HOW ORGANIC IS ORGANIC? Four Common Questions when Choosing a Healthier Lifestyle

May 8, 2018


As you will learn, one of my missions in life is to promote organic. From an environmentalist standpoint, choosing an organic life speaks to the bigger picture — to keeping the planet healthy. From a health-nut standpoint, choosing organic means you receive the most nutrient-dense food — keeping you healthy.


To help guide those interested in pursuing a more holistic organic life, I’ve created a question and answer format with commonly asked questions that reveal misconceptions about choosing and living organically. Read on to see just how much you know about the current state of “organic.”


The problem is that an organic lifestyle has been misrepresented in many ways, mostly by large corporations who want trend-followers to buy their products. On top of that, leading, propagating and maintaining an organic lifestyle is not solely up to each individual person. Winds blow and spread genetically-modified-organism (GMO) pollen to nearby farms who are trying to grow organic. Non-traditional growing methods, like hydroponic, are now allowed to be certified as organic, even though the very basis of their methodology relies on additives and new technology that could be loosely described as “natural” at best.


The big balance sheets rule our world and we don’t even know how it affects our lives. Laws are changed regularly by groups that can afford lobbyists to advocate on their behalf. Often, years of advance preparation for a law have been in the making, predatorily created to give an advantage to mainstream and large companies at the expense of small companies who are unable to afford to have lobbyists or are just unaware of their competitors’ strategic plans. As consumers, we have no idea what they are doing to our food. The newest version of the dirty dozen just came out and found most of the dirty dozen had more than 10 different pesticides on each one of the samples. If you aren’t concerned, you should be!


What I’m reaching for here is the perception that organic is actually a spectrum of values and not an overarching guideline. Even though that kind of argument might feel easier to some people, it’s akin to answering "yes" if your mother says “well, if your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?” To put it in other words — “just because everyone else dumped on the planet, now it’s my turn” is just a justification for selfish behavior.


The following are four common questions we hear asked a lot about organic food. How many do you know the answer to?


Q: If organic produce is from Mexico, can I trust that it’s organic?


A: Yes.

Mexico and Canada use the same certifiers as the US and actually sometimes use EU inspectors that are stricter than what we have here.

Q: Are there certain products I should strictly eat organic if I won’t convert entirely to organic?


A: It's complicated.

The biggest reason to choose organic is to support the health of the whole planet. Your own health and beauty is bigger than the wrinkles on your face or the condition of your nails. Think about this — every living being and organism is composed largely of water. Fruits, nuts and vegetables all absorb liquids like water, pulling them into the very fabric of their being. When crops are sprayed or dusted, those crops not only uptake harmful chemicals, but the groundwater, aquifers, lakes, rivers and streams that are close by have now been polluted for all users downstream.  

Q: Is hydroponic really organic?


A: The USDA says so, but again, it's complicated. 

I can go really deep on this one as this topic is spiritedly debated every day. The USDA NOSP (National Organic Standard Program) recently allowed for hydroponics to be certified organic. This is a slippery slope. I have been in the organic industry for years and remember when requirements for farmland to be certified organic insisted that the land be synthetic-input free for seven years. Once the bigger conventional farms noticed that significant profit could be made in organic farming, the time limitation was reduced to three years. Now, including hydroponic is another step toward making organic certifications too diluted to significantly make a difference.

Q: Why do I pay more for organic?


A: In economics, there is a term called a “price premium.”

The price premium for organic food is higher than its conventional counterparts for two main reasons.

1) Conventional foods are largely subsidized by the government. For instance, corn, wheat and soy farmers are paid a certain amount by weight, no matter what the market demand says the price should be. This leads to gluts in the market, where corn, wheat and soy are flooded into foreign countries, displacing local farmers and most often, organic farmers.

2) Organic food is not more expensive than conventional, you’re simply paying for more than just your food. You’re paying for the better treatment of the soil, water and animals that help sustain agriculture for the future. You’re paying for solid worker’s wages. You’re paying for peace-of-mind. But more than all of those emotional factors, the price of organic is truer to what it costs to produce it. Conventional produce and food is often under-priced to an almost insane degree.


"Organic food is not more expensive than conventional, you’re simply paying for more than just your food. You’re paying for the better treatment of the soil, water, and animals that help sustain agriculture for the future. You’re paying for solid worker’s wages."


The bottom line is this: put good ingredients back into the planet and we can have a happy and healthy life. Think bigger, because the reality from what I have learned during nearly 50 years on the planet is that anything we do that is a step in the right direction is a good start.


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