Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Organic means that the food is farmed in a different way, which is great for the planet, but that doesn't mean it's always better for you. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program sets forth strict guidelines for the agriculture of organic foods, restricting the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and growth hormones; antibiotics, and genitically modified organisms in their production. Thus, organic food production offers many bonuses to both people and the environment, such as lowering human exposure to these agents, as well as promoting healthy soil, ecosystems, and water supplies. However, these organic standards have nothing to do with regulating a food product's nutritional attributes. Increasingly, stores are widening their organic food choices to include more processed foods, such as organic jelly beans, potato chips, cookies, and even vodka.

"Organic is on so many food packages of highly processed foods,"
says Andrea Giancoli, M.P.H., R.D., dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Washington, D.C. "I find that people see 'organic' on a food label and it doesn't seem to matter what the actual food is; they think it is healthful."

If you see "organic" on the food label for chocolate chip cookies, all it means is that the ingredients, such as wheat, sugar, chocolate, and butter, are cultivated organically. It doesn't mean that the nutrition profile of calories, fat, sugar, and sodium in those cookies is any better than the regular chocolate chip cookies. A cookie is a cookie; it doesn't matter if it's organic. Many organic junk foods are made of highly processed ingredients such as refined white flour, sugars, salt, and oils, offering you a great deal of calories and sodium with little nutrient payback.

Organic foods to watch out for include sweetened beverages, crackers, candy bars, candy, energy bars, and chips that are high in calories, but offer little nutrient reward. "They're just organic junk foods," says Giancoli.

Highly processed foods - organic or not - are in complete opposition to eco-friendly foods with a minimal carbon footprint. Such highly processed ingredients require more resources to process, manufacture, and distribute than simple whole foods, like an apple or head of broccoli, especially if they're grown locally. One hundred years ago, all food was organic. Today, it has moved from niche market to the fastest growing segment of the food industry attracting all of the major mainstream food corporations.

A recent Stanford study concluded that organic food is no better than conventionally grown food but even this poorly designed study actually made the case for organics. Women were tracked during pregnancy and the first few years of a child’s life. Stanford researchers acknowledged that eating organic food may indeed reduce the odds of birth defects, autism and other neuro-behavourial problems. They agree that children who eat organic diets have less pesticides in their bodies. Organic food production uses methods free of pesticides, herbicides, irradiation, GMOs (genetically modified organ), and free of sewage sludge fertilizer. Organic meat and dairy do not contain the antibiotics which lead to drug resistant bacteria. Organically grown animals aren’t routinely given hormones to spur their growth, a process which does create hormone-related side effects such as early puberty in girls.

The challenge for socialism to rethink food itself, how we produce it and the systems we use to process, distribute and deliver it and to create diets and foods for the future that are safe, healthy, nutritious and ecologically sound for the planet.

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