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Encyclopedia > Organic produce

Organic food is, in general, food that is produced without the use of artificial pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In everyday conversation, organic is a broad reference, that can apply equally to store-bought food, to food originating in a home garden where no synthetic inputs are used, or even to food gathered (or hunted) in the wild. By contrast, certified organic food is produced according to strict production criteria, within an often governmental regulatory framework. In an increasing number of countries, including the US, Japan and in the European Union, organic certification is a matter of law, and it is illegal to use the term organic (at least, commercially) without following the prescribed rules of organic production. Therefore, confusion and debate can arise between different answers to, "What is organic?" the plane is spreading pesticide. ... A herbicide is a pesticide used to kill unwanted plants. ... It has been suggested that Genetic engineering be merged into this article or section. ... Organic certification is an accreditation process for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products. ... In the context of government and public services regulation (as a process) is the control of something by rules, as opposed to its prohibition. ... Wikiquote has a collection of quotations by or about: United States Wikinews has news related to this article: United States United States government CIA World Factbook Entry for United States House. ...

Contents


Types of organic food

See also: Organic farming for information on the production of organic food.

Organic foods, like food in general, can be grouped into two categories, fresh and processed, based on production methods, availability and consumer perception. Utilizing both traditional and scientific knowledge, organic agriculture is a system that relies on ecosystem management rather than external agricultural inputs. ...


Fresh food is seasonal and highly perishable. Fresh produce — vegetables and fruits — is the most available type of organic food, and closely associated with organic farming. It is often purchased directly from the growers, at farmers' markets, from on-farm stands, through speciality food stores, and through community-supported agriculture (CSA) projects. Categories: Substubs | Food and drink stubs ... Utilizing both traditional and scientific knowledge, organic agriculture is a system that relies on ecosystem management rather than external agricultural inputs. ... A farmers market near the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. ... Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is the practice of farming with a greater-than-usual degree of involvement of consumers and other stakeholders. ...


Unprocessed animal products — organic meat, eggs, dairy — are less common. Prices are significantly higher than for conventional food, and availability is lower. They are still premium priced items. Meat is animal tissue (mainly muscle) used as food. ... A carton of free-range chicken eggs Bird eggs are a common food source. ... Dairy farm near Oxford, New York, July 2001 In many northern-hemisphere countries a dairy is a facility for the extraction and processing of animal milk (mostly from cows, sometimes from buffaloes, sheep or goats) for human consumption. ...


For fresh food, "organic" usually means:

Processed food accounts for most of the items in a supermarket. Little of it is organic, and organic prices are often high. In spite of this, organic processed products are now primarily purchased from supermarkets. The majority of processed organics comes from large food conglomerates, as producing and marketing products like canned goods, frozen vegetables, prepared dishes and other convenience foods is beyond the scope of small organic producers. Fertilizers or fertilisers are compounds given to plants with the intention of promoting growth; they are usually applied either via the soil, for uptake by plant roots, or by foliar spraying, for uptake through leaves. ... An airplane spreading pesticide. ... An antibiotic is a drug that kills or slows the growth of bacteria. ... A hormone (from Greek horman - to set in motion) is a chemical messenger from one cell (or group of cells) to another. ... It has been suggested that Genetic engineering be merged into this article or section. ... Exterior appearance of typical supermarket (Albertsons) Supermarket produce section A supermarket is a store that sells a wide variety of goods including food and alcohol (where permitted), medicine, clothes, and other household products that are consumed regularly. ... This article or section should include material from One-Hour Thanksgiving Dinner. ...


For processed organic food, the general definition is:

  • contains only (or at least a certain specified percentage of) organic ingredients
  • contains no artificial food additives
  • processed without artificial methods, materials and conditions (eg: no chemical ripening, no food irradiation)

Food additives are substances added to food to preserve it, or to improve its flavour and appearance. ... Food irradiation is the process of exposing food to ionizing radiation in order to disinfest, sterilize, or preserve food. ...

Identifying organic food

See Also: Organic certification - for legal definition

Definitions of organic food vary. Organics can be difficult to explain by empirical measurement. For one thing, the majority of food industry research of the last 100 years has been focused solely on developing chemical agriculture and modern food processing -- almost nothing has been done to formally investigate side effects of conventional agriculture that are not immediately obvious. Also, organics is an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" proposition, concerned in large part with what NOT to do -- "as much as possible, let Nature do its thing" -- rather than in devising precise formulas for organic production. A strictly rules-based definition of organic farming and organic food, consisting of approved inputs and practices, created and maintained by regulatory agencies, is inevitably subject to "exceptions" and to special interest pressures to modify the rules. As organics become "whatever the rules say it is", the line between organic and conventional food can get blurry. Organic certification is an accreditation process for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products. ...


