What does Organic mean anyway and why should I care?

It’s getting easier and easier to find organic options of most food items at the grocery and especially at the big chains like Wal-Mart. But why buy organic in the first place? To many, organic only means more expensive. To others, it’s just the healthiest option available. Organic growing and labeling of food can be a complicated issue and not one that has been made easier to understand by the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture or the corporations that sell us our food.

First, “organic” and “GMO-free” are not the same thing. GMOs, Genetically Modified Organisms, that first made it to consumers in the 1990s, are hybrids of fruits or vegetables that contain the DNA of other plants or animals. The controversy surrounding GMOs will be addressed in the next column. But for now, know that “Organic” products not only do not contain GMOs, but are also synthetic pesticide and herbicide free.

The official definition of “Organic,” as given by the National Organic Program, the official regulatory overseer of the organic label by the USDA is:

Produced without genetic engineering, radiation, or sewage sludge.

Produced without synthetic substances on the banned list. (ash, herbicides and pesticides)

“Overseen by a USDA National Organic Program-authorized certifying agent, following all USDA organic regulations.

With this list in mind and with so much governmental oversight regulating organic labeling, one might consider that the alternative is indeed less healthy. That is unless, you prefer your food made with sewage sludge. '

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