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Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. It is produced without using most conventional pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers, bio-engineering, or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, eliminate the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture.
No. Seeing the word “natural” on a label does not guarantee the food has been produced in a renewable way and without the use of pesticides. Only labels with the words “Certified Organic” can guarantee such claims. As of October 21, 2002, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has put in place a set of national standards that food labeled “organic” must meet, whether it is grown domestically or imported from other countries. To determine whether a food meets the USDA's standards, a US government–approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the necessary rules. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets distributed to stores or restaurants must be certified as well.
Organic foods of all kinds have nutritional characteristics similar to their conventionally produced counterparts. Essentially the same amount of protein, fat, carbohydrate, and dietary fiber in a glass of organic milk is found in a glass of milk produced nonorganically. Although studies have indicated that organically grown crops have higher nutrient content more often than conventionally grown crops, it is not clear whether this could have a long-term effect on human health. Some people who prefer organic food believe that it is more nutritious.
The USDA makes no claims that organically produced food tastes better than conventionally produced food—only that it is grown, handled, and processed differently. Many people believe organic produce has an excellent taste; some believe it contains more nutrients. Many chefs prefer organic produce because they think it both tastes better and helps create agriculture sustainable for generations to come.
Organic agriculture is not subsidized to the same extent as conventional agriculture, and organic practices, such as hand weeding, are often labor-intensive, and therefore more expensive. Because organic farms and industry are generally small, they cannot take advantage of economies of scale. Organic agriculture utilizes conservation practices that protect soil, water, and air; while they do cost more, those who employ and support these practices view the extra cost as an investment in the future.