Guide to Organic Food

J. I. Rodale is a pioneer in the field of "organic food", he first gave information about this topic in a magazine called Organic Gardening, in 1942. In that magazine he explained the importance of maintaining soil fertility and stability by putting organic matter -- animal manure or compost -- back into the soil rather than relying on the "inorganic," or synthetic, fertilizers that were then widely seen as the modern way to go.
He changed the whole concept by changing the fertilizers, and from them, the farming methods, rather than the food, that were organic, and the concern was primarily with the soil, not with issues like biodiversity or animal welfare.

As time passed the meaning of "organic farming" soon parted company from Rodale's original narrow distinction between fertilizers. Varying definitions spun out of control as different associations of "organic farmers" tried to set standards in accordance with their own values. Some wanted to stick with a narrow definition in terms of what you could and could not put on the soil, the crops, or the animals. Others wanted to include an entire way of life, including healthy living, an equitable form of distribution, concern for wildlife, and so on.

So when there was so much of difference in the perception of organic food then the organizations of organic farmers around the world organized the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements which settled on this definition:

Organic agriculture is an agricultural system that promotes environmentally, socially, and economically sound production of food, fiber, timber, etc. In this system, soil fertility is seen as the key to successful production. Working with the natural properties of plants, animals, and the landscape, organic farmers aim to optimize quality in all aspects of agriculture and the environment.

As there were no specific standards defined so it created all the more confusion among the consumers as they were often unsure what the various "organic" labels used by different associations and producers really meant

Because of this much of confusion the U.S. Congress in 1990 decided to clear up the confusion by authorizing the Department of Agriculture to establish legally enforceable "USDA Organic" standards and a certification scheme so that the consumers would e ensured that their food really had been produced in accordance with the standards.

That led, in 2002, to a set of standards that most people in organic farming considered a reasonable compromise among the various views of what organic farming is all about.

So it was then formally announced that the crops must be grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, and most synthetic pesticides and all herbicides are also banned, although biological and botanical methods of control can be used.

For maintaining the soil fertility, animal and plant waste (but not sewage sludge, which can contain toxic heavy metals) has to be used, crop rotation, and growing "cover crops" like clover between other crops. (Cover crops are plowed into the soil to restore nitrogen and organic matter.)

Animals intended for usage as meats, eggs, or milk must eat organic grains or other organic food and must not be given growth hormones or antibiotics. (Sick or injured animals may be treated with antibiotics, but then their meat, milk, or eggs cannot be sold as organic.)

Moe importantly the organically raised animals must have access to the outdoors, including access to pasture for ruminants. Neither plants nor animals can be the product of genetic engineering, and organic food cannot be irradiated.

So now using the label "organic" to distinguish one tomato from another doesn't ask for much of the efforts.

More information is available at our organic foods site.

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