Early organic consumers were essentially looking for chemical-free, fresh or minimally processed food, and they had to buy directly from growers: Know your farmer, know your food was a practical reality. Organic food at first comprised mainly fresh vegetables. Personal definitions of what exactly constituted "organic" could be developed and verified through first-hand experience: talking to farmers and directly observing farm conditions and farming activities. Small farms could grow vegetables (and raise livestock) using organic farming practices, with or without certification, and this was more or less something the individual consumer could monitor. Utilizing both traditional and scientific knowledge, organic agriculture is a system that relies on ecosystem management rather than external agricultural inputs. ...


As consumer demand for organic foods continues to increase, high volume sales through mass outlets, typically supermarkets, is rapidly replacing the direct farmer connection. For supermarket consumers, food production is not easily observable. Product labelling, like "certified organic", is relied on. Government regulations and third-party inspectors are looked to for assurance.


With widespread distribution of organic food, processed food has also become dominant over fresh, confusing the issue further. Modern food processing is complex and complicated. Commercial preparation methods, the use of food additives, the effects of packaging and storage, and the like are outside the first-hand experience of most people (including organic farmers). Traditional and minimally processed products, baked goods; and canned, frozen, and pickled fruits and vegetables, are somewhat easier for consumers to understand by comparison with home preparation methods, although home and mass-production techniques are quite different. For convenience foods, like frozen prepared foods, cooked breakfast cereals, and so forth, ingredients and methods are quite a mystery to most consumers. A "certified organic" label is usually the only way for consumers to trust that a processed product is "organic". Canning is a method of preserving food by first heating it to a temperature that destroys contaminating micro-organisms, and then sealing it in air-tight jars or cans. ... Frozen is a song by American singer Madonna from her 1998 album Ray Of Light. ... Pickling is the process of preparing a food by soaking and storing it in a brine (salt) or vinegar solution, a process which can preserve otherwise perishable foods for months. ...


Legal definition

In the United States, agricultural products that claim to be "organic" must adhere to the requirements of the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 (found in 7 U.S.C.A. § 6501-22) and the regulations (found in 7 C.F.R. Part 205) promulgated by the USDA through the National Organic Program ("NOP") under this act. These laws essential require that any product that claims to be organic must have been manufactured and handled according to specific NOP requirements. Image File history File links U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Seal. ... The U.S. Department of Agriculture, also called the Agriculture Department, or USDA, is a Cabinet department of the United States Federal Government. ... In the United States, the National Organic Program (NOP) is the federal regulatory framework governing organic food. ...


A USDA Organic seal means that the food product is at least 95% organic as defined by the National Organic Program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, also called the Agriculture Department, or USDA, is a Cabinet department of the United States Federal Government. ...


Organic food and preservatives

Unfortunately, there are no natural models for preserving food the way it's found in supermarkets. Today, food with a long shelf life is the cornerstone of the food industry, providing most of the revenue and profits. In wealthier locales, an impressive array of technologies is used to make food "last" longer: home refrigerators and freezers at the consumer end, and industrial and chemical practices applied along the food production chain, from seed to field to fridge or table. Shelf-life is the length of time that corresponds to a tolerable loss in quality of a processed food. ... The food industry is the complex, global collective of diverse businesses that together supply most of calories consumed by the human population. ... For the tax agency in the UK of the same name , see HM Revenue and Customs. ... Profit is defined as the residual value gained from business operations. ... Wealth usually refers to money and property. ... The inside of a fridge A refrigerator (often shortened to fridge) or freezer is an electrical appliance that uses refrigeration to help preserve food. ... Domestic refrigerators (usually shortened to fridge) are amongst the most common electric applicances in the world, for instance being present in 99. ...


In general, organic standards cover in detail this entire process, specifying what is an "organic" ingredient or practice. However, since there is little natural reference for preparing, for example, a precooked, frozen dinner, a "certified organic" label on such an item may be hard to understand. The main ingredients are one thing, the processes and additives used to assemble and preserve them are quite another.


