Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Organics – Is it really all that?

We’ve all heard the phrase "All Natural, All the Time" right?

Well, "Going Organic" is becoming a very common term these days and not something that was widely talked about in past generations. It was usually something you would expect to hear about from someone who was a vegetarian or a naturalist. Even the term Vegan wasn’t common knowledge and kind of still isn’t in some circles. With all of the reports of chemicals and byproducts causing laundry lists of issues in humans and animals, it’s no wonder more and more people are making the switch. While I’ve done a bunch of research and a lot of reading about organics, I’m still not an expert and I’m learning new things about it every day. With that said, I really don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so I’ll only get into the basics in this post and then I’ll follow up with other posts on more specific products that I’ve heard about.

So what does "Organic" really mean anyway?

Well, according to the Organic Trade Association, "Organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. It includes a system of production, processing, distribution and sales that assures consumers that the products maintain the organic integrity that begins on the farm. Organic production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. Organically produced foods also must be produced without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering and other excluded practices, sewage sludge, or irradiation. Organic foods are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation to maintain the integrity of the food." The Organic Trade Association also maintains that the "U.S. National Organic Standards" are stringent standards that are in place to certify that specific practices are used to produce and process organic agricultural ingredients used for food and non-food purposes."

Ok, so how do you know that pesticides really weren’t used in the growing process for those "Organic" items that you purchase at your local grocer or from other retailers and merchants? And is this just some kind of media hype and a way for merchants to sell the same products at a much higher price?

The answers to these questions are... well, you really can’t always know for sure. While it may seem like a Media Hype, it really isn’t. It’s just that more and more people are trying to get the word out to make people aware of the benefits of organics, and they’re using the media to do it. When it comes to the cost of the products, those that are organic actually do tend to cost a little more than products that are not. All you can do is try to buy from reputable merchants whose integrity you feel you can trust, and know that they truly are looking out for your best interest.

With the economy in the condition that it’s in, and as people struggle to make ends meet, buying from a roadside produce stand from someone who has put up a sign that says "Organic" can also be a little risky and questionable, because some people will use the term to capitalize on the latest Buzz Word just to make a buck. I’m not saying that you should never buy from a roadside stand, but when it comes to genuine organics, you really have no way to know for sure what you’re buying from them. More and more you will find that many cities and towns now have Farmer’s Markets where you can find a huge variety of genuine organic and all natural foods and products of all kinds.

The U.S. National Organic Standards also states that "Farmers, handlers and retailers who sell organic agricultural products, must meet all certified organic grower and handler requirements to maintain the organic integrity of the organic products they sell. Anyone who knowingly sells or mislabels as organic, a product that was not produced and handled in accordance with the regulations, can be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation." You can look for the "USDA Organic" seal or some other approved labeling, and for the name of the certifier on the label of the products you want to purchase. Producers and processors can voluntarily use these labels, and may even use organic ingredients without being required to label them. It’s more or less a personal decision on your part, whether you feel you should buy from them or not.

So, to sum it all up, the answer to the original question of "Is Organic really all that?" is... Yes, I think it really is all that! It truly can make a difference in your health and in your life. While the process of changing your lifestyle to an all organic one may seem a little overwhelming and difficult because some products are still not available as organic, it may be easier if you slowly start adding new products into your daily habits.

With more and more reputable merchants along with the amount of publicity on organics and the importance of eating and using healthier products, it’s getting a lot easier to convert your lifestyle into an organic one. I honestly think that at some point in the future, the world we’re accustomed to, will eventually become all organic.

So if you’re wondering if you should make the switch or not, well... that’s up to you. All I can tell you is that once you’ve made the decision to go for it, and as more and more new products become available, start to include them on your shopping list, and before you know it, you’ll be "all organic all the time"... and a much healthier you!

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