In just a few years, the term “organic” has changed meaning. Before the “USDA organic” label existed, the term implied sustainability. Being sustainable means choosing methods that are naturally well-suited for the local area and not negatively impacting the land.
Unfortunately, the “USDA organic” label only addresses the production-side of farming. They don’t check farms’ long-term effect on the environment.
In addition to organic food’s being grown without pesticides or artificial fertilizers, most countries require it cannot be genetically modified if it is to be considered organic. Organic food production is very strictly regulated, and only the producers who can satisfy all of the requirements of the governing inspection agency can earn the special organic certification. These days, you’ll find the words organic, natural and sustainable plastered across a variety of labels, but only a certified organic product comes with a guarantee that the item is free of harmful chemical fertilizers and other artificial residues.
Organic food statistics have shown a 20 percent growth in the worldwide organic food industry every year since the early 1990s, and it’s only gaining strength. But it’s no surprise that organic production is growing in popularity, since the improved taste and the enormous health benefits of organic food are not easily ignored. Indeed, organic food has been found to contain 50 percent more nutrients than non-organic food, and you can eliminate several dozen pesticides from your everyday diet by switching to organic produce.
Partially as a result, buying local is an increasingly growing trend, where people choose products from their own region’s producers. This helps small, family farmers survive and keeps money circulating within their own community. Small farmers also tend to grow more diverse varieties in their crop rotations, which keeps soil fertile and yields more choices for consumers.
Some believe choosing organics is the priority, since no toxic chemicals or harmful fertilizers are used. Others believe buying local is the priority, since it helps local communities survive, and the product is more diverse and freshly picked.
Ultimately, you should decide what’s important to you:
There are numerous studies from around the world connecting conventional pesticide use, genetic-engineering, and antibiotics with higher rates of disease and infections. SOLUTION: Organic.
Fresh water: The #1 urgent health issue according to a recent United Nations report is the contamination of our fresh water supply. Prominent cause: Conventional pesticide run-off into our groundwater and rivers. SOLUTION: Organic.
Dead zones in the ocean: The #1 top environmental threat according to the United Nations report is the increasing number of “dead zones” in our oceans. Most prominent cause: Nitrogen from conventional fertilizers leaching into our oceans. SOLUTION: Organic.
Ecosystems and biodiversity: Conventional methods degrade soil fertility, increase erosion, and cause more resistant pests. And, large agri-businesses — even large organic agri-businesses — often do not consider their long-term effect on ecosystems. SOLUTION: Organic & Local.
Fossil fuels: Products from large agri-businesses travel significantly farther distances causing extreme fossil fuel pollution. SOLUTION: Local.
Local Communities and Economies?
Large agri-businesses, both organic and conventional, leach money from rural communities and put family farmers out of business. Large ag-corporations notoriously undersell the fair market value and involve more middlemen returning fewer returns to the actual growers. SOLUTION: Local.
We need to adopt practices that yield abundant crops now and in the future. Conventional farming methods are unsustainable, depleting soil fertility and harming ecosystems. Alternatively, sustainable organic farming involves selecting crops and methods appropriate for each specific region and nurturing healthy soil and biodiversity for the long-term. SOLUTION: Organic & Local.
Clearly, our food system is a complex issue. As consumers, we need to choose businesses that have our health, environment, and local economies in mind. Our collective food purchasing habits can truly help improve our personal health and the environment around us.