Blog Directory - Blogged foodliterate: Organically Speaking - Part 1

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Organically Speaking - Part 1

There has been a dramatic increase in the last few years in both the quantity of organic foods purchased and press about organic foods. The word 'organic' has many definitions:
  • of or relating to living organisms
  • constitutional in the structure of something
  • belonging to the class of chemical compounds having a carbon basis

But most people, upon being presented with this word, would define it as food grown or raised without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or hormones. There are other more specific definitions used by the agencies that regulate the use of the word 'organic' on labels. In the US that agency is the USDA - so how do they define 'organic'? Well, "100% Organic" must contain only organically produced ingredients, "Organic" must contain 95% organically produced ingredients, and "Made with Organic Ingredients" must contain 70% organically produced ingredients. The salt & water used in these products is excluded from the quantities and only the first two designations may use the USDA Organic seal.

But what does the USDA mean by organically produced? Organically grown means a product was not grown or processed using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. That does not mean that naturally derived fertilizer and/or pesticides are not used - they are. The kicker is that neither the USDA nor FDA (or most of the farmers for that matter) test for organic pesticides. Some of the commonly used ones are:

  • Rotenone - insecticide extracted from the root of a tropical plant; it is a nerve toxin that is also used to kill mites on chickens and kill fish
  • Deguelin - a derivative of rotenone & naturally occurring insecticide; high doses are suspected of having negative effects on the heart, lungs, and nerves of humans
  • Pyrethrum/Pyrethrin - fungicide and likely human carcinogen derived from chrysanthemums
  • Azadirachtin - insecticide extracted from the seeds of the Neem tree that acts as an anti-feedant and growth inhibitor
  • Myristicin - a naturally occurring insecticide present in nutmeg oil; has possible neurotoxic effects on dopaminergic neurons

The Consumer's Union reported that 25% of organic fruits and veggies carried detectable levels of pesticides and 1/3 of that 25% had levels higher than conventional products. And organic products make up about 8% of the confirmed E.coli cases in the US, but are only 1% of the diet. Lesson here? Just because something is labeled organic doesn't mean it doesn't contain things you may not want to ingest. So whether you buy conventional or organic, give that food a good washing!

I've only scratched the surface of this topic, there's so much more to the organic world. So I will be "organically speaking" for a little while!

No comments: