Organic is the healthiest system of food production and the most beneficial for the environment, wildlife, climate, and biodiversity, and organics keeps getting better all the time. So when you are debating organic vs. conventional, the choice is simple, choose organic and your body will thank you by greatly improving its health and most probably lengthening your life.
Excluding the last few decades, organic agriculture has been the only form of agriculture practiced on the planet. Under its simplest definition, organic agriculture is farming without synthetic chemicals.
What is organic production?
USDA Definition and Regulations:
The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), enacted under Title 21 of the 1990 Farm Bill, served to establish uniform national standards for the production and handling of foods labeled as “organic.” The Act authorized a new USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to set national standards for the production, handling, and processing of organically grown agricultural products. In addition, the Program oversees mandatory certification of organic production. The Act also established the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) which advises the Secretary of Agriculture in setting the standards upon which the NOP is based. Producers who meet standards set by the NOP may label their products as “USDA Certified Organic.”
- USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) definition, April 1995
- “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.
- “‘Organic’ is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole.
- “Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water.
- “Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agricultural products. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.”
- CFR Regulatory Text, 7 CFR Part 205, Subpart A — Definitions. § 205.2 Terms defined
“Organic production. A production system that is managed in accordance with the Act and regulations in this part to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.” USDA National Organic Program. http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/standards/DefineReg.html
- “What is organic food? Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled ‘organic,’ a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.” Consumer Brochure, USDA National Organic Program, http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Consumers/brochure.html
- Antibiotics have never been permitted in organic agriculture with the one exception of apple and pear production. Early in the development of organic regulations, policy makers temporarily allowed both streptomycin and tetracycline as the exception to the organic rule to combat fire blight, which is a destructive bacterium that attacks tree blossoms, limbs, and shoots, however; after October 2014, this practice will no longer be allowed. Since the inception of the Organic Food Protection Act (OFPA), meat and dairy producers have been forbidden to use any antibiotics of any kind.
- This year, 2014, the state of Vermont passed a comprehensive labeling law and on May 8, Peter Shumlin, Governor of Vermont, signed a historic bill requiring food manufacturers to label genetically engineered (GE) foods, and to drop the practice of labeling GE foods as “natural” or “all natural.” True to their word, the very next day the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) confirmed that it will sue Vermont in federal court to overturn their H. 112 legislation that was enacted into law. The GMA is feverishly lobbying federal legislators to enact laws that will prevent States from enacting GMO labeling laws such as the one signed by Vermont’s Governor Shumlin. The GMA, whose 300-plus members include Dow, Coca-Cola and General Mills.
ORGANIC IS THE ANSWER
Organic Can Feed the World
Most of the world’s food is not produced by industrial mega farms. 75 percent of the world’s food is produced by 1.5 billion small farmers.
The hunger problem is not caused by low yields. The world has 6 billion people and produces enough food for 9 billion people.
There are now 1.02 billion hungry people in the world (nearly 50 million in the US). At the same time, there are 1 billion people who are overweight, many who are obese and suffer from diet-related diseases.
Hunger and obesity are the result of the overproduction of toxic junk food, the scarcity of healthy organic food, and injustice in the way farmland and food are distributed.
While many of the world’s leaders discussed the food crisis at a UN Food Summit in Rome (November 13-17, 2009), farmers, who were not part of the official delegations, took part in demonstrations outside the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters and met at an alternative forum, People’s Food Sovereignty Now! The 642 participants (more than half women) from 93 countries represent the more than 1.5 billion small farmers who produce 75 per cent of the world’s food.
Here’s what they had to say:
We reaffirm that our ecological food provision actually feeds the large majority of people all over the world in both rural and urban areas (more than 75%). Our practices focus on food for people not profit for corporations. It is healthy, diverse, localized and cools the planet.
…Our practices, because they prioritize feeding people locally, minimize waste and losses of food and do not create the damage caused by industrial production systems. Peasant agriculture is resilient and can adapt to and mitigate climate change…
We call for a reframing of research, using participatory methods that will support our ecological model of food provision. We are the innovators building on our knowledge and skills. We rehabilitate local seeds systems and livestock breeds and fish/aquatic species for a changing climate…
…We commit to shorten distances between food provider and consumer. We will strengthen urban food movements and advance urban and peri-urban agriculture. We will reclaim the language of food emphasizing nutrition and diversity in diets that exclude meat provided from industrial systems.
– From the People’s Food Sovereignty Now! Declaration, November 2009