Last Modified on May 23, 2013
Recently, we came across an article pointing to some huge changes to the organic foods industry. Takeovers and rules changes that have crept into the marketplace without hardly anyone noticing. Contrary to the image of struggling mom and pop farms doing it the natural way, organic produce is now largely in the hands of the same industrial food producers that organic farming originally defined itself against.
It's not that big farms can't grow our produce according to safe, organic practices. It's that they don't necessarily want to go to all that bother. They just want the extra profit that comes with an organic label!
Organic produce is an area of agricultural commerce with a big quality markup built into its prices, which gives the grower a bigger profit margin on each unit of organic peppers, chickens, etc. sold. The big food conglomerates wanted in on that -- a $30 billion a year global market -- for sure!
So you might say, "Well alright, big fella, as long as you agree to abide by the rules of organic farming we'll see if we can't all get along." The trouble is that while the US Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 governs the industry, it's the industry members that largely govern the Act, and the food conglomerates who have gotten into the game have been bending those organic practices rules--sometimes to the point of genuine concern.
So now things like carrageenan, synthetic inositol, and docosahexaenoic acid algae oil (DHA) are considered acceptable food additives because "Big Food" got them onto the approved list.
If you would prefer that your own organic foods were genuinely organic, it's going to take a bit of extra effort but a few tips can set you on the right path.
International Tips on Organic Produce
Internationally, organic farming is likewise taking off, with many countries offering similar levels of certification to those in the US.
- European Union farmers can be certified by the EU so that their produce can carry the starred Euro-leaf organic foods logo, signifying certified organic farm sourcing.
- The UK and other individual European nations also have their own organics certifications.
- India's National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) certifies national and export policies governing organic farming, at levels equal to those of the US and EU. However, within India most organic farming is done without certification, so you have to trust the farmer.
- In New Zealand, the Fair Trading Act 1986 covers organic farming practices, but certification is provided by outside groups such as AssureQuality and BioGro New Zealand.
- Australian certification is provided by two independent organizations, the Organic Growers of Australia and SAI Global.
- The Canadian government also certifies organic produce as "Canada Organic".
When talking to farmers, you want to ask about both pesticides and herbicides. The types of fertilizer a farmer uses and any hormones or other treatments employed in raising animals could be of concern to you as well.
A Few Guidelines on Organic Foods
- Farmers Markets give you the opportunity to talk to local farmers and find those genuinely dedicated to organic farming practices.
Local Farms allow you to visit and discuss farming practices right there with the farmer in his field. If their farming principles sound good, safe, and organic to you then you have an agricultural gold mine just down the road!
- In-State Farmers are more likely to be sending organic produce to your supermarket. If it's out of state or worse out of the country, it's very likely grown with unnatural assistance.
- In-Season Produce is much more likely to be local and organic. However, if it's grapes in the winter or the like, you can be fairly sure that it's coming from a chemically-polluted farm thousands of miles away.
Supermarket Produce that is organic will have a 5-digit PLU starting with 9, while non-organic goods are only four digits long. But this doesn't tell you what sort of farm produced the fruit or vegetable.
- Meat and Poultry buyers should look for the words "minimally processed" on food labels.
- Certification from the USDA National Organic Program is the only nationwide program to indicate and test organic farming practices, but this includes the big "organic" food conglomerates in the same harvest as the mom and pops.
While a USDA organics sticker or certifications from other organics programs may not be a foolproof sign of trustworthiness, it's usually better than trusting any old sign claiming that the produce was grown "spray-free", "naturally", "with organic methods", or the like unless you know the farmer personally. Many farmers and markets want to seem organic without the trouble and expense of being organic.
[YEA] Another interesting and commonplace food additive is carrageenan, an emulsifying agent extracted from red seaweed. While this polysaccharide has been used forever as a thickener and bonding agent in everything from ice cream to toothpaste (taking the place of animal-derived gelatin), in the past several years there has been a growing concern about carrageenan as a potential carcinogen and trigger to bowel disorders. While there is some remote possibility that this is true, mostly this stems from confusion over an industrial agent that at one point was also called carrageenan, though it substantially differed from the naturally occurring molecule.
For the most part, carrageenan is probably safe. In fact, the red seaweed that provides carrageenan has been consumed as a natural remedy for respiratory disorders and as a laxative. However, for those who already have digestive disorders such as colitis, it might be worth avoiding this food additive as much as possible.
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Tel Aviv, Israel
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Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa
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05/21/2009: Tim from LA, CA writes: "Hi, could vinegar and baking soda cleaning mixture be used to clean vegetables and fruits, or is there something even better or that? I use dishwashing liquid for it.
When I have mentioned cooking vegetables until they are tender I failed to mention I NEVER cook in plastic. I use a clear glass casserole with a lid. Because all of our food is being genetically engineered, in one way or another, to last longer it is important to note that this makes it harder to digest. I am on SSD and limited to what I can purchase. Maybe canned or frozen are not the best but they are all I can afford. They have been picked at their peak and blanched. Cooking in glass with a lid retains nutrients, because they have been blanched it reduces the cooking time. I never cook meat in the microwave.
