As crisis medicine professionals, we usually discuss issues like bleeding wounds and broken bones, but preventative measures are the cornerstone to maintaining your family’s health in good times or bad. One of the main ways to be successful in this goal is assuring good nutrition. Therefore, we will devote this and future articles to a discussion of food terms that most people assign as good or bad: Organic, Natural, Processed, and Genetically-Modified.
Preparedness and Organic Food
You might think that anything that comes out of the earth (or out of a chicken. For that matter) is organic. In these modern times, nothing can be further from the truth. Organic methods of farming and animal husbandry are much different than conventional methods are, as a lot of people in the preparedness community know.
Organic farming practices are designed to produce food while preserving the environment. The goal here is to reduce soil erosion, conserve water, and reduce local pollution. Farmers who grow organic meat, fruits, and vegetables don’t use synthetically-produced fertilizers or pesticides to control weeds and prevent disease. An organic farmer, for example, might spread mulch instead of using a chemical weed killer.
We have all gone to the local supermarket and found a special area for organically-grown produce. When you pick an organically-grown banana and a regular one, they look pretty much the same. Both are yellow and, well, banana-shaped. The organic banana is more expensive, however. This is because the time, cost, and effort to produce that banana was much greater. Here’s why:
|Manure, compost, and other natural fertilizers are used to give nutrients to the soil.||Chemical fertilizers are regularly added to accelerate growth and production|
|Neem oil and other natural insecticides are used to remove pests. Natural pest predators are introduced, such as lacewings and ladybugs. Larger pests are reduced by trapping or by using methods to disrupt production||Chemical insecticides and poisons are used to treat diseases and /eliminate pest populations.|
|Methods, such as mulching, tilling, and hand weeding, are used for weed management, as well as substances that occur in nature.||Chemical weed-killers are used to destroy weeds.|
|Livestock are given clean housing and allowed access to free space. Animals are fed only with natural food (grass, for example). This combination of sanitation, space, and a diet normal for their species keep them healthy.||Livestock are given hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs/chemicals to speed their growth and send them to market faster. As a matter of fact, 80% of the antibiotics used in the U.S. goes to livestock. Animals are also given non-native diets (for example, corn-fed beef).|
Are organic foods more nutritious than conventional foods?
Most research finds them comparable, but as a preparedness advocate I disagree. In a future article, I’ll discuss this topic in detail and something else that you may not have heard of: The Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio in your diet. If you just can’t wait, you can hear me explain and discuss it in our recent podcast of the Doom and Bloom™ Survival Medicine Hour (link below). By the way, it’s all in plain English.
In order to carry a US Dept. of Agriculture “100% Organic” or “Organic” label, farmers must be certified if they sell over $5000 a year of organic products. “100% Organic” means just that: 100% of the fertilizers, pesticides, etc., are non-synthetic. The “Organic” label drops that to 95%. Below that, a label can state “Made With Organic Ingredients” at no lower than 70%.
What do you have to do to be certified “Organic” by the USDA? The steps to become a certified organic farming or livestock operation include following U.S. organic standards, keeping records of practices and materials, annual inspections, contaminant prevention and, I’m sure, a lot of paperwork. The land used must be chemical-free for at least 3 years before its produce is certified organic.
Can Genetically Modified Crops receive an “Organic” label?
The Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards prohibit the use of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Period.
Are Natural Foods Organic?
Anyone can put a label on food claiming that it is “natural”, unlike the rigorous process needed to use the “organic” label. There is no regulated definition or accreditation, at least in the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration allows the infamous High Fructose Corn Syrup to call itself natural. To see how this “natural” substance is made, click below:
Having said that, claims of being “free-range”, “natural”, or “drug-free” may be true. The product in question may just not meet USDA standards for “organic”.
Is the extra cost of organic food worth it? I’d say yes, if you can afford it. For the reason why, you’ll have to wait until my next article…
Joe Alton, M.D., aka Dr. Bones