What Does 'Organic' Really Mean?

  1. (My dad e-mailed this to me. It was in the New York Times.)

    Published: July 29, 2006
    I HAVE paid extra for a fair number of organic products, believing that they are healthier for me, my family and the environment.
    And now it turns out that in some cases I should have saved my hard-earned money.
    Sure, some items that are called organic are probably worth the extra cost because they are produced according to strict standards. But the labels on quite a few of them are not worth an extra cent, according to a study of organic food by Consumer Reports, a publication of the nonprofit Consumers Union.
    An uninformed consumer can end up paying 50 to 100 percent more for products that are no healthier and a lot harder on the wallet. Recently, for example, I paid a higher price for “organic” salmon. Consumer Reports says there are no standards establishing which seafood really deserves the organic label. “It is misleading,” said Urvashi Rangan, a senior scientist and policy analyst with Consumers Union.
    In most states, wild or farmed fish can be labeled organic even though there is no guarantee that it is free from mercury or other industrial chemicals like PCB’s, Ms. Rangan said. (A consumer Web site maintained by the Monterey Aquarium Foundation has more information about which fish are safe to eat at www.seafoodwatch.org.)
    Labeling has been a matter of dispute in the organic food sector. In 2002, the Department of Agriculture established standards that foods must meet to be called organic, but last year an amendment was passed to allow 38 synthetic ingredients — including baking powder, pectin, ascorbic acid and carbon dioxide — in some organic products.
    Some lobbyists and industry trade groups are fighting this measure. I was appalled to learn that many other organic-sounding, eco-friendly terms — like “free-range,” “cage free” or “pasture fed” in many cases mean very little. A so-called free-range chicken may only spend a few minutes a day outside, at best.
    Cage-free “may mean the animal is out of the cage” or it may mean nothing at all, Ms. Rangan said.
    And forget “natural.”
    “Consumers may think it means the same as organic, but there’s no significant policing of the term ‘natural,’ ” said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, an advocacy group. “It’s typically a marketing term.”
    These issues are not trivial. Nearly two-thirds of consumers bought organic products in 2005, up from 50 percent in 2004; organic food is one of the fastest growing segments of the multibillion-dollar food industry increasing by about 20 percent a year. Clearly, many people are willing to pay more, but they need to know what they are paying for.
    In addition to skipping the organically labeled seafood, you can forget organic cosmetics, “unless most of the ingredients say ‘certified organic,’ ” Ms. Rangan said. “Otherwise, we advise consumers not to pay the humongous premiums we tend to see in that category.”
    Paying more for organic packaged foods like bread, cereal, pasta, chips, canned goods also may not be worth the extra money. The more food is processed, the more its original nutrients are stripped away. You might as well buy a mainstream brand and save some money.
    Some conventionally grown produce has so little pesticide residue that it does not make sense to pay more for the organic varieties. These include: broccoli, asparagus, onions, corn, avocados, papayas and peas. Also, if you can peel the item, you may not need to buy organic.
    WHICH foods are worth the higher price? According to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organic research organization, the so-called dirty dozen — apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach and strawberries — tend to have a high pesticide residue, even when washed. These are worth buying organic, as is baby food, which tends to be made from condensed fruits and vegetables.
    Likewise, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products that carry an organic label are free of pesticides, synthetic growth hormones and antibiotics. If a manufacturer does not use the term organic, but says the product is “hormone free” or “does not contain antibiotics,” “those claims are somewhat meaningful,” Ms. Rangan said.
    Many of these standards are in flux. If you would like to make sure your organic dollars are delivering on their promise, you can keep an eye on the Environmental Working Group’s site at www.ewg.org or sites maintained by Consumers Union: www.greenerchoices.org and www.eco-labels.org.
  2. I've heard similar things. Many people think that organic automatically means that animals are raised in more humane conditions as well. While they are generally a bit better than the factory farm, it's actually not the case that organic=humane:sad:
  3. Oraganic has become a marketing tool, just like "low fat" and "fat free" buy from local suppliers and buy whats in season around where you live. Check out farmers markets in your area, they have probably been growing "orgainic" for years.
  4. I tend to buy some Organic things when I'm grocery shopping - but it's mainly things that I have to wash (fruits). I also buy unwaxed fruit, like unwaxed apples. They don't cost TOO much more, and they taste a lot better (even though they don't look as nice and shiny).
  5. For fruits and vegetables it definitely makes a difference, growers are not allowed to use any type of pesticide anywhere on the premises where the fruit and vegetables are being grown. They are checked and the soil is tested. I think they definitely taste a bit better too.
  6. organic fruits and veggies are made in a natural way, for example a fruits/veggies that grow without chemical treatments such as fertilizers, pesticides, chemical sprays:throwup: used for making the fruit/veggie greener or larger etc.. in short a natural one.. these are the ones that are not so pretty on the outside.. :yes: but on the inside,these are so healthy;)
  7. I buy most all fruits and veggies organic only, especially if you eat the skins (apples, potatoes, etc.) It's best to buy local though. I buy from a local co-op, so I pay $20/week and get a bag of in season fruits and veggies. Especially here in the states, our standards for food we eat our very low. I never new celery had a flavor until I bought some organic and it has flavor and tastes so good. I agree organic, local apples don't look as good as the rest, but taste great and are much better for you.
  8. I think organic is the way to go when it comes to fruits & Veggies. It is pricey typically double the price of non organic. I cant do it all the time but I try. I also buy my daughter organic babyfood.