Clarified: What does "organic" mean?
September 3rd, 2012
05:00 PM ET
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In cooking, the process of clarification entails straining out extraneous muck from liquids so that they might be pure, clear and ideal for consumption. With this series on food terminology and issues we're attempting to do the same.

Organic: it's a word that gets bandied and bashed around a lot. Plenty of folks believe it's synonymous with "healthy," while others think it's just an excuse for companies to vacuum the last of the cash from your wallet. Politics aside, what does the term actually mean?

Produce: Organic produce is grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering, and relies on natural or mechanical methods, rather than prohibited chemicals, for pest control. Simply put - it needs to be as natural as possible.

For food to be United States Department of Agriculture Certified Organic and bear the accompanying seal, it must be grown and processed according to specific federal guidelines that include, among others considerations, soil quality, pest and weed control, and the use of additives. The operation must be approved by a government inspector and go through a certification process. Handlers and processors that work with the food before it reaches the market must be government certified as well.

As with eggs, dairy and meat, produce can be produced organically without the farm having undergone the lengthy and fairly expensive process to be certified organic by the USDA's National Organic Program's inspectors. If a farm or business’ gross agricultural income from organic sales does not exceed $5,000 per year it doesn't need to be certified in order to sell, label, or represent products as organic, but it may not use the "Certified Organic" seal unless it's gone through the certification process.

It's certainly possible (and increasingly popular) to garden organically at home. The USDA has assembled some handy tips for small-scale farming and home gardening use.

Meat and dairy: Meat and dairy sold as "organic" must be from animals that have been raised under specific animal welfare guidelines, given no antibiotics or growth hormones, provided with access to the outdoors, and fed with 100 percent organic feed - no animal byproducts or genetically modified or "GMO" crops - produced on land that has been free from the use of toxic and persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers for a minimum of three years. Farms must undergo USDA inspection and certification to bear the organic seal.

A veterinarian may not withhold antibiotics in the case of illness, but rules for their use are very specific and the products, if sold, may not be labeled as organic.

Eggs: For eggs to be labeled "organic," they must come from farms that meet the USDA's National Organic Standards and are routinely inspected to ensure compliance. Hens must be fed organic feed.

The hens themselves must be maintained without hormones and other intrusive drugs and antibiotics may only be used in cases in cases of outbreak or disease. They're also kept in a cage-free environment and allowed access to the outdoors.

Labeling: Meat marketed as "organic" must be 100 percent organic. Multi-ingredient products marketed with the USDA organic seal must contain 95 percent or more certified organic content.

Read Should you buy organic? Study complicates decision at CNN Health



soundoff (413 Responses)
  1. huggy

    At Kroger and Food Lion grocery stores put something disgusting in or on their meats. The chicken doesn't taste the same as I'm use to. I'm from Florida and moved to North Carolina almost 4 yrs. ago. I must say I should've done my research, but really, who goes store to store buying, cooking tasting and sampling food before you move to a different state. The pork chops are slimy. See for yourelf. Try the pork chops at another store, not Harris Teeter. That place is iffy too, not to mention their prices are ridiculous. Go to a meat store. See the difference. You'll see what I mean. Consumers please respond.

    April 13, 2014 at 8:39 pm |
  2. Sandy May

    Here is my question? What is the nutritional value of a fruit or vegetable that has been genetically manufactured. If you compared nutritional value of the Monsanto GMO seed to Non-GMO seeds, would the resulting fruit/veggie have more or less nutritional value? If scientist could give me that answer, I would feel better about what I buy and eat.

    April 25, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  3. tateman

    The conversation about Organic vs. Non Organic is focusing on the wrong thing. An individual may not eat enough pesticides on their produce to affect them and then again maybe they might get cancer or some neurological disease from those pesticides. What is known for certain is that massive amounts of fertilizers and pesticides are washing into our rivers and creating ocean dead zones. Scientists are finding evidence of pesticides throughout the food chain. Check out, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_zone_(ecology)out

    September 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Katt

      All the more reason to buy organic!

