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
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.
More Hubs on Healthy Organic Food
- Nutrition tips: Some myths
Should we avoid red meat as much as we can? Is all fat really bad for us? Here are some Nutrition tips and some myths that can clear up the confusion.
- Healthy Eating Basics
Healthy eating for the most part means going back to the days before the development of high technology and food science. It is going back to healthy eating basics of the time before processed food and huge...
- Herbs and Foods to Boost the Immune System
As recently as 75 years ago the majority of the worlds population were using mostly herbs to heal themselves. Even now the majority of people in third world countries depend on indigenous plants for...
- Vegetables Basics
Eating a variety of vegetables is important to our health. We will do even better if we eat vegetables as fresh as they come. Eating what is in season will give us more nutritious and delicious vegetables....
How important do you think it is to eat food grown locally and in season for the environment and for your health?See results without voting
Comments 4 comments
- What Are The Benefits Of Grass Fed Beef?
My wife and I are, what some may call, health nuts. I will tell you that she is nuttier than I. None the less, we both take an active interest in what we eat and where it came from. The first thing I...
- 10 Tips for Sustainable Living
Sustainable living goes way beyond the concepts involved in being "green." Learn 10 tips for how to cultivate a truly more sustainable lifestyle.
- Down Scaling Our Ideal Dream Homes
Growing up surrounded by more elderly relatives than the norm, one thing I picked up on was that in many ways, there is "nothing new" that someone hasn't really tried before, just new spins on old ideas....
- Organic Food Cartoons
Organic Food cartoons from the CartoonStock directory - the world's largest on-line collection of cartoons.
More by this Author
Northern Ethiopia is home to the Amhara and Tigray ethnic groups. But within this two groups there are differences in manners of speech and culture according to regions. So even the seemingly homogeneous north is rich...
What is injera or enjira as it is sometimes spelled? Injera is a flat crepe like food that has millions of bubbles or wholes on its surface. In Ethiopia injera is not considered bread. Injera is injera the stuff of...
Grilling fish and chicken on a panini grill is is an easy, quick and healthy way of cooking these foods. It takes about 4 to 10 minutes, doesn't need much oil or butter, excess fat is drained off, and the best part...