ASHEVILLE, NC – Organic farming is among the fastest growing segments of U. S. Agriculture. In December 2002, the National Organic Standards Board of the U. S. Department of Agriculture established a national standard for the term “organic.”
Organic foods must be produced without the use of sewer-sludge fertilizers, most synthetic fertilizers & pesticides, genetic engineering (biotechnology), growth hormones and/or antibiotics.Organic food is defined by how it cannot be made rather than how it can be made. Organic foods must be produced without the use of sewer-sludge fertilizers, most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, genetic engineering (biotechnology), growth hormones and/or antibiotics. Any produce, grains, meat, dairy, eggs and processed foods can be produced organically.
Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a government approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) “organic” guidelines.
Keep these factors in mind:
– NUTRITION – The USDA makes no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food.
– QUALITY & APPEARANCE – The difference in organic food is how it is produced, processed and handled. Organic foods may spoil a little quicker because they are not treated with waxes or preservatives. It may also vary some in appearance, but not always.
– PESTICIDES – Conventional growers use pesticides to protect their crops. This can leave a residue on produce. Some people buy organic foods to limit their exposure to these residues. Most experts agree that the amount of pesticides found on fruits and vegetables poses very little health risk.
– ENVIRONMENT – Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil.
– COST – Organic foods often cost more than conventional foods. However, there are cost efficient ways to make organic foods work into your budget. Venture beyond the grocery store by shopping at farmers markets, joining a food co-op or a Community Supported Agriculture farm (CSA).
– TASTE – Taste is a personal consideration, so decide for yourself. Finding the freshest food available may have the biggest impact on taste.
Whether you become a fan of organic foods or not, shop wisely and handle your food safely. Read food labels carefully. Buy fruits and vegetables in season.
Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly with running water to reduce the amount of dirt and bacteria. If you are concerned about pesticides, peel your fruits and vegetables and trim outer leaves of leafy vegetables in addition to washing them thoroughly.
For more information, call Buncombe County Cooperative Extension at 255-5522.