August 31, 2007, Newsletter Issue #62: What is "Organic?"

Tip of the Week

Part of green living, to many people, is the purchase and consumption of organic produce, dairy products, eggs, and meat. But what exactly does “organic” mean? And how do you know that the products you're buying are, indeed, organic? According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic meats, dairy products, and eggs come from animals that are not given growth hormones or antibiotics; organic produce is grown without the use of most pesticides and is free of ionizing radiation and is not bioengineered.

There are national organic standards that a product must meet in order to be worthy of the “organic” label, and in 2002 the USDA developed additional labeling rules that a product must meet in order to be able to sport the official USDA organic seal. (See a picture of the seal here: http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Images/4colorsealJPG.jpg) If a product is labeled with the seal, American consumers can be sure that it is at least 95% organic. European organic suppliers must conform to European Community regulations that were established in 1993. While the USDA makes no official claim regarding the health benefits of organic produce, meat, eggs, and dairy products, common sense dictates that eating less pesticides on fruits and vegetables and less hormone-altered beef and chicken can only be good for one's body. Many proponents of organic products also claim they taste better, with more a more “authentic” taste than the products' non-organic counterparts.

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