Organic, Non-GMO and "Natural": Here's What You Need to Know
The Organic Buzz
If you listen to those that are heavily invested in today’s modern agricultural industry, they would likely tell you that organic farming is just a fad and that the only difference between organic farming and industrial farming is yield. That is, that industrialized monoculture farming produces a much greater yield per acre than traditional organic methods. If the only goal of farming is to produce greater yields, than there would be no room for debate. But is quantity all that matters when it comes to food?
Before I go further into my reasons for why I choose organic (as well as non-GMO, natural foods), let me cover the basics of what organic really means. Organic standards established by the USDA in 2001 prohibit the use of:
Most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides
Sewer sludge fertilizers
Many synthetic additives
This is a good comprehensive list of prohibitions necessary to mitigate the hazardous substances that accompany industrial farming produce, including meat, eggs, and dairy products. Note that there are certain synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and additives that are allowed. And although antibiotics are prohibited for use in poultry and livestock, certain vaccines are still allowed.
Genetic engineering, i.e. genetically modified organism (GMO), is included in the list of prohibited items in order to qualify as organic. This means that if a product is labeled USDA certified organic, it is also considered to be non-GMO. However, having a non-GMO label does not necessarily mean the product is organic.
The Non-GMO Buzz
Just as you will find many products at Old Paths with the USDA Organic label, many of our products also include the “NON GMO Project VERIFIED”
label. The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing a third-party non-GMO verification program. Although the USDA organic certification process prohibits the use of GMO products, the Non-GMO Project has established more rigorous verification standards to ensure the integrity of non-GMO labeling. We’ll have more to say about the dangers of GMO in another newsletter.
The All-Natural Buzz
Now that we have a basic understanding of organic and non-GMO, let’s briefly talk about “natural food”. The term “natural”, unlike the term “organic”, has not been defined by a federal agency – at least not yet. The FDA recently announced that they are soliciting comments from the public regarding the use of this term in the labeling of human food products. For the
time being however, the term “natural” can mean whatever the manufacturer wants it to mean. That being said, a general, albeit unofficial, definition of “natural” is a food item that is not altered chemically or synthesized in any form. This would include the use of artificial additives, i.e. colors or flavors. In other words, food that has been minimally processed and is being sold in its more natural state – the way God designed it.
How About You?
So, what does this mean to you, the consumer? Organic, non-GMO, and all-natural food production is nothing new. It is the traditional farming of our ancestors
– the type of farming that was practiced before the introduction of pesticides, herbicides, genetic modification, antibiotics, and hormones. It is also traditional food preparation – whole foods with simple ingredients, without all the many forms of food processing and adulteration that exist in food manufacturing today.