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Organic Food- What’s the Difference?
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Organic foods are made according to certain production standards. For the vast majority of human history, agriculture can be described as organic; only during the 20th century was a large supply of new synthetic chemicals introduced to the food supply. This more recent style of production is referred to as conventional, though organic production has been the convention for a much greater period of time. Under organic production, the use of growth hormones and antibiotics, conventional non-organic pesticides, insecticides and herbicides is greatly restricted and saved as a last resort.
If livestock are involved, they must be reared without the routine use of antibiotics and without the use of growth hormones, and generally fed a healthy diet. Bovine somatotropin (abbreviated bST and BST) is a protein hormone produced in the pituitary glands of cattle. It is also called bovine growth hormone, or BGH. Monsanto Company, a U.S.-based corporation, first synthesized the hormone in large quantities using recombinant DNA technology and marketed it as "POSILAC" beginning in 1994. The resulting product is called recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), orartificial growth hormone. To date, the FDA has deemed the use of rBST and rBGH to be safe to humans, however the use of these hormones have been banned in Europe and Canada where evidence suggests a correlation between the use of these hormones and increased rates of cancer. Growth hormones shorten the life expectancy of livestock and cause increased rates of infection when used to increase milk production. Livestock are usually given significant doses of antibiotics to reduce infection, however the antibiotics do find their way into the dairy supply and onto our kitchen tables.

In most countries, organic produce may not be genetically modified (GM) or genetically engineered (GE). It has been suggested that the application of nanotechnology to food and agriculture is a further technology that needs to be excluded from certified organic food. The Soil Association (UK) has been the first organic certifier to implement a nano-exclusion[2]. Genetic engineering is different from traditional breeding, where the organism's genes are manipulated indirectly. Genetic engineering uses the techniques of molecular cloning and transformation to alter the structure and characteristics of genes directly. Genetic engineering techniques have found some successes in numerous applications. The downside, the manipulation of the cellular structures of these plants is suspected to cause increased rates in food allergies and eczema, particularly wheat and peanut.

Organic food production is a heavily regulated industry, distinct from private gardening. Currently, the European Union, the United States, Canada, Japan and many other countries require producers to obtain special certification in order to market food as "organic" within their borders. Most certifications allow some chemicals and pesticides to be used, so consumers should be aware of the standards for qualifying as "organic" in their respective locales.

Historically, organic farms have been relatively small family-run farms—which is why organic food was once only available in small stores or farmers' markets. However, since the early 1990s organic food production has had growth rates of around 20% a year, far ahead of the rest of the food industry, in both developed and developing nations. As of April 2008, organic food accounts for 1–2% of food sales worldwide. Organic farms also attract more wildlife, especially birds, than conventional farms perhaps because the soil is richer in minerals since it hasn’t been depleted by over farming. Large conventional farms pollute lakes and streams with the runoff of their pesticides and fertilizers, making their surrounding areas not very habitat friendly.

Organic food may be many found in local farmers’ markets, mainstream grocery stores to restaurants both fast food and five-star. When out shopping remember to read labels and don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are a lot of marketing tactics being used to make non-organic brands appear to be organic, for instance, “all- natural” or “wholesome ingredients”. For example, Breyers ice cream, boasts to be “all natural ice-cream” however when after a closer look on their Web site you will see that they do not guarantee that the milk used in the production process is hormone or antibiotic free.

Since organic foods often times cost more than non-organic or conventional foods, it’s important to learn how to pick and choose if keep cost down is a priority. Produce that typically contain the highest levels of pesticides include:
  • apples
  • Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Potatoes
  • Red Raspberries
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
If you are concerned about hormones and antibiotics look for meats and dairy with packing that states that the product is hormone (rBGH) and antibiotic free – and remember that products labeled “all natural” do not necessarily mean that they are organic.

Conventional foods can also be more toxic to children as they have smaller bodies and developing brains and bodies. Evidence suggests that adolescents exposed to rBGH and antibiotic ridden dairy will experience puberty earlier on. Pesticides are thought to cause birth defects and certain types of cancer. In conclusion, if you are looking for healthy and safe food free of pesticide residue, growth hormones, antibiotics; and hasn’t been grown from genetically modified seed, than “organic” is the safe way to go. Also, organic foods also contain higher levels of nutrients such as larger doses of vitamin C, calcium. Magnesium, iron as was as contain more cancer-fighting antioxidants. Be healthy- go organic!

Have more questions on organic food? Go right to the source. Take your family to visit a local organic farm, talk to the famer directly and find out more. Many small organic farmers are eager to talk about their farm initiatives and might even allow you to “sample” the difference.


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