This leads to a possibility that may seem startling and impractical in developed nations: most of what is found in supermarkets today can never be called "organic", in the broadest, "all-natural", fresh or minimally processed sense. The idea is not new, and whole foods have long been part of the health food diet. But if demand for organics intensifies, one may conclude that agribusiness interests dictate taking as much control as possible of the definition of "organic food", particularly by including production practices that facilitate food preservation, in order to maintain the existing industry infrastructure. A developed country is a country that is technologically advanced and that enjoys a relatively high standard of living. ... Healthful eating is the act of following a balanced nutritional diet. ... Dieting is the practice or habit of eating (and drinking) in a regulated fashion, usually with the aim of losing weight. ...


Is organic food "better"?

The bottom line consumer question is: "Is organic food significantly 'better' than regular supermarket food?" This area is a hotbed of controversy, and there are no conclusive answers.


The basic claims for the superiority of organic food are:


Non-toxic

Organic proponents cite evidence showing that certain chemicals used in conventional farming, including pesticides and herbicides, mimic hormones - usually estrogen - when inside a person. They claim that this is significant even at the minute levels that the average person is exposed to. The US government states that these chemicals are safe when used correctly, but proponents claim such tests are only done on healthy adults - and that it is instead children and fetuses that are most at risk to even small amounts of these chemicals. the plane is spreading pesticide. ... A herbicide is a pesticide used to kill unwanted plants. ... Estrogens (or oestrogens) are a group of steroid compounds that function as the primary female sex hormone. ...


Currently, the US government uses testing methods that do not include the idea of hormesis, which is now widely accepted as a criticial model for the unique behavior of substances at extremely low doses. Conventional testing looks only for high dose effects. A very low dose of a chemical agent may trigger from an organism the opposite response to a very high dose. ...


In Australia, the Government sponsored Australian Total Diet Survey measures pesticide residues found in typical Australian diets. The 2004 survey found all estimated dietary exposures to pesticide residues were below 16% of the respective Acceptable daily intakes and therefore all exposures are less than the applicable health standards. The Australian Total Diet Survey, formerly known as the Australian Market Basket Survey, is a comprehensive assessment of consumers dietary exposure (intake) to pesticide residues, contaminants and other substances. ... 2004 is a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Acceptable Daily Intake or ADI is a measure of a specific substance (usually a food additive) in food or drinking water that can be ingested over a lifetime without an appreciable health risk. ...


Critics of organic food offer a counter-argument for toxicity, by claiming that agrichemical methods improve over nature by providing increased safety, therefore, organic food can be more toxic than conventionally produced food. In the case of pesticides, the argument holds that using synthetics reduces the need for plants to produce their own natural defensive toxins. Organic produce, which has to defend itself against insects, weeds and diseases, may be producing levels of toxic chemicals dangerous to human health. In the case of organic fertilizers, some critics claim that using manure to fertilize organic crops might increase the risk of contamination by dangerous microbes like E. coli. Binomial name Escherichia coli T. Escherich, 1885 Escherichia coli (usually abbreviated to E. coli) is one of the main species of bacteria that live in the lower intestines of warm-blooded animals (including birds and mammals) and are necessary for the proper digestion of food. ...


There is no conclusive evidence or scientific consensus on any of these issues, other than that there are pesticide residues present on conventional produce.


Better for the environment

Every food purchase supports the system that delivers it and the idea is that if large-scale chemical production methods are damaging to the environment, then the purchase of these foods supports this damage. Critics of organic farms cite evidence that organic farms produce less yield than conventional farms. In fact, one prominent 21-year Swiss study found an average 20% lower organic yields over conventional methods. However, that came with consumption of 50% less fertilizer, and 97% less pesticide (Maeder et. al.). In addition, a US survey published in 2001, analyzed of some 150 growing seasons of data on various crops and concluded that organic yields were 95-100% of conventional yields (Welsh [1]). Yet, comparative yield studies are still scarce, and overall results remain inconclusive. Fertilizers or fertilisers are compounds given to plants with the intention of promoting growth; they are usually applied either via the soil, for uptake by plant roots, or by foliar spraying, for uptake through leaves. ... An airplane spreading pesticide. ...


Tastier

Many claim organic food tastes better. The reason may be the way it is produced, or the higher nutrient content. Others claim there is no difference in taste.


One reason people sometimes report that organic foods have more flavor is because it is fresher. Because organic farms tend to be smaller operations, they often sell their products closer to the point of harvest. Thus, many consumers believe that organic fruits and vegetables taste more "farm fresh" than the comparable conventional produce.


More nutritious

Organic advocates claim that food produced under organic conditions is more nutritious. The complex make-up of food, the effect of growing and processing methods, and the internal interactions between people and their nutrients are largely unknown. Measurements of some food components — protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals, and so on — only account for the most obvious factors that have been identified so far, however research is growing.


