What Does "Organic" Mean?
The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. While the regulations vary from country to country, organic crops must be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, bio-engineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Unlike organic standards, there is no specific definition for "conventional crops". It could be grown in your local community, your state, your region, or your country. During large portions of the year it is usually possible to find food grown close to home at places such as a farmer’s market. Some of the differences between organically grown food and conventionally grown food include the following:
- Organic produce are grown with natural fertilizers (manure, compost), while conventionally grown produce are grown with synthetic or chemical fertilizers.
- In Organic produce, Weeds are controlled naturally (crop rotation, hand weeding, mulching, and tilling). While in conventionally grown produce, Weeds are controlled with chemical herbicides.
- In organically grown produce, Pests are controlled using natural methods (birds, insects, traps) and naturally-derived pesticides. While in conventionally grown produce, Pests are controlled with synthetic pesticides.
The Benefits of Organic Food
How your food is grown or raised can have a major impact on your mental and emotional health as well as the environment. Organic foods often have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally-grown counterparts and people with allergies to foods, chemicals, or preservatives often find their symptoms lessen or go away when they eat only organic foods.
Some of the benefits of Organic food include;
- Organic produce contains fewer pesticides. Chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides are widely used in conventional agriculture and residues remain on (and in) the food we eat.
- Organic food is often fresher. It doesn’t contain preservatives that make it last longer. Organic produce is often (but not always, so watch where it is from) produced on smaller farms near where it is sold.
- Organic farming is better for the environment. Organic farming practices reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. Farming without pesticides is also better for nearby birds and animals as well as people who live close to farms.
- Organically raised animals are NOT given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal byproducts. Feeding livestock animal byproducts increases the risk of mad cow disease (BSE) and the use of antibiotics can create antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Organically-raised animals are given more space to move around and access to the outdoors, which help to keep them healthy.
- Organic meat and milk are richer in certain nutrients. Results of a 2016 European study show that levels of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, were up to 50 percent higher in organic meat and milk than in conventionally raised versions.
- Organic food is GMO-free. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or genetically engineered (GE) foods are plants whose DNA has been altered in ways that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding, most commonly in order to be resistant to pesticides or produce an insecticide.
Possible Risks of Pesticides
Some studies have indicated that the use of pesticides even at low doses can increase the risk of certain cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Children and fetuses are most vulnerable to pesticide exposure because their immune systems, bodies, and brains are still developing. Exposure at an early age may cause developmental delays, behavioral disorders, autism, immune system harm, and motor dysfunction.
Pregnant women are more vulnerable due to the added stress pesticides put on their already taxed organs. Plus, pesticides can be passed from mother to child in the womb, as well as through breast milk.
Studies on the Harmful Effects of Pesticides
The widespread use of pesticides has also led to the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs,” which can only be killed with extremely toxic poisons like 2, 4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (a major ingredient in Agent Orange).
A 2002 study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, found that children who eat organic food are exposed to "significantly lower" levels of Organo phosphorus (OP) pesticides than those who eat conventional foods ("Organo phosphorus Pesticide Exposure of Urban and Suburban Pre-School Children With Organic Food Marketing Institute' - 3-U ... Natural and Organic Food and Conventional Diets," Oct, 31, Environmental Health Perspectives). OP pesticides were used in the study because they are commonly used on the crops that are processed into baby foods and juices.
Some organic foods also have significantly higher levels of cancer fighting antioxidants, according to a study of corn, strawberries and Marion berries, which was published in Feb. 26, 2003, in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Chemical Society ("Bitter or Harsh Phenolic Guard the Plant Against These Pests").
Some people might think that organic foods may at times be less safe than conventional foods since they lack in the preservatives making them vulnerable to bacteria and parasites. However, organic products are as safe as conventional ones, according to the Organic Trade Association. Certified organic growers also need to follow the same strict guidelines for safe and hygienic food production. As with all food producers, they must comply with local, state and federal health standards. Pasteurization, selected use of chlorine and other food safety practices are allowed and followed in organic production. Organic growers are not only inspected by third party independent certifiers in order to qualify for organic certification, they also follow strict guidelines for safe and hygienic food production in the same way as the conventional counterpart. For example, a food license from FSSAI is required to produce and sell food items in India. This rule applies to both conventional as well as organic food producers.
In conclusion, the importance of picking organically grown produce of any sort, be it Organic food, Organic Tea or organically produced live stocks, over the conventionally grown ones, cannot be overemphasized. As the health advantages and benefits as examined above, are numerous to mention but a few. This emphasizes that it’s not only smart to consume organically grown produced, it is also healthy.