In order to be certified USDA organic, farmland and crops must adhere to strict guidelines and practices. For organic certification, farms are assessed by their soil quality, weed control / treatment, general farming practices and additives. In order to be considered organic, crops must be grown on farmland that has not used prohibited, toxic pesticides and fertilizers for at least three years. When eating organic, you can be assured that your food does not contain chemical fertilizers, pesticides, genetically modified organisms or any other artificial agents.
Eating organic means you can be confident you, your friends and your family are not ingesting or being exposed to toxic herbicides or pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or other artificial agents through your food. Eating and buying organic also means supporting farmers and supporting a working environment that prohibits the use of toxic herbicides or pesticides.
There is a natural, symbiotic relationship between each element of our food ecosystem. When crops are rotated and soil is rich, soil has the power to grow flavorful, nutritious food for humans, animals and pollinators. The soil, crops, pollinators and humans work in harmony to keep this ecosystem balanced and thriving.
Organic farming produces more nutrient soil and is associated with greater carbon sequestration (i.e. capturing more carbon from the atmosphere to help combat global warming).
As the CCOF notes here, children are “more vulnerable to exposure to pesticides and herbicides, their bodies absorb toxins more readily than adults do, and their organs are less efficient.” Check out the CCOF’s guide that includes resources and recommendations for encouraging kids to choose organic foods and get excited about organic farming.
Organic farming begins with soil. Organic farming uses nature’s principles to create nutrient rich, soil with a healthy microbiome and a high level of biodiversity. Cover crops, crop rotation, companion planting and composting are among the techniques used by organic farmers to help create nutritious soil, the foundation for growing healthy crops. Nutrient-rich soil then provides seeds and plants with the resources to create nutrient rich foods that we can enjoy.
Conventional farming is almost solely focused on output, without concern for the long term impact this approach has on our food quality and security. This approach to agriculture we rely so heavily on has stripped away nature’s ability to provide high-quality, flavorful and nutrient dense food. Instead, the land and soil depend on toxic pesticides and herbicides to kill weeds and petrochemical fertilizers to artificially stimulate crop growth in soil that lacks nutrients. Essentially, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is a band-aid to compensate for nutrient-depleted soil.
Non-GMO means there are no genetically modified organisms, meaning organisms that have been scientifically altered in such a way that does not occur in nature. Organic certification has an even higher standard of requirements than non-GMO. Products that are organic do not include any genetically modified organisms and also do not include chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents.
CCOF’s Future Organic Farmers Program: The CCOF’s Future Organic Farmer’s program provides financial support for organic education from middle school through college age students to encourage organic farming and entrepreneurship. You can read farmers stories on CCOF’s website here or watch this video on Future Organic Farmer Lehia Apana and her organic farming practices in Hawaii.
Farm Transformers Program: Click here to learn about the Farm Transformers program and read stories about dairy farms across the globe that have been transformed into animal sanctuary schools.
While we believe there are endless reasons to eat organic, from soil health to nutrition, here is Only Organic’s list of 15 compelling reasons to choose organic.
Similarly the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) prepared a guide on why organic is better for your health and the planet’s health.
If you are unable to purchase only organic foods, it is helpful to know what foods are most important to prioritize buying organic. The EWG has created a guide on foods that have the most exposure to pesticides in conventional farming – use this guide as a resource for what foods to purchase organic when you must prioritize.
Michele L. Seattle, WA
Judy H. Marblehead, MA