Organics trip to the local grocery store will reveal that organic vegetables and fruits not only look better than their non-organic counterparts: they are in many cases also not that much more expensive. As a result, many mainstream supermarkets are starting to carry organic lines of produce, offering more choice to consumers. The Albertson’s chain in Washington State recently started stocking shelves with organic coffee; UK food retail giant Safeway added organic meats to its shelves, all of which is locally produced. Increasing numbers of packaged foods are being made with organic ingredients and many of them don’t cost more than non-organic counterparts. However, the organic food industry still has a long uphill battle to fight. Organic agriculture is a system of production that eliminates “the use of synthetic inputs, such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, veterinary drugs, genetically modified seeds and breeds, preservatives, additives and irradiation,” replacing them with “site-specific management practices that maintain and increase long-term soil fertility and prevent pest and diseases,” (FAO “Frequently Asked Questions”). Hormones are commonly given to livestock to increase their productivity; hormones are naturally occurring biological chemicals that alter organ functions. Antibodies, proteins produced by animals and humans in response to biological invaders, are also fed to industrial livestock. Organic farmers do not use hormones or antibodies. Nor do organic produce farmers use herbicides (chemical killers of weeds), insecticides (chemical killers of bugs), or genetically modified foods (foods that have been chemically altered to meet certain criteria such as germ-resistance).
Organic food production is one thing; organic marketing is a whole other ball game, as retail outlets for organics has traditionally differed from non-organic markets. Marketing organics at one time meant hippies selling to health food stores. As organics become more affordable and more popular, though, organic marketing is also becoming much easier, and now large organic farmers are able to sell to large grocery retailers throughout the world. The boom in the organics industry has led to new labeling requirements: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have until recently not taken a strong stand on organics. However, the USDA recently instituted the National Organic Rule, which requires foods labeled as organic to be “produced without hormones, antibiotics, herbicides, insecticides, chemical fertilizers, genetic modification, or germ-killing radiation,” (Cowley). The National Organic Rule applies to labeling only and is not a statement of health.
As Geoffrey Cowley notes in his Newsweek article “Certified Organic,” many consumers note that organic crops, or produce, tastes better than non-organic produce. Reasons to buy organic extend beyond taste, however. While much organic produce does indeed look and taste better, reasons to buy organic include environmental sustainability, support for smaller farms and farming businesses, and health. In spite of unequivocal scientific proof that organics are healthier, no one can deny that ingesting toxic chemicals at any dose is creepy and potentially harmful. Buying organic need not dent the pocketbook, and therefore buying organic products makes perfect sense; the only disadvantage to buying organic is that organic products are not as widely available and therefore it can be inconvenient to seek them out. However, in major urban centers finding organic products should be a snap. I choose to buy organic produce and other organic products whenever possible for all the reasons mentioned above: appearance, taste, the environment, health, and social reasons. If I have to pay fifty cents more for an apple, I don’t mind.
Albertsons and Equal Exchange Coffee Team Up To Please Consumers and Small Farmers.” Equal Exchange. 29 Jan 2003. Online at http://www.equalexchange.com/news_info/pr1.03.htm.
Cowley, Geoffrey. “Certified Organic.” Newsweek. 30 Sept 2002.
Frequently Asked Questions About Organic Agriculture.” FAO. Online at http://www.fao.org/organicag/fram11-e.htm.
Safeway Organic Meat is 100% Sourced.” Eurofood. 15 Aug 2002. On FindArticles.com. http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0DQA/is_2002_August_15/ai_90623214.