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February 1, 2012

Is Organic Food Living Up To It's Name?

Buying organic has always seemed to mean food that is better for your health and better for the environment. People are willing to pay a little extra for food knowing that fact. But as the trend to buy organic grows bigger, are farms really adhering to what it means to be organic in order to supply the demand?

According to the article “Organic Agriculture May Be Outgrowing Its Ideals” from the New York Times, what we trust to be organic may actually be hurting the environment.

Right now, winter temperatures in Utah, and the rest of the northern United States, prevents us from growing locally the fruits and vegetables we would like. Therefore, grocery stores need to import our organic tomatoes etc. from other states, and countries like Mexico.

That wouldn’t be such a bad idea, except that many farms in Mexico need to use intense irrigation techniques that are creating stress on the environment by drying up the local water reserves. On top of that, the fruit and veggies take an energy intensive trip across the country to be delivered.

To quote the article “foods with the organic label are increasingly removed from the traditional organic ideal: produce that is not only free of chemicals and pesticides but also grown locally on small farms in a way that protects the environment.”

The article continues to explore the pros and cons the organic farms, and I highly suggest reading the rest at the New York Times website.

Reading this article I had two reactions.

First, It reminded me of a list I found a couple years ago called “The Dirty Dozen” It’s a list of fruits and vegetables that you should definitely buy organic, and a list that, whether organic or not, doesn’t affect the way they are grown, amount of pesticides used etc.

Second, I remembered my childhood, and how I still buy my produce now, seasonally. I remember wanting watermelon in the middle of winter and my Mother saying “No, it’s too expensive, we eat it in the summer when it’s grown locally.” Sure my Mother was only teaching me how to stretch a dollar, but she also indirectly taught me to buy locally and seasonally. I still avoid certain fruit in the winter and buy it only in the summer.

Buying organic is not just about buying a certain brand or looking for a certain label in the store. It’s about a lifestyle change and knowing where your food comes from. If we all bought foods in season and avoided those not, we would sustain the local farmers and really be buying organically. Take a look at the Dirty Dozen List; I’d rather support a local farmer by buying broccoli from him, then having it imported with an organic label.

What do you think?


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