Certified Organic USDA Labeled Food: Is It Really Organic?

USDA's Definition of Certified Organic Food

Basically the USDA defines certified organic food as crops grown without synthetic pesticides, and fertilizers, not genetically engineered, and not irradiated. The use of sewage sludge is prohibited.The soil is to be replenished by crop rotation and other natural means.Live stock and dairy animals are not to be treated with hormones or antibiotics.They are to be fed organic agricultural feed and are to be given access to the outdoors. This is a pretty good guideline but is it complete? Does it fulfill the true meaning of organic farming and food production? In order to answer this question we need to look back to those who pioneered the organic farming movement and to those activist who came after them.

This is what I found in WIKEPEDIA. The first person who coined the phrase
"organic farming" was Lord Northbourne in England in 1939. He defined organic farming as a holistic ecologically balanced way of farming as opposed to chemical farming. So what exactly does that mean? It means we live in harmony with our environment and do little or no harm to it. And that will include consuming locally and in season as much as possible. This is usually looked at as militant environmentalism but when looked at closely it really isn't. If we are transporting organically grown food across great distances and using refrigeration it is hardly ecologically balanced. We all know about the environmental effects of fossil fuel and refrigeration is one of the main causes for the depletion of the ozone layer. Not to mention the compromise in the freshness of the food that is being transported.


Small is Beautiful

The pioneers of organic farming were also opposed to huge industrial farming and support ecologically sustainable smaller farms. Now a days most of our so called organic foods are grown by huge industrial farms. So I wonder about what live stock and dairy animals are fed in these huge farms. Remember the USDA guidelines says that cattle can be fed organic farm feed. I wonder what that means? Most probably, corn and other grains. Right! If so this meat and dairy products will hardly be called organic, First of all ruminantes which are cows and steers are not made for eating and digesting grains. They are made for eating grass. The corn and other grains they eat makes them very sick. Something to do with alkalinity or acidity of their stomach. That is why they are fed with antibiotics in the farms that are not certified organic. So now I am wondering what this organic farms that are feeding ruminates organic grains do when the cows get sick. Just something to ruminate over.

That is not all. I ask why aren't this farms feeding their ruminates grass and in fact according to the USDA guidelines they should be grazing in pasture. The answer is because it is prohibitively expensive and impossible to provide hay or grass for the huge number of animals these farms raise. Thus the insistence on the environmentalists part that organic farms are to be of reasonable size to be ecologically sustainable

istock photo by BeverlyR
istock photo by BeverlyR

Eating What Grows Close By and Keeping up With the Seasons

So in light of what is discussed above, is what is sold to us in super markets and grocery stores as USDA certified organic food really organic? To answer this question, I went to the chain super store that boasts of selling the most locally grown organic food. I ignored the piles and piles of gooey chocolate, pastry, and imported and domestic cheeses and other packaged goodies that is attractively displayed on the first floor and went to the basement were the produce, meat and seafood are displayed. What I found was that most of the fruits and vegetables labeled USDA certified are from California and many are out of season. And I suspect these Californian farms are not small farms either. I did notice pictures of family farmers from New Jersey or Upstate New York telling us how they have converted to organic farming and that there animals are humanely treated and are fed organic vegetarian diets. Whatever that means. But what is actually displayed is mostly not locally grown. I even noticed certified organic meat from New Zealand in the meat section and there are piles of bell peppers from Holland in the produce section.

I guess by now you can tell I am for the reasonably sized local farmer. But I would like to mention that I have found out from my research that it is very hard to get USDA certified organic status for many small farmers. They find it very expensive and there is extremely tedious and cumbersome documentation and paper work involved. So some local farmers just don't bother to get the organic certification even though they do real organic farming. They simply label their products naturally grown. So it is up to us to find out about this local farmers in our area if we are interested in eating truly fresh and organic food.

In conclusion I would like to say that it may be difficult to always eat locally and in season. There may not be enough local farmers in our area. And if we like variety we may not find a lot of it if we eat what is in season only. This is especially true in winter. But we could consider these important aspects of organic food. If there is a demand for locally grown food there will be more of them. And we could make an effort to eat more seasonally to decrease demand for out of season food so that we can ease up on the environment and maybe on our selves too.

Your thoughts and ideas on this matter are appreciated.

Organic farm/ courtesy of wikipedia
Organic farm/ courtesy of wikipedia

How important do you think it is to eat food grown locally and in season for the environment and for your health?

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Comments 4 comments

Cedar Cove Farm profile image

Cedar Cove Farm 6 years ago from Southern Missouri

Great article! Thanks for sharing.

lelanew55 6 years ago

Thank you for reading and commenting on this article.I Really appreciate it.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Good info. In these times we could expect any sort of event to force us into growing our own food and/or buying locally. Learning about it now is wise.

lelanew55 profile image

lelanew55 5 years ago Author

RTalloni, thank you so much for reading this hub and commenting. I am going to go over to your hubs and read some of yours.

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