      February 15, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  4. My

    The USDA and FDA have a history of letting things slide until people catch on. I don't trust either and feel organic is just a ploy to make more money while backhandedly admitting that most if not all of what we consume is genetically modified at this point. Alas, I still consume and we all will. They got us good!

    September 5, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Katt

      I certainly agree that the FDA needs to stay the hell out of the farming industry! I don't trust that entity either, but then again, I don't trust any gigantic corporate arm of the government!

      February 15, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  5. domithica

    Let's remember as well that while all fruits and vegetables don't need to be purchased organic, lets think about other foods that should be that contain things that don't need to be in our families diets. Like MSG, high fructose corn syrup and in some foods there is also fructose corn syrup listed next, then sugar listed next, and food dyes. An organic brand like Annie's makes sure that this stuff is absent from their food and is makes it worth buying for my family. While I will never deprive my family of treats like ice cream or cake, I will more often then not look for the products that don't have these things in it and also look for produce like yogurts, milk, eggs and meats that are from farms that are not giving their animals growth hormones,, antibiotics and are only grass feeding their animals. I don't want to guess what is in my food. I guess I am paranoid but as a mother and wife, knowing that I am doing what I can to do what I can for my family is better than just sitting here bitching about who is right and who is wrong. Get off your butts and just realize that trying to make our food the most natural is best for our children today. Using natural sugar is better than using sweetners, using compost to help our gardens grow is better than using some form of fertilizer ( as a person who grows a garden), etc.

    September 5, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  6. reality check

    It's used to mean "without herbicides" or "without hormones", but who says these things are bad?

    September 5, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • Sodomite

      Anyone who relies on Monsanto for a living.

      September 5, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  7. khrog

    CNN wants to inform people who don't want to know about reality. classic.

    September 5, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  8. Ray

    I don't care how educated you may be. If you don't eat organic – especially the "dirty dozen" you are not thinking correctly. Pesticides don't know when to stop killing. Unfortunately, an education teaches to obey scientific research.
    But that is bought and paid for.

    September 5, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  9. tintumon

    when u compare organic cage free egg with regular egg in walmart, organic egg has more white portion.

    September 5, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  10. Arni

    I just plain don't trust organic. Especially vegetables and fruit. I bought some organic carrots by mistake and after two weeks they turned black. What's that about? Why is the life expectancy in out country longer now and getting longer year after year. What was life expectancy 75 years ago when food intake was mostly organic? Doesn't that tell you something?

    September 4, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • jonathan

      yes being pickled with preservative will make food last longer

      and being on drugs will extend your life

      but it is not quality

      I am 39 and sad to see how many men/women my age are already not doing well

      sure aging is normal but heart problems, skin disease, etc is not a 40 yr old thing
      people are less healthy and yes less activity does affect this but so does diet

      eating bad is too easy

      and you are making a life long decision on carrots rotting?

      alrighty then

      September 5, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • jonathan

      :D

      sorry arni but yes 2 weeks is normal for most things to rot

      sincerely I thank you for making me smile before bed

      September 5, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • Dr. Lecter

      Um, two week old carrots? Why were they in your fridge or pantry for so long? Quit buying vegetables in restaurant quantities and try to eat everything you buy before its a week old if you want fresh. Other wise pickling is an option.

      September 5, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • rstop

      Food is supposed to go bad. It is perishable. You should be more bothered by the fact that there are a lot of "foods" that don't rot. What is more natural carrots that rot after 2 weeks! or ones that don't? I'm pretty sure nature didn't intend for carrots to last forever.

      July 15, 2014 at 7:29 pm |
  11. Commentator

    There is little to no proven benefit of organic to nonorganic foods other than the likelyhood of getting a littlemore pesticide on your food, and as others have said all you need to do is wash it... even if you dont wash it the amount on your food is deemed safe by the USDA (of course that is a biased company signature fraught with greed :P)

    A meta-analysis on organic vs nonorganic health benefits: "Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?A Systematic Review. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2012; 157 (5): 348-366 "

    http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1355685

    September 4, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • jonathan

      "there is not evidence.."

