Friday, January 26, 2007

What you eat: Organic, the new trend in food

So you've heard the reports, organic is better for you and the environment. But what exactly does organic mean?

Organic growers use biological and cultural practices as their first line of defense against pests. Methods include crop rotation, the selection of resistant varieties, nutrient and water management, the provision of habitat for the natural enemies of pests, and release of beneficial organisms to protect crops from damage. The only pesticides for use allowed in organic agriculture must be approved by the National Organic Standards Board and listed in Section 601 of the National Organic Program rule.

Traditionally, organic food was grown and sold locally. However, with the mass adoption of organic food, those fruits and veggies could be coming from Florida, California or elsewhere. So if you're eating organic food from your local grocery store simply to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, you've got it all wrong.

Luckily, with internationally renowned organic groups like the Rodale Institute in our backyard here in the Valley, as well as the Emmaus Farmers Market, which specializes in organic, locally grown produce, local organic food is relatively easy to come by.

So why go organic? Organic food offers several benefits:

Organic farming helps prevent topsoil erosion, improves soil fertility, protects groundwater, and conserves energy.
There is evidence of drawbacks linked to current popular food farming practices. A global survey of groundwater pollution [Payal Sampat, Worldwatch, "Deep Trouble: The Hidden Threat of Groundwater Pollution."] shows that a toxic brew of pesticides, nitrogen fertilizers, industrial chemicals, and heavy metals is fouling groundwater everywhere. In a study published in Science(April 13, 2001), scientists headed by University of Minnesota ecologist David Tilman concluded that continued expansion of the industrial farming model for the next few decades "has the potential to have massive, irreversible environmental impacts."

Organic methods are as efficient, economical and financially competitive as conventional methods, and better for the soil and the environment.
According to The Rodale Institute's long-term Farming Systems Trial comparing crops under conventional and organic management. A report looking at the first 15 years of the trial shows that after a transitional period of about four years, crops grown under organic systems yield as well as, and sometimes better than, those grown conventionally. In years of drought, organic systems can actually out-produce conventional systems. In addition, organic systems showed significant ability to absorb and retain carbon, raising the possibility that agricultural practices might play a role in reducing the impact of global warming.

Growing crops in healthy soils results in food products that offer healthy nutrients.
There is mounting evidence that organically grown fruits, vegetables and grains may offer more of some nutrients, including vitamin C, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and the hot nutrient on the block omega-3, and less exposure to nitrates and pesticide residues than their counterparts grown using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

To learn more about organic food, and for some good entertainment view the Store Wars.

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