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Four Reasons that Organic Food is Better than Conventional

I was talking to a friend the other day who said they didn't believe that "certified organic" meant anything anymore, that it's overrated.

Now, as a former blogger on Fair Food Fight, I'm in the weird half-world of being both critic and proponent of organic foods. I do see problems with the organic standards, but when someone criticizes organic food in general, I tend to get my back up.

Here's why: Say what you will about the integrity of Big Organic corporations (and I've probably said it myself), but there's still a very strong base of small, certified organic family farms at the core of the organic industry. And as long as "organic" means something to them, it's going to mean something to me.

So here's my bottom line on what organic means: If you shop in grocery stores, and not 100% from farmers or farmers markets, then certified organic food is still the routinely best option for safe, clean food with a lower impact on the environment.

Four reasons why organic is better

1. No harsh synthetic pesticides or fertilizers

The worst of the worst pesticides (atrazine, organophosphates, Thiodicarb, etc) are never used in certified organic food production.  Important, since organophosphates have been recently linked to health and development problems in the children of U.S. farm workers. (More info: Studies Link Pesticide Exposure to Kids' IQ)

High-nitrogen fertilizers are never used in organic production, either. These are the fertilizers that have been scientifically linked to the hypoxic ("dead") zones in the Gulf of Mexico. (More info:  The Gulf of Mexico 'Dead Zone')

2. No "GE" seeds

Certified organic farmers source non-GE (genetically engineered) seeds in order to receive the USDA organic seal.

The past USDA action to allow unregulated planting of GE alfalfa was a blow to the long-term prospects for organic dairy (which uses certified organic alfalfa to feed milk cows). But it's important to remember that organic regulations were not altered for this decision to take place.

Certified organic farmers remain steadfast in their commitment to sourcing truly organic seeds that aren't owned and copyrighted by a lone biotech monopoly.

3. No irradiation

Certified organic food is never irradiated.

4. No sewage sludge

Did you know that city sewage (AKA "biosolids") is dumped on US farm fields to fertilize them? The problem: heavy metals, lawn pesticides, gas, oil, detergents, and other chemicals that can wind up in a sewer don't go away with composting sewage into biosolids -- and can cause a spike in health problems with local neighbors. (More info: Health Survey of Residents Living Near Farm Fields Permitted to Receive Biosolids)

Certified organic food, meanwhile, is never grown in composted sewage waste.

Buying direct and local from environmentally-minded farmers is a great way to support a cleaner way of farming. And buying certified organic food at your local co-op is the next best thing to being on that farm yourself.