      I am so tired of that unintelligent excuse

      I believe our society deserves better than this

      fact is "studys" are one dimensional in a multi dimensional world

      its why you get a fix at the doctor for the obvious, not an investigation into the relevant systematic breakdown that led to a non singularity that is treated as a singularity

      so "there is no evidence" is not a rubber stamp to common sense

      if I eat a big mac meal at mc'ds and feel sick afterward becuase my liver is not clogged up like yours it is evidence to me

      the mass public sickness at hand is the other evidence to me

      sorry to jump on mc'ds, was not trying to single them out

      most players sell ammonia beef which is why I eat 5 guys most times

      September 4, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
  12. jonathan

    cannot believe with all the documentaries, medical history of the public, and we still have energetic hatred towards the truth behind our diets and general health

    am I the only person with sick family? sick coworkers? and a bad experience by myself and them included with our medical system??

    no way

    our food is bad
    our medicine has tunnel vision for the benefit of profit
    and seeing children having disease of digestions, disease of the brain, over weight, and on drugs is not acceptable I dont care what liars come on this chain and lie they are not right

    my kids garden, eat and drink real milk, and get compliments almost once a week on their vitality, sharpness, and beauty

    they love vegetables (and ice cream :P), planting, harvesting, cooking, because it is natural and they wont need pharma drugs for ADD, cholesterol (that we all need to fight off infection!), or allergies

    not one vaccination and they run circles around most kids their age because they play all day long and eat good

    so sorry that many many other kids will never know this reality of a healthy childhood because it is too inconvenient for their lame parents to question the way things are and do things other people frown upon

    September 4, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  13. Cornfed

    My great grandfather, grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, brother, sisters have all eaten non-organic vegetables, meats, dairy, eggs all our lives. No disease or anything. Clean bills of health in good shape. My family farms we use chemicals to control weeds and pests. Fertilize using manure and Nitrogen on our corn and soybeans (not the nitrogen of course on soybeans). We have all lived on our family farm at some point in time that has nearly 2,000 head of cattle (non organic). We consumer only our raised beef that we feed with our own crops that are not organic. None of us have ever become ill or have had disease from eating these non-organic goods. My great grandfather lived until he was 95 dying of natural causes. I find it very hard to believe or be convinced that organic foods can be labeled to be soooo much better for you.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • jonathan

      holy lie

      great grandfather?

      :D

      you called yourself out the 1st sentence
      synthetic chemicals were not even in existence until the early 1900's

      September 4, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
      • Cornfed

        My great-grandfather was born in 1912 and actively farmed until he was 78. That puts it at about 1990. Synthetic chemicals are anything from fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. I am pretty sure they were used.

        September 4, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
        • jonathan

          man coparing any chemicals from the 20's to todays nightmare seeds is ludacris

          as a farmer I am outraged that you dont understand the need for diversity in our crops – its like everyone gave up on common sense and said "all in" to monsanto's 1 strain ideals

          not legit and not smart

          September 4, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
        • Eric

          Yeah, the chemicals back then were much worse and less tested. Remember DDT? And why are you bringing monoculture into this. It is a serious issue, but largely a different one.

          September 4, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
        • Cornfed

          Eric: I definitely agree with you on DDT. obviously. I am just stating that with the new research of chemicals, follow the labels and it'll be safe.

          September 4, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
        • Cornfed

          for the record I wasn't comparing any chemicals from the 20's. If anything they were worse.

          September 4, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
        • jonathan

          you and cornfed are delighted with chemicals

          I am not

          20's 90's whatever

          fact is the chemicals now are the worst because they require one strain to activate the modified dna in the seed you know gmo?

          and they do go hand in hand – you cannot have one without the other and all the legal raping of our farmers?

          cmon man!

