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Other Questions about Organic Foods


Do organic foods taste better?

Although no formal research has been conducted, some people, including many chefs, believe organic foods have better taste, color and flavor. They speculate that this is because organic farming, which starts with the nourishment of the soil, leads to the nourishment of the plants and ultimately to our taste buds. The use of synthetic nitrate fertilizers in non-organic food crops results in nitrate binding to water, which makes these crops look better but lessens their flavor. The superior taste of organic foods leads many chefs to choose them for their kitchens. A survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association found that 50% of restaurants with a per-person dinner check of $25 or more now offer organic items on their menus.

Why do organic foods cost more?

Organic food production is much more labor intensive. In addition, conventionally grown foods are often produced under subsidies from the government and chemical companies. Although priced lower at the grocery store, this cheap food is produced at the expense of the environment and individual health, hidden costs, which will eventually have to be repaid in environmental cleanup and disease costs.

How do you buy organic foods more inexpensively?

  • Buy locally
  • Buy seasonally
  • Buy in bulk
  • Take advantage of coupons and sales

Why should we buy organic foods?

Excerpt from the 1997 National Organic Directory:

  1. Health of the soil
  2. Safety of the water supply
  3. Preservation of a family farm lifestyle
  4. Health of farm workers
  5. Nutrition, flavor and quality
  6. Health investment.

What is the dirty dozen?

In 1995, the Environmental Working Group identified foods in the conventional, non-organic food supply that contained the highest number of pesticide residues. The worst offenders, which were nicknamed the "dirty dozen," included:

  • Strawberries
  • Celery
  • Green and red bell peppers
  • Apples
  • Spinach
  • Apricots
  • U.S. grown cherries
  • Green beans
  • Peaches
  • Grapes from Chile
  • Mexican grown cantaloupe
  • Cucumbers

How popular are organic foods?

Organic foods have been growing in popularity, not only in the United States, but worldwide. Organic sales in the U.S. reached $5.5 billion in 2000. A similar figure for European countries of $5.5 billion is expected to increase more than tenfold to a level of $58 billion by 2006. Approximately 6,000 certified organic farms currently exist in the United States, with 15,000 more farms running organic trials. Over the next five years, farms experimenting with organic crop production are expected to increase by about 12% or 700 farms per year.

What is the history of organic foods?

Long before the federal government got involved in the regulation of organic foods, dozens of states had passed organic laws of their own. Today, 45 out of the 50 states have their own organic laws. And even before state laws were established, concerned farmers set up voluntary organic certification systems. The first organization in the country to certify organic farms was CCOF, California Certified Organic Farmers, over twenty years ago.

Since states continue to uphold their own organic regulations the label on an organically grown food may contain other phrases besides "100% Organic" and "Made with Organic Ingredients". The most important of these phrases are "Certified Organic" and "Transitional Organic". In states that allow the label, "Certified Organic" you can be sure that 100% of the food ingredients were produced organically. In states where the label says "Transitional Organic," you can be sure the food's producers are making an effort to fully comply with state standards but are simply not there yet – it takes time for all prohibited substances to become absent from the soil, even though these substances are no longer being used in the cultivation process.

Since overall food sales in the United States reached $384 billion in 1999, organic food sales still represented only 1.4% of all money spent on food. Because the majority of food is not produced organically, organic regulations have often come under pressure to lower their standard to accommodate non-organic techniques. This pressure was particularly strong in the mid 1990's when a recommendation was made to allow use of sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering in organically-certified foods. This recommendation was rejected, partially in response to more than 250,000 letters received by the USDA in opposition to these regulatory changes.

The most controversial aspect of the OFPA continues to be the National List. This list of substances permitted and prohibited in organic food production undergoes quarterly review by a government board called the National Organics Standards Board (NOSB).

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