Organic is as organic does

As you unwrap your Hershey’s chocolate bar, you’re probably wondering, “Is this organic?” Just kidding. But people (Simon B. People of Kingman) asked me, “what are organic vegetables?”

Picture this: The temperature is a comfortable 102 degrees outside. You are pushing your shopping cart through the air-conditioned aisles of Safeway, Smith’s or Basha’s, staring at the fruit. “On one hand, you have a conventionally grown apple,” the Mayo Clinic observes. “On the other, you have one that’s organic. Both apples are firm, shiny and red. Both provide vitamins and fiber, and both are free of fat, sodium and cholesterol. Which should you choose?”

Why pick “organic” over the non-organic, particularly since the former usually costs more than the latter?

Organic refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to meet the following goals:

  • Enhance soil and water quality
  • Reduce pollution
  • Provide safe, healthy livestock habitats
  • Enable natural livestock behavior
  • Promote a self-sustaining cycle of resources on a farm

There’s a lot more to this, but in order to be able to boast that your veggies are “organic,” it must be produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. In addition, organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.

“Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation,” says our friends at Medicine.net. (I don’t know about you, but I can do without the sludge.)

The USDA defines organic foods as products that are at least 95% organic according to the standard usage of the term. If manufacturers wish, they may use the USDA organic seal when marketing their products. Products that contain 100% organic ingredients may be labeled as “100% organic.” Use of the USDA seal is not mandatory, however, so you may not see the seal on all organic products. And “natural” is not the same as “organic.”

Are organic foods healthier for you? Well, they’re certainly popular. The U.S. organic sector posted a banner year in 2019, with organic sales in the food and non-food markets totaling a record $55.1 billion, up a solid 5 percent from the previous year, according to the Organic Trade Association.

The US Department of Agriculture makes no claims on whether organic is healthier and safer for you than non-organic. However, many people (including Simon B. People and his wife, Sarah) say that organic food tastes better and triggers fewer allergies.