          September 4, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
        • Cornfed

          When you find a way to meet the world's food demand then let us know. Its safe. Prove to me its not. There is a higher percentage of people who eat non-organic foods and live happy healthy lives than that of people who are strict organic consumers. I have nothing against people eating organic, but I do of people saying that EVERYTHING needs to be organic.

          September 4, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
        • jonathan

          the simple logistical breakdown of food growth, delivery alone is enough for me to say it needs revising

          but I just cant take you seriously when you ignore the one strain issue and are from a 4 generation farm
          really you are fine with that?

          or best drugs cant keep the common flu in line

          so what happens when the common corn pest out smarts the GMO strain?

          its just irresponsible to have one strain with so much responsibility to the country/world

          and research the amount of people with diabetes these past 100 yrs

          you will see – if you dont see then something may be very biased with your reasoning IMO

          September 5, 2012 at 12:05 am |
      • Dr. Lecter

        What's so hard to believe? My Great Grandfather was alive when I was a child. He died a month shy of being 100 years old.
        My grandmother had many great grandchildren when she died 94 years of age.

        September 5, 2012 at 1:15 am |
    • jonathan

      please explain the general health of your so called synthetic using great grand fathers generation and todays disgustingly fat and diabetic by comparison

      diabetes has exploded since so much mass produced synthetic corn was introduced into the daily diet and you are missing the point

      playing one side or the other is not wise

      it is not about sides it is about wisdom and the fact is fast food is cheap for a reason and that reason spills into the medical industry that is making a killing on 10yr olds having diabetes and turning that 10yr old drug users into a life long addict of the system

      you are supporting a heartless greedy machine saying people are crazy when so many are sick nowadays

      so tell us why so many people on pharma drugs now?
      perhaps its the crap crops you are selling as legit?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
      • Cornfed

        I think you are missing the point. 10 year old kids are not overweight and diabetic due to eating fruits and vegetables that have used synthetic chemicals. Fast foods yes I agree with you are a cause of this. Fast foods are not bad for you because they use beef or grains that have been exposed to chemicals, its merely the fat and sodium content. Another roll in this is exercise. The evolution of technology (computer and video games) have pulled kids away from being healthy by exercise and fresh air. If you find me anything that says yes diabetes is caused by eating non-organic foods then I will agree with you. Also, stanford did a study finding that organic foods are no more nutritious for you than non-organic foods. I am saying that the attacks that all non-organic food is bad are bogus. If the levels of chemical are followed and the labeled rates are followed it is proven that they are no different nutrition wise to organic foods.

        September 4, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
        • jonathan

          my bad (last one)

          diabetes was not a measuring stick – apologies

          throw in ADD, digestive disorders, bipolar, cancer!, on and on

          yes yes disease has always been around but not at these levels and definitely not with our children

          the food can be better
          people do not cook enough
          we need to be more active, like tending a garden, or even sport etc is fine

          but a lack of these items does not excuse the clogged livers and kidneys of this synthetic society that is getting no help from the once reliable family doctor

          September 5, 2012 at 12:37 am |
    • ngc1300

      Well, a sample of 15 or 30 people is certainly conclusive.

      September 5, 2012 at 12:18 am |
      • ngc1300

        Comment was supposed to go under Cornfeds previous comment.

        September 5, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  14. Brian Hartman

    The only difference is that organic makes your wallet lighter.

    Want to make sure your produce is pesticide-free? Here's a tip for you: WASH IT! (Do people really need to be told this nowadays?)

    September 4, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • Z

      And you are too stupid? Tthat a simple wash will remove all of the chemicals used on it. It's in the cells of the produce.....washing the outside will not remove the chemicals.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Toreador

      Pesticides get into the food, not just on it. Wash that out.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  15. Larry, the guy with the aching RECTUM!

    Sometimes, non-organic vegetables make my rectum hurt.

    September 4, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Ok

      You sure it isn't the rapist next door?

      September 4, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
      • Larry, the guy with the aching RECTUM!

