By Jennifer Rose, the media manager and staff writer for the Organic Trade Association. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for the organic industry in North America.
We asked Jennifer to give us 10 facts that we all need to know about organic.
1. Organic is the most heavily regulated and closely monitored food production system in the U.S.
Unlike natural and other eco-label claims, only organic offers government-backed assurance that products are grown and processed without the use of toxic chemicals, antibiotics, and synthetic growth hormones. Additionally, organic requires rigorous third-party inspections of organic operations to ensure that products bearing the USDA Organic label are grown and processed in a transparent manner you and your family can trust.
2. Organic products support good health.
Mounting evidence, including a ground-breaking report from the President’s Cancer Panel, shows that consuming organic foods is a great way to reduce exposure to toxic and persistent pesticides. A growing body of research also shows that organic foods are rich in nutrients, such as iron, magnesium, and vitamin C, which are critical to maintaining good health.
3. Organic prohibits the use of GMOs.
By law, organic products must be made and produced without the use of genetic engineering. That is why at every phase in the production process, organic processors and producers are required to take steps to make sure that you and your family are getting all the benefits you need and want and none of the things you don’t—including GMOs.
4. Organic prohibits the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers.
By law, organic producers are prohibited from being grown or processed using toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Instead, they rely on such practices as hand weeding, mechanical control, mulches, cover crops, crop rotation and dense planting to enrich the soil in which they grow their crops. Additionally, organic producers and processors must keep detailed records from the farm to when you purchase them.
5. Organic prohibits the use of synthetic growth hormones.
In order to qualify for the USDA Organic label, organic farmers are prohibited from using synthetic growth hormones like rBGH on their animals. Organic standards also mandate a rigorous system for inspection, certification and verification of organic practices, all of which means practices you don’t approve of are not used to produce your food.
6. Organic prohibits the use of antibiotics.
Organic practices prohibit the use of antibiotics for the purpose of stimulating the growth or production of livestock. If an antibiotic is used to restore an animal to health, that animal cannot be used for organic production or be sold, labeled or represented as organic.
7. Organic prohibits the use of chemical additives.
Organic food contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Minor ingredients used in organic food must come from a list of approved substances that have been evaluated for safety and their impact on both human and environmental health. By law, these ingredients must make up 5% or less of the total ingredients used to make organic food.
8. Organic has something for everyone.
Including everything from soap to clothing, organic is more than just food. That means that whether you are in search of facial cream or food for your pet, you can find organic products that meet the needs of everyone in your household
9. Buying organic is easier and more affordable than ever.
Thanks to the growth of farmers’ markets, CSAs, private label products, coupons, and customer loyalty programs, it’s easier and more affordable than ever to enjoy your favorite organic products. Whether you seek food, clothing, personal care products, or even pet food, you can find an organic version on store shelves across the country. In many cases, the price of organic is comparable to that of non-organic, making the decision to “go organic” simple and cost-effective.
10. Organic reflects the true cost of food production.
When you buy organic products, you are paying the true cost of the food. By contrast, when you buy non-organic products, there are hidden costs for which we all will pay indirectly—called agricultural “externalities.” These include damage to water sources, soil resources, wildlife and ecosystem biodiversity, and human health from such things as exposure to pesticides. When you add this to the many personal health and environmental benefits organic has to offer, it becomes clear that organic is the better bargain.