A lot of people are confused as to which type of food is better between organic and our regular conventional foods. For a lot of people, they are of the belief that regular conventional food is healthier and more beneficial than organic food. For others, reverse is the case and there are also a handful of people who are indifferent as to which they prefer.
Organic foods refer to agricultural products that are grown and processed without the use of fertilizers, growth regulators, livestock feeds, pesticides, additives, bio-engineered genes (GMOs). Organic farming is controlled by regulations which differ from country to country. The main concept of organic farming is to grow food without the use of synthetic materials or genetically modified crops.
In conventional farming, farmers utilize chemical fertilizers to enhance plant growth. Conventional foods are made using pesticides, chemical herbicides. In animal rearing, conventional farmers administer antibiotics and growth hormones to improve the growth and well being of the animals.
The word "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:
Materials or practices not permitted in organic farming include:
Organic farming practices for livestock include:
Organic or Not? Check the Label
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards. These standards regulate how such foods are grown, handled and processed.
Any product labeled as organic on the product description or packaging must be USDA certified. If it is certified, the producer may also use an official USDA Organic seal.
The USDA makes an exception for producers who sell less than $5,000 a year in organic foods. These producers must follow the guidelines for organic food production, but they do not need to go through the certification process. They can label their products as organic, but they may not use the official USDA Organic seal.
"GMO” stands for Genetically Modified Organism and refers to plants, animals or other organisms whose genetic material has been changed in ways that do not occur naturally. The “non-GMO” claim means that the food is made without ingredients that were derived from genetically engineered organisms.
An antibiotic is a medication that is used to destroy bacteria that can be the source of infections and diseases. These medications have been used for both human and animal health for decades as prescribed by a doctor (veterinarian or physician). Antibiotics are only used in times of sickness and with veterinarian supervision. According to revised guidance, FDA does not
Pesticides are among the leading causes of death by self-poisoning, in particular in low- and middle-income countries.
As they are intrinsically toxic and deliberately spread in the environment, the production, distribution, and use of pesticides require strict regulation and control. Regular monitoring of residues in food and the environment is also required.
WHO has two objectives in relation to pesticides:
People spreading pesticide on crops, in homes, or in gardens should be adequately protected. People not directly involved in the spread of pesticides should stay away from the area during and just after a spread.
Food that is sold or donated (such as food aid) should comply with pesticide regulations, in particular with maximum residue limits. People who grow their own food should, when using pesticides, follow instructions for use and protect themselves by wearing gloves and face masks as necessary.
Consumers can further limit their intake of pesticide residues by peeling or washing fruit and vegetables, which also reduces other foodborne hazards, such as harmful bacteria.
When it comes to the climate impacts of our diet, it pays to be particular.
One bowl of rice can have six times the climate impact of another. Beer from a bottle can result in more greenhouse gas emissions than beer from a keg. One cup of coffee's carbon footprint may be 15 times bigger than another's. Those are some of the findings in a sweeping study published in the journal Science, that looked at the complexities of the world's food and agricultural systems to determine the environmental impacts of food production.
It found that if the world's consumers want to put a genuine dent in greenhouse gas emissions from food production, they should make one choice above all: Switch to a plant-based diet.
The world's food and agricultural systems produce more than a quarter of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, the study notes, and nearly two-thirds of those emissions are linked to animal products. If consumers switched to a plant-based diet—or even cut their consumption of animal products in half—the shift could have substantial environmental benefits.
That's especially true for Americans, who consume about three times more meat per person than the rest of the world.
The authors of the study, from Oxford University and a Swiss government research institute that specializes in life-cycle assessments, attempted to calculate the impact of individual producers across the globe by looking at thousands of studies on the impact of food production, from the farm to the consumer. Ultimately, they focused on 570 studies, covering nearly 39,000 farms and 1,600 processors across 119 countries and 40 products, representing about 90 percent of global calorie and protein consumption.
The researchers found that shifting from current diets to a diet without animal products would cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half, or about 6.6 billion metric tons. In the U.S., shifting to a plant-based diet would cut emissions by 620 million metric tons, or about 61 percent of the country's emissions from food.
"Today, and probably into the future, dietary change can deliver environmental benefits on a scale not achievable by producers," the authors write. "Moving from current diets to a diet that excludes animal products has transformative potential."
(Access this article to read more about the study.)
Inside Climate News, author Georgia Gustin