        You are not a nice person.

        September 4, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
        • Larry, the guy with the aching RECTUM!

          I need some anusol.

          September 4, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • Hermanas

      Lay off the chiles, senior. Or is it the toristas?

      September 5, 2012 at 1:19 am |
  16. dd

    Proper use of chemicals grow healthier, more nutritious plants. Plants have to fight off insects and poor soil conditions by diverting energy to those activities. Get rid to the insects and provide some plant food and the plant grows better.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • jonathan

      where do people come up with this stuff?

      eco system

      it is basic science

      plants are more than mass fruit / vegetable production

      real food is a system at work, not an isolation

      the soil is a main part of this system

      you deplete the quality of the soils (chemicals, natural pest controls) and the quality of the product diminishes

      show me a synthetic compound that is better than a natural thing by: showing how that synthetic encourages all parts of the system to function to its fullest and in doing so compliment the other parts of that eco system

      pests are natural and there are natural ways to deal with them

      growing fat shiny tasteless produce/vegetables may be good enough for the unwise and voluntary oblivious, but they are not good enough for anyone's body

      the amount of young sick people is staggering, disgusting and this finger pointing politic's game is just shameful

      people are not well and many of them have zero knowledge of the true basic food groups let alone how the body metabolizes vital nutrients/minerals/vitamins/etc through its natural rhythms which can only e accomplished long term with natural fuel – not synthetic garbage

      once your doctors and school systems stop getting away with lying to you for the corporate profits this wont be a secret or unpopular

      synthetic chemicals are our generation's tobacco

      how many decades did it take to take down tobacco?
      well take down is more like government witch hunt that turned into billions of dollars paid to the government not the victims of lies and it is still legal because that kind of tax base is never deleted from any greedy society like ours

      September 4, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
      • Justin

        The reason for all the sick people is the Diet people choose to eat.

        the old adage ' You are what you eat' comes back again to haunt us. Sugar snacks deep fried and covered in more sugar with a sugar dipping sauce are commonplace in Every major supermarket in America, with few exceptions ( yes, there are a few without these).

        Couple the poor choice in Diet with the trend of a more sedentary lifestyle(Gaming consoles galore, PC games, Social Networking websites, Etc.) and it's no small wonder why the waistlines balloon.
        With increasing waistlines, people's bodies suffer in nearly every aspect. If you don't believe that, Just ask your Doctor what consequences would likely come about from loading on an additional 50lb.

        Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, and Heart Disease for starters. Along with each of those diseases carries its own consequences, then add on the side effects from the Medications to treat these diseases you acquired and you can begin to see how the situation Snowballs.
        The real problem is not where the food we eat comes from or how it's grown, it's the choices of what we eat that are the big deal.

        September 5, 2012 at 12:09 am |
        • jonathan

          I must just have more taste buds than others

          just ate some amazing heirloom tomato's from our garden with warm ground lamb and cucumber sauce

          all natural, no preservatives, no synthetics

          next thing your gonna tell us is green tea at the store is real green tea, not the shake garbage they peddle to the unassuming

          or hows about "extra virgin" olive oil is all "extra virgin" and not just cheap pomace the industry sells as the real deal

          there is an entire world out there to discover

          put some pharma grade oil in your water and try an ondamed treatment once in a while

          :D

          peace

          September 5, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  17. James

    I hate to break it to you, but I come from a largely agricultural area and most of the children of farmers at my highschool say organic is just a way of making a product cost more, that there are still pesticides present in the soil from previous crops grown there. I personally will always buy as chemical free as I can, but to get the best produce/meat, you have to live near the people who produce it, and buy it from them.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • Larry, the guy with the aching RECTUM!

      Perhaps, but I bet their rectums don't hurt like mine does.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  18. Van

    Anything with carbon in it.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  19. Kevin

    The start of this was a publication of a study of studies on organic vs conventional produce. What I thought was sorely lacking was the impact of pesticides on human health. Until that is done we'll get studies that say organic is not much better. BTW, what's killing the bees anyway?
    Duh.

