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Explaining Organic Standards

As someone living a green lifestyle, you want to know what you’re eating and how your food is produced. When eating green, you need to consider chemicals and additives along with factors such as how the animals were raised and what went into the field of grain aside from the grain itself. Going with organic food products is one way to maintain green eating habits.

In the United States, farmers have to meet the USDA definition of organic through the National Organic Program. Basically, the program says that in growing crops and raising animals the organic way, natural substances are allowed and synthetic substances aren’t, with some exceptions. Specifically, organic means that

  • Crops are grown without the use of most chemically based pesticides or petroleum- or sewage-based fertilizers.

  • Animals are raised without antibiotics or growth hormones.

  • Genetic engineering and ionizing radiation aren’t allowed at any stage of the food creation process.

The USDA doesn’t make any claims that organic produce is better or safer for you than nonorganic produce, though scientists and researchers argue both sides. What isn’t disputed is that conventional — and especially intensive — farming methods can be much more damaging to the environment than organic methods.

Green eating means that you may need to pay a little more to get better-quality foods and good levels of animal welfare. Organic food is generally more expensive than conventional items, but prices are coming down as more organic producers break into the marketplace. The entrance of big grocery store chains into the organic food market as a result of increasing demand for organic food is driving the demand for more organic food supplies, and the stores can keep prices down because they have huge buying power. Some organic foods aren’t grown on a large scale, but if you think about the whole cost — such as the expense of cleaning up rivers because of agricultural pesticides leaking into them — and the welfare of the animals involved, you may decide that it’s worth paying a little extra.

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