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New Haven, Connecticut
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Fairfax, Va Usa
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Dirty Dozen in the Produce Aisle
Unless your vitriol for the Big Food companies knows no bounds, you can and should be a little less picky about opting for whatever organic produce you can find if the item is on the "dirty dozen" list of pesticide laden fruits and vegetables. Dairy and meat products are also high in pesticides and hormones, if you don't go with the organic alternative.
The dye known as cochineal or carmine and has been widely used in food and cosmetics going back to early civilizations, evidently quite safely. The same can't be said for artificial red dye #5 and red dye #40, which at their roots are petrochemicals. The former is perhaps better known, and the FDA requires that it be specifically listed on a product's ingredients label because some people have allergic reactions to the dye. Red dye #40 actually seems to be of greater concern, primarily because it is so much more extensively used. It has been judged safe for use but is a potential carcinogen and trigger for ADHD, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest has called for it to be banned along with seven other commonly used commercial food dyes.
All of which is ironic, given the increased focus on natural plant color-compounds (such as lycopene) that are strong antioxidants and otherwise full of health benefits. Seems like there must be potential food dyes out there that can not only create the desired food color, but also bring along health benefits rather than threats!
When I posted I never trusted organics I did not have this link. When I found this last fall I was so glad I had trusted my gut on this one. http://naturalsociety.com/admittedly-illegal-genetically-modified-soil-fungus-present-in-organic-products/.
Hi Everyone, I know many of you who come on here are interested in health and being informed as consumers. In a recent Earth Clinic newsletter, the organic food industry was a subject. I try to keep abreast of what is going on and am an advocate of GMO labeling. I think it's only fair that we know the truth about what we purchase! In the meantime, big food corporations are taking over the organic foods and many don't even realize it. They are pouring BIG money into blocking GMO labeling from going through. I am posting this information plus a link to read more regarding this important issue. Please stay informed, Lisa
Here is what I received this week from the Organic Consumers Association:
In recent weeks, several public interest groups, including the Organic Consumers Association, Cornucopia Institute, Mercola. Com, and Natural News, have pointed out the gross hypocrisy and greed of large food and beverage corporations selling billions of dollars of organic and natural food, while meanwhile bankrolling the industry opposition to GMO labeling. These organic and "natural" traitor companies and brands include: Kellogg's (Kashi, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms); General Mills (Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, Larabar); Dean Foods (Horizon, Silk, White Wave); Smucker's (R. W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic); Coca-Cola (Honest Tea, Odwalla); Safeway ("O" Organics); Kraft (Boca Burgers and Back to Nature); Con-Agra (Orville Redenbacher's Organic, Hunt's Organic, Lightlife); and PepsiCo (Naked Juice, Tostito's Organic, Tropicana Organic). All of these companies are profiting from the sale of billions of dollars of their proprietary organic and "natural" food brands while at the same time funneling large sums of money to the Monsanto-led campaign to defeat the November 6th GMO labeling ballot initiative (Proposition 37) in California.
We need to send a clear message to these traitor brands, in the only language they understand: lost profits and lower sales. Today, the Organic Consumers Association and Mercola. com are formally calling for a boycott of 7 organic and "natural" brands.
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Thousand Oaks, Ca, Usa
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San Fernando, Philippines
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Jihlava, Czech Republic
[YEA] I tried organic brocolli and it cured my shoulder-arm pain, severe lower back pain and knee pain in 3 days. Every winter I have been suffering from these pains for years. I read the cure posted by G. Michael and since I had some organic brocilli at home I decided to give it a try. I had it raw, one small brocolli head per day and after 3 days the pain is gone!!!! And i have had these pains for years! They come every winter and get better in the summer... I am frankly quite shocked because I was pretty skeptical.
Thanks G. Michael ...may God bless you!
We are currently studying the effects of returning sulfur to our diets. Organically grown garlic has roughly 39% sulfur and is a good source of sulfur. When grown with chemical fertilizers we have not have benefits reported. All of the results reported regarding garlic have been seen with Organic Sulfur, pure crystal MSM with no anti caking agents and in its crystal form. We believe that the sulfur may be the most important aspect of the garlic. We also believe that most of us are sulfur deficient and Linus Pauling's concern for mineral deficiency as the cause of many of our current disease processes. But how we become deficient makes us question what we feed our food, what types of fertilizers are used.
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[BETTER BUT WITH SIDE EFFECTS] Hello, My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer about 2 years ago and as soon as she was notified she went on an organic raw food juicing diet. She only drank organic juices and ate fruit and vegetables for the past 2 years. She drank apple/carrot juice and a green leaf veggie juice mixed with red cabbage and red apple. She alternated the apple/carrot juice with the green juice throughout the day, drinking about 8-10 juices daily with 3 meals in between. She also drank organic orange juice freshly squeezed every morning. She got the diet from Dr. Lorain Day. Dr. Day cured herself of breast cancer using this diet.
Everything has been going well so far, but in the past 6 months, my mom's gums have receded drastically. She has been to the dentist but he told her she does not have periodontal disease. She is afraid that if they get any lower then her teeth might start to fall out. Do you have any idea if she is missing any vitamins? Maybe she needs some oils, or B vitamins that she does not get from her diet. Please let me know if you can help.
She does not eat any sugar, animal products, or take any vitamins/minerals/oils. This is what Dr. Day did for when she beat breast cancer.
Thank you, Natalie
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Jax, Fl Usa