    September 4, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • Larry, the guy with the aching RECTUM!

      Once, a bee stung me in the rectum.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  20. Bobby Fernandez

    Organic does not mean free from genetic engineering. As little regulation that there is of the term organic, still less exists of Genetic Motification.

    September 4, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • xeno

      The USDA Organic Rule states that "The use of genetically engineered organisms and their products are prohibited in any form or at any stage in organic production, processing or handling." Now, I see some big problems with the USDA standards, especially for small farmers, and am quite happy to purchase produce from "no spray" farmers that I get to know. But, if it has the USDA label, it's not GMO. There's a reason it's nearly impossible to find certified organic canola–the GMO crops pollinated the others, now they're all GMO.

      September 4, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
    • nerdygrrl

      Organic does mean non-GMO (among other things). There is more regulation and oversight of genetically modified food and crops than any other food source.

      September 4, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
  21. bugbreath

    To my way of thinking, there is no way you can compare an organic apple to a gross, plastic, waxy, non-organic apple-and come away saying there is no difference between organic and non-organic. The organic is so much better there is no question.

    September 4, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • steve p

      Doctors get a kick out of that line of thinking...it's mass marketing to a gullible target audience. Typically the same audience that believes vaccines are associated with autism-spectrum disorders (which has never been demonstrated). Goofy, gullible target.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Cornfed

      look up Stanford Universities study on organic foods being no more nutritious than non-organic.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  22. bugbreath

    I eat alot of greens and buy them in the organic section. Same with broccoli, or I buy organic frozen, potatoes, peppers, and celery. I buy a half an organic beef every 6 months. I buy cage free eggs and hutterite chickens. Apples also have to be organic. Otherwise, I dont care.

    September 4, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  23. xeno

    Prop 37 in California would require that companies disclose information about genetically modified food or ingredients. Monsanto, DuPont, BASF, Bayer CropScience, and Dow Agro Sciences have donated a combined 12.4 million dollars to defeat the measure. If the data that GMO is safe is so solid, what are they afraid of? It just smells like big tobacco to me.

    September 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • nerdygrrl

      They are against Prop 37 because it is a meaningless scare tactic. Do some research and see who is sponsoring this legislation.

      What I think would be interesting is to see all the chemicals (synthetic and non-synthetic) that every plant is exposed to during its lifetime. Comparing the three primary agricultural practices in the US – organic, conventional, GM – I guarantee you that GM crops use fewer chemicals. Personally I prefer GM corn because I know that farmer applied much less pesticide and herbicide, and in fewer applications, than other types of farming practices.

      September 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
      • steve p

        I don't know why but something tells me you are anti-vaccine as well. If I am wrong I apologize for lumping you with those loonies. I just tend to see the same hunch-based, paranoid arguments that aren't centered on well-conceived scientific trials, but more on propaganda and voodoo.

        September 4, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
      • ro

        nerdygirl, do some research of your own and you'll find out that farmers have been using more pesticides on GMO plants since the advent of GMOs; not only that, bugs and plants in turn become resistant to pesticides and herbicides so either Monsanto et al formulate newer, more potent ones, or when they can't, they mix the existing ones. Because of the increased need for pesticides and herbicides it actually costs more to grow an acre of corn now than it did a few decades ago.

        September 4, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Natalie

      As a geneticist I understand the process of making GMOs and personally I would not touch the stuff if my food was labeled as such. Most people I explain the process to don't like the sound of it, I think the problem is the general public just does not truly understand what GMO food really is. And some just do not care.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
      • nerdygrrl

        Geneticist or molecular biologist?

