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Organic Vs. Conventional Farming Modalities

A healthly bowl of salad and other assorted fruits and vegetables around the bowlWe have all heard the term “organic” in reference to food products, and we all likely have a general impression of what that means. We tend to think of it as a more “natural” approach to farming, but what exactly does it mean when we see food labelled as “Certified Organic” – and what exactly is organic food production an alternative to?

For a food product to be given organic certification, the grower and/or manufacturer must be assessed by a certifying agent that has been accredited by the USDA. There are many specific rules and regulations that must be considered by food producers and certifying agents. The main tenets of organic food production include the avoidance of synthetic chemicals, avoidance of genetically modified seeds, and the use of farmlands that have been free of synthetic chemicals for a significant length of time. There are many other rules employed in the service of keeping food production as natural as possible. For example, organic livestock must be raised in a way that does not interfere with the animals’ natural lifestyle (e.g. not living in cages, not fed things they would not naturally eat).

Conventional farming has far fewer restrictions. Synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are employed, as well as hormones and antibiotics for livestock. Genetically modified crops are also allowed. Many people find these practices objectionable. Synthetic agricultural products may be destructive to the environment and many studies indicate that they have a deleterious effect on human health, as well.

A variety of studies have demonstrated that organically grown foods contain more nutrients, particularly antioxidants. Children who eat predominantly organic foods have also been found to excrete significantly less pesticide metabolites, indicating that pesticide levels in the body are lower than those of the average consumer. More information about these studies and their findings, along with citations, may be found online here.

Here is link to another article which corroborates the findings of increased antioxidant levels in organically grown produce, and offers some explanations as to why this occurs.

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