According to a recent investigative report, current national standards allow dozens of pesticides, chemicals and other synthetic materials in organic foods. Worse yet, only 16 staffers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are assigned to its National Organic Program! A network of certifiers, whose inspectors are paid by farmers and typically visit organic operations once a year, on a prearranged basis. They’re the supposed bastion of what gets certified as organic.
Here are some sobering facts about what we consumers are really getting with much of our organic food:
In 2002, when national organic regulations first took effect, there were 77 exemptions. Since then, the list has ballooned to 245. Current exemptions include copper sulfate and tetracycline.
According to the Material Safety Data Sheet, copper sulfate’s an algaecide toxic to fish and potentially dangerous if it enters public water systems. Tetracycline, used to control fire blight on fruit trees, is toxic to the human liver and reproductive organs.
Certain pesticides, often called “botanical” or “natural,” are allowed on organic farms. These are certified “organic pesticides”, meaning they contain ingredients contained in nature. These include garlic, soap and essential oils but also can include copper and sulfur.
- Pesticides, often called “botanical” or “natural,” actually are allowed on organic farms. Organic doesn’t necessarily mean organic.The “natural” label is on 1 out of 4 new food and drink products, according to Mintel, a global market researcher. Yet the label has has no seal, regulation, certification, or concrete definition.
So how do consumers really know what they’re getting when buying organic? That’s a tough call.
The best way is to be informed. Don’t assume that labels are telling you everything. Do your homework.
With so many large corporations and agri-business jumping into the exploding organic industry, consumers need to get educated. One of the leading consumer watchdog groups – the Organic Consumers Association - publishes a newsletter that has alerts to false organic claims and periodically lists brands that are trustworthy.
It’s easy to breathe a sigh of relief when you see the latest organic product on the shelves. But buyer beware, especially these days. Check it out first to be sure you’re getting what you pay for.