What’s in the “organic” label?

I was going to the grocery store to do some shopping. I had a list of what to buy and my wife’s stern instructions to buy only “organic” food. I wanted to panic, “How was I to know whatorganic foods were?”

Many are into the craze of buying organic, naturally-grown, made from natural ingredients, free-range, and hormone-free. What’s the diff? This is definitely the era for these products – I can see a lot of presently mass-produced processed foods and hi-tech farm products going out of style in a year or two. The really good thing about this craze coming in this age is that it also came with the age of Google. So in no time, I was searching the definition and USDA standards for all the food labels. Here’s what I learned:

Those labelled “100% organic” have no synthetic component or ingredient; they may or may not bear the USDA seal. It meant that I did not have to sweat looking for the USDA seal; although I also wondered why a certain product would not go the extra effort of obtaining a USDA seal if it was qualified.

Those labelled “organic” meant that they have at least 95% organic component and at most 5% synthetic or non-organic component or ingredient. These, too, may or may not bear the USDA seal. My wife’s instructions were “Buy organic only,” meaning I could choose between the 2 labels.

There’s a third label that says “Made with organic ingredients.” It means that the food product was made of 70% organic ingredients but a maximum of 30% non-organic or synthetic ingredients. These products cannot bear the USDA seal.

The USDA seal is an assurance that the food was grown and prepared without (or within allowable restricted limits) synthetic and chemical-based farm inputs, biological and genetic alteration, or irradiation. The farm inputs used for growing these products are natural or biological fertilizers and pesticides.

Organic foods tend to be more expensive than the conventionally raised food products. According to my source, that is an effect of the economies of scale and the universal law of supply and demand. Not that I understood those economic concepts very well, but I think it means that the price will even out when more farmers and food producers will start supplying organic foods.

Meanwhile, they cost at least 50% more than the prevailing price of non-organic food. I’m a little bit worried because it’s easy to understand that organic foods are friendlier to Mother Earth and way healthier for people. The USDA definitions and regulations, while not that easily understood or retained in my memory, are “Google-able” and easily searched. But is it healthy, friendly, or easily understood by my economics? I don’t think so.

I could always wait for more farmers to go into organic farming. Or I could buy some pots, planting soil, and seeds now to start growing my own vegetables.That’s an idea! Now, let’s see, which of these seeds have not been genetically modified? And were these bags of soil not treated with chemicals? The pots are made of plastic; would they have a significant BPA component to it?

Uh-huh, I decided to keep to my wife’s list and instructions. That should be easier than this circuitous way of shopping! I put back my iPhone back to my pocket and took the list out. Way to go!

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