A comparison between foods and what it means for you Beth Daws EVHM 3305-H01 Fall 2011
Organic – “…is a labeling term that indicates that the food or otheragricultural product has been produced through approved methods.These methods integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practicesthat foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, andconserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation,and genetic engineering may not be used. “(USDA#1)This definition is regulated by the USDA, and the only way to be sureyour food is organic is to see one of these labels on the package.
However it is important to note that organic farmers are not bannedfrom using fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and rodenticidesprovided they are on the National List.It should be noted that the National List only has substances ordevices which should in agreement with the EPA, not causeanthropological or environmental damage, provided they are used inthe manner outlined by the National List. (USDA#2)
It should also be noted that if the agreement between the USDA/EPAand the farmer is breached, then the product can no longer bemarketed as organic. However, the product may still be sold asconventional. As an example, if a dairy cow becomes too ill to besaved without an organically banned substance, the dairy farmer isrequired by law to attempt to save the dairy cow, though it can nolonger produce organic dairy, nor be sold as organic meat. (USDA#3)
It’s also important to keep in mind that there are different “levels” oforganic. When you see the USDA seal, it is by law, at least a 95%organic product excluding water and salt. If a product is less than95% organic it cannot use the USDA seal, though organicingredients that meet the USDA requirements may be listed asorganic in the product’s ingredient list. If any product is less than70% organic, excluding water and salt, it cannot be calledorganic(USDA#4).So what about products that are 0% organic?
Normal – well actually, this has However there two other terms no definition. But don’t worry, regulated by the USDA there are some other terms the food industry uses which are Free Range either loosely, or not regulated Grass Fed at all, which include (#USDA 1) “All Natural” “Pasture Raised” “Humane”
Well okay, so there’s no USDA definition for “normal”, but it mustmean something, right?All food in the US must pass some kind of safety inspection andmust be sanitized. The same is true for organic products, but there’sone small hitch. The sanitizing agents on non-organic food usuallyinclude one of the following: ammonia, sulfides/sulfites, chlorides,and nitrites. So what’s wrong with that?
The problem with nitrites: When heated (i.e. being cooked) or under acidic conditions (i.e. in the gut) they will decompose and form nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are carcinogenic. (#Pollan)The problem with sulfides/sulfites: Some people display heightened sensitivity to these, though they are not carcinogenic (ASCIA). Since 1986 (NY Times) they have been banned to be used for produce typically consumed raw. However, most dried fruits use them for color retention.The problem with ammonia/chlorides: Although no reliable studies have been carried out testing for negative effects, improper handling and disposal can lead to low quality consumer products and environmental issues.
From an ecological standpoint there is a lack of regulation withregard to agricultural practices. Aside from banned substances, suchas DDT, farmers are under little scrutiny. Although some farmers areusing more ecologically friendly practices, such as crop rotation, dripirrigation, and planting wind breaks, they are not required to do so bylaw. If you recall from our discussion about eutrophication and deadzones then you may see that this can become problematic.
Food for thought:Despite price differences, will you, or do you buy organic products?If not, is the price difference the only thing that stops you from buying organic?You are what you eat (Ingested plant miRNAs regulate gene expression in animals), does this change your mind about organic products?Do you think that organic products should be checked to make sure they still meet standards before being stocked in stores?
Places of organic production are only inspected annually, though it is unscheduled and unannounced. Do you think the inspections should be more often? Do you think they should happen only during the growing season (where applicable)?Keep in mind that certifications are only as good as their certifiers – corruption and laziness can happen anywhere, anytime. If you want to support the USDA organic program, push for a better inspection system and better inspectors!
USDA Seals National Organic Program. Accessed 12-3-11. http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?&template=TemplateC&navID=Nati onalOrganicProgram&leftNav=NationalOrganicProgram&page=NOPOrganicSeal&description=The %20Organic%20Seal&acct=nopgeninfoUSDA (#1) National Organic Program. Accessed 11-29-11. http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateC&navID=Cons umerlinkNOPFAQsNOPRegGuidance&rightNav1=ConsumerlinkNOPFAQsNOPRegGuidance&top Nav=&leftNav=NationalOrganicProgram&page=NOPConsumers&resultType=&acct=nopgeninfoUSDA(#2) Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (amended November 10, 2005). Accessed 12-3- 11. http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5060370 USDA (#3) “…” Subpart C, § 205.238 Livestock health care practice standard. USDA (#4) “…” Subpart D, § 205.305 Multi-ingredient packaged products with less than 70 percent organically produced ingredients.ASCIA Sulfite Allergy. Updated June 2010. Accessed 11-29-11. http://www.allergy.org.au/content/view/128/1/Molotsky, Irvin. "U.S. ISSUES BAN ON SULFITES USE IN CERTAIN FOODS.“ New York Times. 9 July. 1986. Retrieved 11-29-11 http://www.nytimes.com/1986/07/09/us/us-issues-ban-on-sulfites-use-in-certain-foods.htmlPollan, Michael. In Defense of Food. Penguin Press (2008).