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Organic This – Organic That – What Exactly is “Organic” Food?

These days (every day) we hear so much about our food being grown and raised in modified ways. More and more of us are searching for marks to help us make more health-conscious choices. We find marks that say things like “free range”, “organically grown”, “antibiotic and hormone free”, or non-GMO”. These phrases were mostly unheard of 10 years ago. So, what do these terms have to do with “organic food”?

“Organic food” and “health food” are not interchangeable. Organic is very different. It must meet specific production standards which vary from what has become the normal process over the last thirty or so years. It’s not so much that the foods themselves are terrible – it’s the modern technological preparation, processing and alteration that gets us into distress.

Look for the USDA Organic Seal

Here in the United States, food must be certified organic through the National Organic Standard (NOS) Program, made to comply with the Organic Food Production Act of 1990. But , it was another 12 years (2002) before the U.S. Department of Agriculture produced the USDA Organic Seal to place on all foods that are at least 95% organic.

Organic vegetables, fruits, grains and other crops must be grown without using:

* conventional pesticides
* artificial fertilizer
* human waste or sewage sludge
* food additives
* “ionizing radiation” – energy particles that alter the number of electrons in the item’s molecules and atoms, which is done to change their size and appearance, or experiment with hybrids and taste. This can be harmful to the DNA of human and other animal cells.

Animals considered “organically raised”, must meet these conditions:

* they aren’t given routine antibiotics or growth hormones like steroids
* they continue to be fed their natural, unaltered, non-filler diet

Cows are mostly grain-feed for a time prior to slaughter rather than allowed to feed on their
natural diet of grass, plants and shrubs. They are also often given growth hormones. These two things are done to make them larger and meatier. Antibiotics are administered to prevent them from getting sick on this grain diet which is foreign to their digestive systems. The animal is getting less nutrition from grain – meaning the consumer will get less nutrition too – and the antibiotics from the animal flesh can get trapped in our tissues, making us resistant to antibiotics that we may need later.

“Free range” or “cage free” – a term used most often for poultry and egg marks – is a general term meaning the chickens, hens, etc. are allowed outside time instead of being “cooped up”, so to speak. But this doesn’t always mean “organic”. They may still be given antibiotics and GMO-altered grain.

What is “genetically modified” (GMO) food?

GMO (genetically modified organism) is a term used to mean that genetic engineering techniques known as “recombinant DNA technology” have been used to combine DNA from different sources and inserted “in vitro” into one molecule of a plant or animal. This could mean that both the animal and its food have been genetically modified. Concerns are turning up about new allergens, increased toxicity and further decreased nutrition from the GMO process. In the U.S. and most other countries, organic foods are not allowed to be genetically modified.

Tom Nuckels is

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