Monday, April 27, 2009

Another good explanation of 'What is Organic'

So although I am always touting the benefits of buying and eating local, eating 'certified organic' is an option. In my opinion, I first look for local, and then buy organic if that is not available. I have written a previous post about the differences between the two, but found this nice article that helped sum it up. Enjoy!

"Excerpt from Weight

With organic foods showing up everywhere, it pays to know what you're buying. As if there weren't enough to choose from at the grocery store, now foods labeled "organic" are showing up in every aisle-from bagged and loose produce to cereals, beverages, eggs, milk, poultry, meat, even cheese puffs and chips. Read the article below

Sporting the green and white organic label from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), these foods often have a price tag that's pennies more or sometimes double that of food without the label. But what are you buying? And when is organic food worth the extra cost?
To help decide what's best for you, here's what to keep in mind when considering buying organic.
What does organic mean? The USDA is in charge of making sure that foods with the organic label follow specific guidelines. To be labeled "organic" foods must meet the following conditions:
  • Produce must be grown without man-made pesticides, fertilizers, sewage sludge or irradiation.
  • Produce cannot be grown from seeds that have been genetically modified.
  • Animals that are raised organically, including milking cows and egg-laying chickens, must eat organic feed, must not receive antibiotics and must have access to the out-of-doors.
  • Grains must be grown without use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers and without artificial preservatives, irradiation or genetic engineering.
  • Processed/packaged foods labeled "100% organic" must contain all organically produced ingredients, including no artificial sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup, or trans fats.
  • Processed/packaged foods labeled "organic" must contain at lease 95 percent organic ingredients; remaining ingredients are approved for use in organic products.
  • Processed/packaged foods labeled "made with organic ingredients" must contain 70 percent organic ingredients.

While the USDA makes no claims that organic foods are safer, more nutritious or better in any way than conventional foods, some differences do exist. Studies show that some organic foods are higher in antioxidants than their conventional counterparts. "On average, when you look at foods that have been tested, organic foods are about 30 percent higher in antioxidants than conventional foods grown in the same area and picked on the same day," says Alan Greene, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford University's Lucille Packard Children's Hospital.

For example, USDA researchers found that the three brands of organic ketchup they tested had 55 percent more of the antioxidant lycopene than the non-organic brands they bought. One had double the amounts. At the University of Washington, ongoing studies show that organic strawberries have more vitamin C and antioxidants—and are sweeter—than conventional.
Another benefit of eating a diet of organic foods is that it may result in lower amounts of pesticides in your body. "Reducing exposure to pesticide and herbicide residues is always a desirable feature when choosing foods," says Jamie Stang, PhD, MPH, RD, Assistant Professor, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota. According to a University of Washington study, when a group of school kids switched to a diet of organically grown foods, the amount of pesticide residues in their urine dropped to undetectable levels. Then they went back on their regular diets. "The levels of pesticides shot right up above EPA safety levels," says Greene.
When is it worth it to buy organic?If you choose to buy organic, you'll want to know how to get the most for your grocery dollar. It will pay most to buy organic if you choose:

Foods that, when produced conventionally, contain a lot of pesticides.The USDA tests fruits and vegetables, analyzing the number of pesticides on each sample. The 12 with the most pesticides, according to an Environmental Working Group analysis, are: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes.

Foods that you eat most frequently or in great quantities.If your favorite fruits or vegetables contain a lot of pesticides when produced conventionally, and you eat them often, consider seeking out organic versions when possible.

Foods eaten by pregnant women and children under age three."During pregnancy and the first three years of life when the brain and organs are developing, kids are more susceptible to carcinogens, neurotoxins and hormonal disrupters," says Greene.

It doesn't pay to buy organic when:You're buying foods already low in pesticides.USDA tests show that the 12 fruits and vegetables with the fewest pesticide residues are: onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mangos, asparagus, frozen sweet peas, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli and papaya.

It's a food you don't eat often.Foods you consume only on rare occasions may be of less concern than those you have frequently or in large quantities.

You know where the food comes from and how it's grown.If you buy food at a farmer's market, ask how they raise their crops. Foods grown locally and consumed in season (peaches in summer, apples in the fall, for example) also tend to have fewer pesticides, Greene says.

You're buying fish.There are currently no USDA standards for fish. So if a fish is labeled "organic" there's no guarantee that it actually is.