Organically grown potatoes, oranges, and leafy vegetables have higher levels of vitamin C than conventionally grown. Phenolic compounds are also found in higher concentrations in organically grown foods, which may be used as antioxidant protection against heart disease and cancer. But the differences are so small that it is possible that they have no impact on overall nutrition. Phenols, sometimes called phenolics, are a class of chemical compounds consisting of a hydroxyl functional group (-OH) attached to an aromatic hydrocarbon group. ... An antioxidant is a chemical that prevents the oxidation of other chemicals. ... There are different forms of heart disease: Coronary heart disease Ischaemic heart disease Cardiovascular disease The study of heart disease is Cardiology This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... When normal cells are damaged or old they undergo apoptosis; cancer cells, however, avoid apoptosis. ...


Still isolated bits of research are appearing that suggest that conventional agricultural practices are degrading food quality. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2004, entitled Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999, compared nutritional analysis of vegetables done in 1950 and in 1999, and found noticeable decreases in six of 13 nutrients examined (the six were: protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and ascorbic acid). Percentage reductions ranged from 6% for protein to 38% of riboflavin, although when evaluated on a per-food or per-nutrient level, usually no distinguishable changes were found. Reductions in calcium, phosphorus, iron and ascorbic acid were also found. The study, conducted at the Biochemical Institute, University of Texas, suggested that the easiest explanation for differences comes from changes in cultivated varieties between 1950 and 1999, in which there may have been trade-offs between yield and nutrient content. 2004 is a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... 1950 was a common year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1999 is a common year starting on Friday Anno Domini (or the Current Era), and was designated the International Year of Older Persons by the United Nations. ... Nutrients and the body A nutrient is any element or compound necessary for or contributing to an organisms metabolism, growth, or other functioning. ... General Name, Symbol, Number calcium, Ca, 20 Chemical series alkaline earth metals Group, Period, Block 2, 4, s Appearance silvery white Atomic mass 40. ... This article is about the chemical element. ... General Name, Symbol, Number iron, Fe, 26 Chemical series transition metals Group, Period, Block 8, 4, d Appearance lustrous metallic with a grayish tinge Atomic mass 55. ... Riboflavin (E101), also known as vitamin B2 or vitamin G, is an easily absorbed, water-soluble micronutrient with a key role in maintaining human health. ... Ascorbic acid is an organic acid with antioxidant properties. ... A representation of the 3D structure of myoglobin, showing coloured alpha helices. ... Riboflavin (E101), also known as vitamin B2 or vitamin G, is an easily absorbed, water-soluble micronutrient with a key role in maintaining human health. ... General Name, Symbol, Number calcium, Ca, 20 Chemical series alkaline earth metals Group, Period, Block 2, 4, s Appearance silvery white Atomic mass 40. ... This article is about the chemical element. ... General Name, Symbol, Number iron, Fe, 26 Chemical series transition metals Group, Period, Block 8, 4, d Appearance lustrous metallic with a grayish tinge Atomic mass 55. ... Ascorbic acid is an organic acid with antioxidant properties. ... The University of Texas System comprises fifteen educational institutions in Texas, of which nine are general academic universities, and six are health institutions. ...


GMO free

Certified organic foods are not genetically modified. The health risks surrounding genetically modified foods remain highly contentious. Other issues surrounding GMOs may also concern consumers, such as the ownership of biological intellectual property by corporations, and reduction in crop varieties. It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Genetically modified organism. ... It has been suggested that Genetic engineering be merged into this article or section. ...


Summary

Many of these claims are contentious. The most important issue seems to be the effect of pesticides and herbicides on people, animals, and the environment. This is still being debated by experts in toxicology. There are research reports, expert opinions, and anecdotal evidence both supporting and rebutting them. Toxicology (from the Greek words toxicon and logos) is the study of the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms. ... Anecdotal evidence is evidence stemming from a single, often unreliable source which is used in an argument as if it had been scientifically or statistically proven. ...


Radical organic

Faced with inconclusive research, conflicting marketing messages, and an overall avalanche of information, some food producers and consumers who want to act now are implementing radical approaches to defining and buying organic food.


Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is one such approach, that cuts out all the middlemen by having consumers partner with local farmers. CSA members prepurchase "shares" in a season's harvest, and pick up their weekly portions from distribution sites. Thus, consumers provide direct financing for farms, participate in the risks and rewards of annual growing conditions, and participate with farmers in distribution networks. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is the practice of farming with a greater-than-usual degree of involvement of consumers and other stakeholders. ...


