Organic choices clarified: exclusive coverage of the latest organic research.

Author:Marquez, Theresa

Organic (Or gan/ik): Based on a system of farming that enhances soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

For many consumers, the word "organic" connotes food that is inherently healthier. Historically, a relatively insignificant amount of research has been done to back up that claim, but times are changing. A growing body of scientific evidence points to many reasons why choosing organic food can be extremely beneficial to human health. And while a great deal of time and effort will continue to be put forth toward scientifically proving its benefits, there are significant reasons right now for choosing organic.


On October 21, 2002, federal regulations went into effect governing the labeling of foods produced using organic agriculture. Under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic certification, all products labeled "organic" have been verified by an accredited certification agency as meeting or exceeding USDA standards for organic production. Only food products that contain 95 percent to 100 percent certified organic ingredients may use the USDA seal. The organic industry worked hand-in-hand with the USDA to develop these stringent standards, which are both federally mandated and regulated.

Reasons for selecting organic produce and products are largely personal. Long-term environmental damage is a key reason for thinking twice about conventional products. For pregnant women and children, there are many reasons why choosing foods grown without the use of toxic and persistent chemicals is the logical choice. And finally, growing scientific evidence indicates that certain organic foods may contain more antioxidants than their conventional counterparts.


Organic agricultural production benefits the environment. Crops are grown without the use of toxic and persistent chemicals. Pesticide and herbicide impact on the environment is wide-ranging and the resulting contamination is a public health concern. Pesticides are intended to kill or control pests, but many are highly toxic to organisms other than those targeted. In the environment, these include beneficial insects like pollinating bees as well as birds, fish, and earthworms.

According to insect ecologist David Pimentel, many pesticides kill beneficial insects and may actually reduce crop yield. "The percentage of crop loss to insects has actually increased...

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