Description: Produce grown without the use of herbicides, fungicides, petroleum, sewage or sludge-based fertilizers or chemical pesticides. Certified organic fruits and vegetables are guaranteed to be free of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and are non-irradiated. Growers emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water, to ensure environmental sustainability and health for future generations. Organic farmers work with the natural ecosystem to improve the soil and deter pests. Plants grown in healthful soil are more disease resistant, drought resistant, and create more nutritious food.
Organic farmers employ practices such as:
- Use of cover crops, such as green manure, to add nutrients and prevent weeds. Green manure-derived from clover, rye, soybeans, and other crops-is plowed into the soil for the purpose of soil improvement (green manure does not mean raw manure).
- Composting manure and plant wastes to help soil retain moisture and nutrients.
- Methods of weed control may include early or late planting, variety selection, plant spacing, companion planting, and cleanup of crop debris. It can also include crop rotation, which is the practice of alternating the species or families of crops grown on a specific field in a planned pattern, to break weed, pest, and disease cycles. This also improves soil fertility and organic matter content.
- Use of botanical and biological pest control, including beneficial insects to prey on pests; planting certain flowers and bushes to attract helpful insects that will then eat or deter pests that might otherwise eat the crops.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has in place a set of national standards that food labeled organic must meet, whether it is grown in the USA or imported from other countries. There are strict labeling rules to help consumers know the exact organic content of the food they buy. The USDA organic seal indicates a product is at least 95% organic. Use of the seal is voluntary; however, farmers who knowingly sell a product labeled organic that fails to meet USDA standards, can be fined up to $10,000 for each violation.
To determine whether a food meets the USDA’s standards, a U.S. Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown, to make sure the farmer is following all the necessary rules. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets distributed to stores or restaurants must be certified as well.
Is organic food better tasting or more nutritious? The USDA makes no claims that organically-produced food is better tasting or more nutritious than conventionally-produced food, only that it is grown, handled, and processed differently. We believe organic produce has an excellent taste and believe it contains more nutrients. There is a growing trend across the country of chefs choosing more organic produce in their kitchens, not only because it tastes better, but it also promotes environmental responsibility and generally supports smaller, organic farms and the families who work those farms. Organic farming protects our water supply, our wild life, our families, and our future. On a smaller scale, organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), farm-based programs selling to consumer subscribers and direct grocery delivery operations, are emerging in many locales.
Pesticides are poisons designed to kill living organisms and can also be harmful to humans. Pesticides that are sprayed on the crops and vegetables can end up on your plate.
What to look for: Look for certified organic, vibrantly fresh, colorful and attractive fruits and vegetables. Seek locally grown, whenever possible.
100% organic: Means only products that have been exclusively produced using organic methods carry this label.
Organic: At least 95% of the ingredients (by weight, excluding water and salt) in products carrying this label must be organically produced.
Made with organic: Products with 70 to 95% organic ingredients may display “Made with organic [with specific ingredient or ingredients listed]” on the front panel.
Natural – does not mean organic; natural simply means that they are supposedly, though by no means legislated, that there are no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives in that product, and that it is minimally processed. All produce and one-ingredient items such as eggs, beef and chicken are “natural”, so this means almost nothing. Furthermore, “natural” colors and flavors can be synthetically produced. The excellent book “Fast Food Nation” is a detailed and disturbing account of the use of so-called “natural additives”.
Look for stickers on individual fruits and vegetables. Each type of fruit or vegetable carries PLU (Price Look Up) codes to identify the produce and provide information to consumers. These codes can tell you whether it was genetically engineered, grown by organic methods or grown by conventional methods.
- Organic produce has 5 numbers, starting with 9.
- Genetically engineered produce has 5 numbers, starting with 8.
- Conventional produce has 4 numbers.
Look for Fair Trade Certified fruit such as bananas, mangoes, pineapples and grapes. Fair Trade Certification guarantees that farmers were paid a fair price for their harvests. Support local organic farms. To get the best prices when purchasing organically grown fruits and vegetables, buy them at the peak of the local growing season.
To become organically certified, a farmer must abstain from the application of prohibited materials (including synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and sewage sludge) for 3 years prior to certification, and then continually throughout their organic license. This land must be free of chemicals (pesticides, fertilizers, etc) for at least three (3) years. During this period, they are considered “transitional”. This is to ensure that the chemicals previously used are dissipating from the soil. Organic certification standards prohibit the use of genetically modified organisms and irradiation, and employ positive soil building, conservation, manure management and crop rotation practices.
Again, certification takes time, generally three years, a period of time called transitional. Certification reviews are quite costly; therefore, many small growers choose not to secure the official certified label, even though they actually grow their product in accordance with organic methods.
Uses: Use instead of and the same as you would use conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. You may find the quality and taste far superior to the conventionally grown product you are accustomed to eating, and find that food free of chemicals supports you tremendously, due to both its increased life force and the resulting increase of energy you experience from eating it.
Where to find: Natural Food Stores, Online Resources, local farmers markets, produce stands, or in your own backyard if you choose to grow your own.
Avoid: Below is a list of foods shown in tests to be ones most heavily laden with pesticides, and as a result the foods to most avoid eating conventionally. Washing does not help to remove pesticides that are inside of cells and fibers of foods; it only removes surface residue. Understand that pesticides get into the actual cellular structure of foods grown with them. Chemicals are “ingested” by the plant through its roots. Only surface level pesticides are removed, even with the use of special fruit and vegetable cleansing sprays you find available in your local market. What follows is a list of some of the most highly contaminated fruits and vegetables you will find in the conventional marketplace. Remember this means not only the fresh, whole version of the food, but also the products made from each of the foods, such as: peanut butter, jams, and frozen entrees that include the food. Choose organic versions of the following foods, whenever possible.
- Apples (includes apple juice, applesauce)
- Bell Peppers
- Grapes (includes wine, raisins and currants, jams)
- Red Raspberries