When you hear or see the word “organic”, you may want to place your trust in that product. Not so fast. It seems as though every where you turn this word is popping up. The USDA had good intentions when they started their organic certification program. They wanted consumers to be assured in the healthiness of the product that they were buying. However, instead, they are providing a label that people are blindly trusting. Are consumers getting what they expect when “organic” is on the label? Let’s discuss 4 misleading notions about organic.
1. It does not mean local. In 2013, over 10% of organic food was imported. And while that number seems small, it’s increasing at an alarming rate. Organic farming in the U.S. is not growing to meet demand because overseas competitors can meet organic standards much cheaper than our local farmers can. Each year, another 2-5% of organic farming is moved overseas, and with it goes your dollars.
2. It does not mean chemical free or spray free as many people are quick to assume. In fact, organic farms could use more chemical than conventional farms in some applications. The general stipulation is that the chemical used must be a naturally-occurring chemical. The USDA says, “The USDA organic seal verifies that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used.” However, they have an entire page devoted to the synthetic substances that are allowed.
3. It does not mean quaint, ma-and-pa farms, reminiscent of Mayberry, with antique equipment and a scarecrow in the field. Many of today’s organic farms are expensive, large-scale operations. More land is required for organic farms to get the same yield as conventional. And, as is the case with most legislation, the organic regulations have not effectively changed the heart of farmers toward the sustainability of their land. For many it has, but for a large portion it is merely a new set of rules to work within. Unlike what many people imagine when they think of the term ‘organic’ the label does not ensure that a farmer reduces chemical dependency, conserves soils, or produces the most nutritious food.
4. It does not assure health. When you can buy organic candy, sugary sodas, and salty fat-fried chips, you can rest assured the “organic” label is more about marketing than about health of a consumer. You can get high fructose corn syrup that is certified organic. You can get all forms of fats, lards, oils, salts, and even refined sugars that are certifiable as organic and thus carry the label that you’ve come to trust. According to the USDA, as long as some of the ingredients are “organic” then they can put the label on there. The USDA organic standard says, “The USDA organic seal verifies that the product has 95% or more certified organic content. If the label claims that it was made with specified organic ingredients, you can be sure that those specific ingredients are certified organic.” So, you can trust that 95% of the ingredients are organic, but that other 5% doesn’t follow the standard. In fact, they even have a specified formula in which they figure out the percentage, here.
So, what can you trust?
We provide you with a way to track your food by offering a code on each of our products that allows you to see exactly what farmer grew it for you. We call it “stalking” your food.
Next time you see the organic label, we encourage you to look beyond the label. See if you can contact the farms and know the hearts of the people who grew the food. We share this planet, and we share the responsibility to sustain it.