        September 4, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
  24. Greenhouseman1

    So if you use soap or soybean oil (both of which are labeled by OMRI as organic) are you going to flip out because you are ingesting "pesticides". The general public has no clue what these compounds really do (or don't do) to humans. As a professional in the industry I will attest to the fact that these are not harmless chemicals, but they are not causing all of the birth defects that these unqualified laypeople claim. I have had exposure to a variety of compounds over the last 28 years and given a clean bill of health by my doctor. I have my blood monitored twice a year, once in the growing season and once in the off season.
    There is a thing called "science" and another called "evidence" and it seems these days all it takes is for someone to lobby Washington by saying "I walked past a bottle of pesticide and now I have cancer". Good scientific studies call for meta-analysis, the review of many studies over a long period of time, with an objective look at the method of each study
    The above statements about autism and birth defects have no scientific grounds. And there is NO compelling evidence that GMO crops have any health effects on humans. It has not been proven in any double blind randomized study. It's like me saying "Everytime I visit California there is an earthquake, so I must be causing the earthquakes" Even Rachel Carson's research methods have been debunked.
    Yes I would love to grow HIGH QUALITY affordable crops without the aid of chemicals but the losses are high without their use. Finally, I will ask the above readers "Have you ever grown a commercial crop of anything??" If you don't like what's going into your food then grow your own.......and see how much you can produce.

    September 4, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • nerdygrrl

      Which is why GM is the way to go. Fewer types of chemicals, and fewer applications of chemicals.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  25. tateman

    One thing that I keep seeing left out of these articles about organic food is the fact that we have a huge dead zone all around the mouth of the Mississippi River. This is caused by fertilizer and pesticide runoff from farms located all up and down the Mississippi and along any rivers that drain into it. Monsanto and other huge companies have convinced us that we can feed the world using their products. What they don't tell you is that its a short term proposal. As these chemicals slowly find their way into the food chain they will cause havoc with all living things. Its already happening. Its just too hard to point at any specific thing. Its the same thing with fracking and coal. They keep doing it for the short term profit because they know you can't trace all the cancer to their specific product.

    September 4, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • nerdygrrl

      Monsanto, and other ag biotech companies, develop crops that use FEWER chemicals, not more.

      If a corn plant is engineered to naturally withstand a particular pest, then the farmer doesn't have to dump chemicals on that plant to kill that pest.

      If a corn plant is engineered to be tolerant to a particular class of herbicide, then the farmer only has to use 1 or 2 herbicides, and fewer times, than the 5-6 he'd have to use otherwise.

      Why are people more willing to believe hysterical conspiracy theories rather than facts?

      September 4, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
      • tateman

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_zone_(ecology)

        September 5, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  26. CrackerBox

    What a pantload, just an "article" paid for by factory farms, part of the new "post truth era" we are beginning to experience. Oh yes please, I want the produce sprayed with petro chemicals, mmmmmmm good. Rubes only believe this stew.

    September 4, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Hi there! I'm the writer and I assure you there was no one bankrolling this. These are the facts, presented as plainly as possible, taking no sides. This is what "organic" technically means. When we all have a common language, we can start to have an informed conversation. Not sure where you're seeing the bias.

      September 4, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Brian Hartman

      Here's a novel idea for you: Wash your produce before you eat it. Problem solved.

      You're welcome.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  27. blerg

    at the molecular level, doesn't organic just mean there is carbon somewhere in the molecular composition of the food?

    September 4, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  28. today

    Organic = robbery :))

    September 4, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • keeth

      Organic = true cost of food

      September 4, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
      • Brian Hartman

        No. Organic only = the "true cost of food" if you're not willing to do anything to protect the food. If you have half a brain, and use technology to your advantage, you'll grow healthier, more robust crops, and lose less.

        September 4, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  29. JEP

    I'm an attorney in Seattle where organic foods are very popular. When the topic came up once with some clients of mine who own farms North of Seattle, they said "oh yeah, organics, those are the ones we spray at night."

    I'm pretty sure they were just joking....

    September 4, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Rosa

      You know they were not kidding.
      I buy a great deal of organic foods hoping that they have less of the bad stuff. I don't believe they're free of all the bad stuff...Sad, but true.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • Hermanas

      There are plenty of USDA approved "organic pesticides". And some of them are pretty nasty as Larry will attest.