Various alternative organic standards are also emerging. They generally bypass formal certification, and provide their own definition of organic food. One such, the Authentic Food standard, proposed by leading US organic farmer Eliot Coleman, includes criteria that are incompatible with current agribusiness: Eliot Coleman (1939?-) is an American farmer, author, agricultural researcher and educator, and a proponent of organic farming. ...

  • All foods are produced by the growers who sell them.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs and meat products are produced within a 50-mile radius of their place of their final sale.
  • The seed and storage crops (grains, beans, nuts, potatoes, etc.) are produced within a 300-mile radius of their final sale.
  • Only traditional processed foods such as cheese, wine, bread and lactofermented products may claim, "Made with Authentic ingredients."[2]

Particularly in developed nations, it is difficult to imagine not having the majority of products found in today's supermarkets. On the other hand, most of those products did not exist 100 years ago, and many of them are only a few decades old.


Facts and statistics

While organic food accounts for 1–2% of total food sales worldwide, the organic food market is growing rapidly, far ahead of the rest of the food industry, in both developed and developing nations.

  • World organic food sales were US $23 billion in 2002.[3]
  • The world organic market has been growing by 20% a year since the early 1990s, with future growth estimates ranging from 10-50% annually depending on the country.
  • In the US:
    • "Organic products are now available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores and 73 percent of conventional grocery stores, and account for approximately 1-2 percent of total food sales in the U.S." — Feb 2003[4]
    • Two thirds of organic milk and cream and half of organic cheese and yogurt are sold through conventional supermarkets.[5]
  • In Germany:
    • Baby food is almost exclusively organic, and over 30% of bread baked in Munich is organic.Link
  • In Italy:
    • Existing legislation calls for all school lunches to be organic by 2005.

... This article is about cream, the food item. ... Yoghurt Yoghurt or yogurt, less commonly yoghourt or yogourt, is a dairy product produced by bacterial fermentation of milk. ... Baby food is any food that is made specifically for infants, roughly between the ages of six months to two years. ... Munich: Frauenkirche and Town Hall steeple Munich (German: München (pronounced listen) is the state capital of the German state of Bavaria. ...

References

  • Maeder et.al. (May 2002). "Soil Fertility and Biodiversity in Organic Farming". Science 296:1694–1697.
  • Stokstad, Erik (May 2002). "Organic Farms Reap Many Benefits". Science 296:1589. - For a layman's explanation of the above journal article
  • Welsh, Rick, Economics of Organic Grain and Soybean Production in the Midwestern United States. Greenbelt, MD: Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, 1999

Further Reading

On Organics

  • Environmental Magazine (2005). Green Living. Penguin Group (USA). ISBN 0452285747.
  • Gussow, Joan Dye (2002). This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader. Chelsea Green Publishing. ISBN 1931498245.
  • Nancarrow, Loren; Taylor, Janet Hogan (2000). Dead Daisies Make Me Crazy: Garden Solutions without Chemical Pollution. Ten Speed Press. ISBN 1580081568.
  • Phillips, Michael (1998). The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist. Chelsea Green Publishing. ISBN 1890132047.
  • Rubin, Carole (2003). How to Get Your Lawn & Garden Off Drugs: A Basic Guide to Pesticide-Free Gardening in North America. Harbour Publishing Company. ISBN 1550173200.

On Conventional vs Organic Farming

  • Guthman, Julie (2004). Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California. University of California Press. ISBN 0520240952.
  • Hamilton, Denis; Crossley, Stephen (editors) (2004). Pesticide residues in food and drinking water. J. Wiley. ISBN 0471489913.
  • Hond, Frank et.al. (2003). Pesticides: problems, improvements, alternatives. Blackwell Science. ISBN 0632056592.
  • Watson, David H. (editor) (2004). Pesticide, veterinary and other residues in food. Woodhead Publishing. ISBN 1855737345.
  • Wargo, John (1998). Our Children's Toxic Legacy: How Science and Law Fail to Protect Us from Pesticides. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300074468.
  • Professor Williams, Christine, Nutritional quality of organic food: shades of grey or shades of green? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2002; 61: 19-24

See also

Organic certification is an accreditation process for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products. ... Utilizing both traditional and scientific knowledge, organic agriculture is a system that relies on ecosystem management rather than external agricultural inputs. ... An airplane spreading pesticide. ... A herbicide is a pesticide used to kill unwanted plants. ...

External links


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