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The Real Truth About Organic Food
pHion Balance  |  0 Comment
Utter the word “organic” and any self-respecting chemist will conjure visions of carbon-based molecules and saturated bonds. A health-conscious mom, on the other hand, thinks of foods she can put on her family’s table without worrying about pesticides, hormones and heavy metals. While there aren’t throngs of people kicking down doors to become chemists, the demand for organic food has steadily risen since Lord Northbourne reintroduced the concept of “organic farming” in his 1940 book, Look to the Land. (I say “reintroduced” because it was only during the 20th century that the concept of industrial farming really took hold. Before then, practically all farms were organic.) As more people began browsing for organic foods at grocery stores or shopping at exclusively organic venues, traditional suppliers of organic foodstuffs – family farms and small co-ops – simply couldn’t keep up. Enter big business. It’s no secret that whenever there’s a demand for a profitable commodity, big industry will gear up to meet that demand and do its best to corner the market. In this respect, organic foods appear to be no different than toothbrushes or toilet paper. According to a July 2012 article in The New York Times, many of the well-known producers of organic foods – Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi, Spectrum Organics, etc. – have been gobbled up by the likes of PepsiCo, Kellogg, General Mills and ConAgra. In addition, most of the nation’s organic farms are now in the hands of large agri-food corporations.Now, just because the mega-corporations have an abysmal record in other arenas doesn’t mean they’ll run roughshod over the organic food industry. After all, some organic standards are firmly entrenched, both by convention and by law: regardless of size, organic farms aren’t allowed to use synthetic, nitrogen-based fertilizers; there’s a fairly long list of “blacklisted” pesticides, and genetically engineered seeds are strictly verboten. Furthermore, land that has had any prohibited substance applied to it within three years cannot be used to produce organic crops. Unfortunately (and not too surprisingly), there are some disconcerting trends developing in the organic industry. One of the most compelling issues is the shifting membership of the National Organic Standards Board, which makes many of the decisions about what defines “organic” and what additives are acceptable in organic foods. The NOSB, which is comprised of 15 members, is increasingly weighted with representatives from what we should probably start calling “Big Organic.” As an example of where this could be headed, one year ago the board nearly voted to include a nitrogenous herbicide – for the very first time – on its list of accepted substances. And, in the last decade, nearly 80 non-organic compounds have been added to the list of agents that are allowed in “certified organic” foods.A lot of people squabble about whether organic foods are more nutritious, more environmentally friendly or any safer, in the long run, than foods derived from industrial farming – and there are valid arguments on both sides of these debates. However, if organic foods are an important part of your health regimen, what you should really be worrying about is whether organic foods, in another decade or so, will even be distinguishable from what the big corporations have already been putting on America’s tables for the last 100 years. Here's
to your wellness,
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