34 The QUEE NS Courier • health • FEBRUARY 4, 2016 for breaking news visit www.qns.com ▶health ORGANIC IT MAY NOT MEAN WHAT YOU THINK By Ralph Lee They say, “You are what you eat.” With that in mind, the rush to eating organic foods in the United States has been unparalleled in recent times. Consider some of these figures: • More than half of Americans buy organic food occasionally, and nearly one quarter buy it every week. • In the United States, retail sales from organic food were estimated at more than $20 billion in 2007. • Worldwide, retail sales from organic food climbed from $23 billion in 2002 to $52 billion in 2008. • More than 70% of the nation’s grocery stores now carry at least some organic food. • Americans spend as much as 50% more on organic food than the nonorganic variety. And there’s the rub. If you spend $800 a month feeding your family of four regular honest-to-goodness made-in-the-USA good ol’ processed food, you have to ask yourself if you can afford to spend $1,200 on the organic variety. Maybe you’ve decided you can. You’ve concluded your family is worth it, and the organic route is the road you’ve chosen—even if you have to live in your car. Now you need to ask another question: What makes organic food organic? The answers might surprise you. There are basically three organic categories certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture: • 100% organic. Not surprising, foods that say “100% organic” on their labels are completely organic or made of all organic ingredients. These will carry the familiar green and white “USDA Organic” seal. • Organic. If it says “organic” on the label, these foods are at least 95% organic. These, too, will carry the “USDA Organic” seal. • Made with organic ingredients. Labels “boasting” these four words can contain 30% of ingredients that are not organic. The USDA has decided the organic seal can’t be used on these packages and the word “organic” can’t appear on their labels. Don’t be fooled by other “organic-sounding” names on labels. If you see “hormone free,” “free range” or “all natural,” what’s in the food still isn’t organic according to the USDA. Also be aware the USDA has stated there’s no real evidence that organic food is more nutritious than the non-organic variety. So, why do you have to pay 50% more to eat organically if organic foods are sometimes not 100% organic and they’re not necessarily better for you? Well, it costs more to farm organically. Conventional farming methods include spraying chemical fertilizers for growth, spraying insecticides for death (of pests and diseases) and spraying chemical herbicides to contain weeds. Organic farming methods use natural fertilizers for growth; birds, insects and traps for death; and tilling, mulching and hand weeding to contain weeds. All that costs money and takes time. It’s no wonder there are fewer organic farmers than those using conventional methods. That means there’s a lot fewer organic ears of corn, heads of lettuce, etc., and that means higher prices for the organic consumer. And, as the demand for organic increases among a more health-conscious society, the price goes up.
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