Why Eat Organic?

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When you purchase organic foods, you're supporting a complete agriculture system that: Reduces the amount of toxic and persistent chemicals in our food supply. Uses practices that eliminate polluting chemicals and reduces nitrogen leaching, thus protecting and conserving our water resources. Protects the health of future generations by creating long-term solutions to agricultural problems. The food choices we make today will impact our children's health tomorrow.

When you purchase organic foods, you're creating a safer, healthier food supply No one fully understands the long-term effects of pesticide residues in our food supply, but we do understand that pesticide exposure can be a real health risk, especially to infants and children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. Organic foods are grown without the use of toxic and persistent chemicals, so the amount of pesticide residues in our food, our soil, and our ground water is drastically reduced. When you purchase organic foods, you're getting high quality foods that taste great! Legendary gourmet chefs across the country are committed to using organic ingredients for their outstanding flavor and quality. Organic foods are grown in well-balanced soils that grow healthy plants. This makes the resulting vegetables and fruits taste great. Organic processed foods contain no artificial colors, preservatives or flavors, allowing the true flavor qualities of the food to shine through.

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FAQs about Organic

Q: What does organic mean?
A: When a product is labeled "organic," it means that it has been grown without synthetic chemicals or pesticides, in a way that supports the Earth and its ecosystems. Organic agriculture practices are committed to achieving a balance with nature. There are many reasons why organic is better for the planet.

These include:
Better for our children: Children's growing bodies and more active metabolisms make them more likely to be harmed by exposure to pesticide residues in food.

Better for our water: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the ground water in 38 states is contaminated with at least some cancer-causing pesticides. Organic growers and processors use production methods that eliminate persistent, toxic chemicals.

Better for the topsoil: Intensive monocropping and chemically-intensive farming practices have eroded billions of tons of topsoil from U.S. croplands over the years. Farming organically helps preserve the most important tool of production, our soil, by building soil organic matter with composts and cover crops and by using diverse crop rotations.

Strict standards for quality assurance: Despite the fact that the National Organic Standards have yet to be implemented, consumers can be assured that products labeled "certified organic" have been grown and handled in accordance with strict sustainable procedures without toxic chemicals and pesticides. Certification agencies such as Oregon Tilth inspect farms, fields, produce and end products to make sure products are truly organic.

Better for health: Studies continue to document the carcinogenic effects of pesticides on humans. The EPA considers 60% of all herbicides, 90% of all fungicides and 30% of all insecticides as potentially cancer-causing.

Better for rural life: Organic farming may be one way to help preserve small, family-owned farms and rural communities. At this point, the USDA predicts that by the year 2000, 1 percent of the country's farms will constitute half of farm production.

Healthier habitat: The tenets of organic agriculture place the balance of the ecosystem at the top of the priority list. Organic farming eliminates risk of illness to both humans and wildlife by eliminating harmful pesticides. Wildlife near organic farms benefits from practices such as retention of fence rows, wetlands, and other natural areas.

Preservation of a true economy: Organic produce may seem to cost more at the checkout counter, but in reality, conventional foods are more expensive because of the environmental and health costs to society that are associated with pesticide and chemical fertilizer use on conventional farms. These costs include federal subsidies to conventional agriculture, contaminated public drinking water systems, loss of wildlife habitat and top soil, increased health care costs, costs to regulate pesticide use, and costs for disposal and clean up of hazardous waste generated by pesticide manufacturing. Buying organic is a direct investment in a sustainable future for our planet.

Better tasting food: Chefs who are proponents of organic produce say that organic foods taste better well-balanced soils grow healthy plants which make vegetables and fruits taste like they're right off the farm.

Q: What is the official definition of organic?
A: In 1995, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) defined organic as follows: "Organic 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."

Q: What does certified organic mean?
A: Public and private certification companies verify whether a grower or processor is certified. The standards for certification include: Land on which organic food or fibers are grown must be free of prohibited substances for three years prior to certification. Farmers and processors must keep detailed records of methods and materials used in growing or producing organic products. All methods and materials are annually inspected by a third-party certifier. All farmers and handlers are required to maintain written Organic Plans detailing their management practices.

Q: What products may be labeled as certified organic?
A: Not only fresh produce, but also packaged products, frozen foods, dairy, meat, eggs and many other items that have been grown and processed using organic standards can be labeled as certified organic.

Q: Why do organic products often cost more?
A: The cost of organic at the checkout counter is deceiving, because it doesn't take into account all of the hidden costs of conventionally-grown foods. Soil building practices used by organic farmers are more costly than the use of chemical fertilizers. Because organic farmers do not use synthetic herbicides to control weeds, weed control costs are higher on organic farms. Organic growers don't receive government farm subsidies and don't benefit from the majority of federally-funded research which helps conventional farmers reduce costs. Organic products adhere to stricter production standards governing systems such as growing, harvesting, transportation and storage, all of which are time and labor intensive and, therefore, more expensive. Organic farmers have an added cost of compliance with organic certification standards. And, most importantly, the indirect costs of conventional food production, air and water pollution, eroded soils, health care costs for farmers and consumers aren't factored in at the checkout counter. If they were, organic foods would not only cost the same, they would be cheaper!

Q: Are there consistent standards for organic production in all states and countries?
A: In December 1997, the USDA released proposed National Organic Standards. A public review and comment period will end on April 30, 1998, after which time the USDA will take all comments into consideration for the final rules. Once those are implemented, all organic food production in the United States must comply with the same regulations. Currently, the organic industry is self-regulated, relying on third-party national certification organizations and state organic standards. To ensure quality organic products, consumers should look for the term "certified organic" on the label.

Q: How large is the organic industry, and how fast is it growing?
A: Organic is one of the fastest growing segments in the retail market. For the seventh consecutive year, the organic industry has posted double digit sales growth of 20 percent or greater, with a 26 percent growth for the industry recorded in 1996. Natural Foods Merchandiser, a trade publication for the industry, reported $3.5 billion in sales of organics for 1996. The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) reports that 42 percent of mainstream stores carry organic produce, and 25 percent of shoppers buy natural or organic foods at least once a week. While organic grocery sales currently comprise less than one percent of all grocery sales in the U.S., that number is expected to grow to 3-5 percent by the year 2000.

Q: Is organic food healthier than conventionally grown food?
A: Individual studies about the nutritional content of organic foods are inconclusive. Most of the studies that have been conducted concentrate on the vitamin and mineral content of a specific food, rather than the overall healthfulness of eating organic. In order to understand whether eating organic foods over the long-term is more healthful, additional studies would need to be conducted. And while there isn't ample proof that organic foods are more nutritious than conventionally grown foods, recent studies show that organically grown foods contain fewer pesticide residues. And that's good for both your health and the health of the planet.

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