farmland into land suitable for producing organic crops, according to most organic farmers and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Although farmland that has not been treated with herbicides for the last three years may be eligible for organic certification, other factors significantly increase this time span.
After land has been used for conventional farming for several years, it must be conditioned in a slow process that increases the content of organic matter through tillage. This in turn increases the soil’s water holding capacity and promotes the development of biodiversity, which is needed to disrupt habitat for pest organisms. The goal is a field in which soil fertility can be maintained and crops can be sturdy enough to resist invasion from remaining pests.
Very little of the organic food now sold in the U.S. is grown in the U.S.
Although the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 established the rules that must be met in order to label food as organic, there was little public interest at the time. Alternative sites began promoting the health benefits of organic food by 2004, but interest didn’t gear up until 2008, when two percent of the food sold in the U.S. was organic. Even then there was not enough U.S. produced organic food to supply everyone who wanted it, because of the 10 years needed to convert fields. As a result, organics from Mexico and Central and South America began showing up. By 2014, that number had exploded to 4 percent of food sold in the U.S., with much of it coming from China.
In the year 2000, when the organic movement was in its infancy, the National Organic Program (NOP) became the federal regulatory structure governing organic food, with its enforcement arm being the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The standards of the NOP were reasonably rigorous, and centered on restoring, maintaining and enhancing ecological harmony. Somehow it became gospel that organic foods were free of all synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, but this was never a goal of the NOP.
According to the USDA, “Organic crops are raised without using most conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers.” There is a big difference between the terms ‘most’ and ‘all’.
The USDA has also created a ranking system under which the certified organic label can only be used on products that are 100 percent organic. The simple term “organic” is used to refer to products that are only 95 percent organic, leaving leeway for adulteration. There are very few products on the market that bear the label “certified organic”. Nevertheless, the USDA has done a fair job of upholding the standards it originally set.
What are the standards regulating organics in Mexico or China?
Since most of the food labeled as organic now comes from China or Mexico, the consumer has no idea as to what standards were used in its production. Was the soil tested for heavy metals? If no pesticides or herbicides were used on this crop, what about the last crop grown in this soil? What contaminates were in the water used on the crop? Were pesticides and herbicides used and not reported? Consumers have no way of answering these questions. What they do know is that China is the most polluted country on the planet.
The USDA does not routinely inspect food from China labeled as organic. Private inspectors are certified to do that, yet the USDA seal appears in large letters on the front of the package.
Linda Greer, a senior scientist at the Natural Research Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, has visited farms in China. In an ABC broadcast she stated that she would not buy anything labeled as organic from China with the idea that it was truly organic, as there has been much difficulty in tracking.
Recently the FDA opened shipments from China and found some food items contaminated with pesticides, bacteria and filth. Yet products from China labeled as “organic” appear in many of the healthy image grocery stores as well as in conventional grocery stores carrying organic foods.
Those who package foods labeled as organic from China show no pride in that fact. If you want to rule out organics from China or other foreign countries, you will need to look in the fine print on the back of the package.
How to get food that is really better
We were never meant to eat food that traveled long distances and laid in cold storage waiting to be bought. Our ancestors ate food they grew on their land. They had a relationship with that food and the environment around it, and they lived healthier lives with very few incidences of the diseases that plague people today. Growing your own food can be a healing proposition on many levels.
If growing your own is not an option, get to know the farmers who live close by and start a relationship so you can deal directly with the ones who impress you. A third option is to join community supported agriculture (CSA). Through CSA, local growers can distribute their products in various ways, such as by membership or farm shares. Whichever of these you choose, the important thing is to reestablish the relationship with your food that your ancestors once had.
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