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What Does Organic Really Mean, And is It Worth My Money by Lifehacker

What Does Organic Really Mean, And is It Worth My Money by Lifehacker

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Your friends are right: organic food does have some benefits, but depending on what your friends told you, some may be bigger than others. For example, there's a lot of controversy around a new study published by the American College of Physicians that reviewed over 200 studies and determined that organic foods do not have higher vitamin or mineral content than the same foods grown using conventional methods.
Your friends are right: organic food does have some benefits, but depending on what your friends told you, some may be bigger than others. For example, there's a lot of controversy around a new study published by the American College of Physicians that reviewed over 200 studies and determined that organic foods do not have higher vitamin or mineral content than the same foods grown using conventional methods.

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Categories:Types, Recipes/Menus
Published by: Joseph "Yosi" Fischer on Sep 11, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/21/2014

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 637 S. Victory Blvd.| Burbank, CA 91502 | Phone: (818) 567-4400 | Fax: (818) 567-4401www.fhofficesystems.com 
What Does Organic Really Mean, and Is ItWorth My Money?
 
Alan Henry
Dear Lifehacker,I know some people who swear by organic food. They say it has all kinds of benefits, and Ishould start buying it too. What does it really mean to be "organic," anyway? Should I buyorganic food?Sincerely,Healthy Eater Dear Healthy Eater,Your friends are right: organic food does have some benefits, but depending on what your friends told you, some may be bigger than others. For example, there's a lot of controversyaround a newstudy publishedby theAmerican College of Physiciansthat reviewed over 200 studies and determined that organic foods do not have higher vitamin or mineral content than thesame foods grown using conventional methods.However, that's one piece in a much bigger puzzle when it comes to your personal buying habits.It's a sticky topic, but let's start with what exactly it means to be "organic," and then try to helpyou decide if you should buy organic or not.
What Is Organic, Exactly?
The USDA states that the goal of organic foods and organic farming is to "
integrate cultural,biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.
"Put simply, if you see the "USDA Organic" or "Certified Organic" seal on your food, the itemmust have an ingredients list and the contents should be 95% or morecertified organic, meaningfree of synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and dyes, and must not be processed using industrial solvents, irradiation, or genetic engineering,according to the USDA.
 
 637 S. Victory Blvd.| Burbank, CA 91502 | Phone: (818) 567-4400 | Fax: (818) 567-4401www.fhofficesystems.com 
The remaining 5% may only be foods or processed with additives on an approved list.
 Photo bySheri.
 "Certified Organic" isn't the only label you'll see though. You may also see "100% organic,"which means all of the ingredients must meet the guidelines above, or "made with organic,"which means that the ingredients must contain 70% or more organic ingredients, the USDA sealcannot be used anywhere on the package, and the remaining 30% of the ingredients may not befoods or processed with additives on a special exclusion list.Violations of the USDA's organic labeling rules can earn companies civil penalties of up to$11,000. If that seems small, it should. The low penalties and the volume of organic productsflooding the markets have led to skepticism that the USDA is properlyenforcing the label,inspecting foods, and punishing violators. Some worry that "organic" hasturned into a marketingtermwithlittle meaning. Still, when you buy organic goods at most stores and from most known  brands, you can be largely sure that it meets the guidelines.We'vetackled this topic in detail before, and for more information on the USDA's organiclabeling program,check out this fact sheet, thefull federal regulations for organic terminology, or visitthe USDA's organic certification portal. If you're not in the United States,the Organic Certification wikipedia pagehas information on how the certification varies from region toregion.
What Are The Benefits of Organic Food?
 Now that we know what it means to be "organic," we can discuss the benefits—or, in somecases, imagined benefits—to buying organic food. There are more considerations when buyingorganic foods than just the price tag and the nutritional content. Here are a few others:
 
Nutritional Value
: Thethe
 Annals of Internal Medicine
summaryconcluded that organic foodshave no substantial vitamin or mineral advantage (save phosphorous, which is in highabundance in human diets anyway) over foods that are conventionally grown. The studyconcluded:
The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly morenutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposureto pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
 
 637 S. Victory Blvd.| Burbank, CA 91502 | Phone: (818) 567-4400 | Fax: (818) 567-4401www.fhofficesystems.com 
The study has beenhotly debated, and some outlets say the added-cost of organics iswasted money. Others point out thatfocusing on nutritional benefit misses the pointentirelyof certifying, supporting, and buying organic foods. Regardless, the thrust is this:the result should cast doubt on any assertions that organic foods somehow have higher nutritional benefits than conventional foods. Granted, the latest study is far from the lastword on nutritional value and organic foods, but it's important to note that nutritionalvalue is neither in the stated mission of the USDA's organic food certification program(and, from what we can tell, not in that of other countries either).
 Photo by Andy Roberts.
 
 
Environmental Impact
: One of the goals of organically grownand produced foods are to encourage environmentally friendly farming and growth practices,cycling of natural resources, and growing food without the need for harsh pesticides or chemicalfertilizers. This makes many organic crops more volatile, but focuses on environmentalsustainability as well as yield. Some studies have shownorganic farms have a lowerenvironmental impactthan conventional ones. A sharp eye would note that this could bebecause organic yields tend to be lower and there are fewer organic farms in general.Ultimately, as a consumer it's important to determine whether the money you spend ongroceries should make a statement about your position on issues like local agriculture orenvironmental sustainability. It may or may not—science can't make a decision for you.
Photo by  photologue_np.
 
 
Public Health and Antibiotics
: The Atlantic also points out that because organic foods—epsecially organic meats—have to contain 95%-100% organic materials, synthetic additives andantibiotics cannot be added to the animal feed. If that's a concern to you, then that's anotherpoint to consider when buying groceries. At the same time, some practices, like irradiation,which minimize contaminants, are not part of the organic food production process, which isanother factor to consider. The study had two things to say about contamination: thatconventionally farmed meat and produce were more likely to be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but both had equal risk of being contaminated overall.

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