      September 5, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  30. nobadges

    I work in the produce department at a large supermarket chain. We sell some organic produce. I can believe some of it is certified by government regulations when it's coming from sources like US or Canada and quite a few other countries...but I have to admit, many customers laugh when they see a sticker on organic produce that says "certified organic by the Columbians". "How do you expect me to believe that when they are one of the biggest producers of illegal drugs!" Good point. Same goes for organic bananas certified by drug cartel supporters.

    September 4, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  31. Tara

    I always choose organic for what ISN'T in it, such as pesticides, herbicides, GMO's, additives, glazes, waxes. The exponential rise in cancer rates doesn't lie and it would be foolish to continue to knowingly ingest carcinogens.

    September 4, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Jakey

      Well, if you eat red meat or cook meat in a fry pan or barBque then you are eating a ton of carcinogens anyway. Organics fruits and veggies along with antioxidants are the latest biggest money making hoax !!!

      September 4, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
      • keeth

        Hoax? Prove it.

        September 4, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
        • What

          What does he have to prove? Just walk into a store and see how many foods have "antioxidants" or "superfood" typed on them! It is a money making scam.

          September 4, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • jbh

      Actually the the "exponential rise in cancer rates" are because we are an older population. People are now living longer and giving birth to less children. Because more older people have cancer than younger people the total incidence of cancer is higher today. However, the age adjusted cancer mortality incidence has actually gone down.

      September 4, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
      • jb

        What exponential rise?

        September 5, 2012 at 1:12 am |
        • jbh

          I was quoting Tara. I don't think the increase in cancer incidence or mortality is "exponential," but I haven't examined that claim. My point is that the higher cancer incidence today is because a higher percentage of our population is elderly. Age adjusted cancer rates have actually decreased for most cancers.

          September 5, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  32. TheDude122

    Actually, buying organic food does not mean you will not be exposed to pesticides. Foods labeled organic in the US are allowed to be treated with a range of "natural" pesticides. Here are a few: rotenone (works by attacking the nervous system, causes parkinson disease like symptoms in rats and is toxic to fish), pyrethrins (also attacks works by attacking the nervous system) and SPINOSAD spinosad (activates insects nervous system causing loss of muscle control).
    Also, the study in Annals of Internal Medicine looked at a number of studies that measured pesticide residue on conventional an organic foods. I looked up the cited studies and found that they were measuring synthetic pesticides (i.e. ones not approved for organic farming in the US) they

    September 4, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • TheDude122

      ...did not look for the presence of organic approved pesticides.

      September 4, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • nerdygrrl

      Thanks for adding rational facts to the discussion. You are right.

      I saw an article somewhere discussing the "evil" components of McDonalds food additives, and every single one of those "evil" ingredients (like tocopherol acetate, cochineal derivatives) would also be considered "organic" as they are naturally derived. You and I know those things as vitamins and natural food dyes. Just depends on how an author wants to slant your emotions.

      September 4, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  33. Stupid is as Stupid does.

    Let's attack the idea of organics! Let's pretend the rise in birth defects and autism are not up and that they have been linked to overexposure to pesticides used in agriculture. Let's dismiss all our knowledge of science and argue about the etymology of a word because the news media wants to whip us in a frenzy making us either for or against the word organic even though it doesn't reflect what the modern use of the word is which is Pesticide Free, Hormone Free, Genetically Modified Free. Let's just argue about the word definition and toss aside all the things that it stands for because people in the United states of America are generally idiots.

    September 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Still Stupid

      Let's ignore the change in older couples who are having children past 35 at which point the change of birth defects sky rockets. Or the fact there has been no study that has concluded that pesticides in food are a risk for women who are with child.

      Also let's just ignore modern pesticides that require far less spraying and break down quickly after use.

      Instead let's just make up a few new words to describe produce so we can charge higher prices for it by marketing as better for people, when there has been no study to confirm this.

      September 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
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