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 of the USDA food labeling system 

by Kristin Riger


USDA organic


WHAT IS ORGANIC? It’s been seven years since the United States Department of Agriculture began the organic certification program, and customer demand has since pushed the industry to the fastest growing segment of the food industry. The majority of Americans buy organics on occasion, and most think they are safer, healthier and more sustainable. The goal of organic food production is to farm without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, raise livestock humanely and produce the most nutritious food. The USDA, however, continues to relax its standards, the humane treatment of animals is not regulated, and evidence is mixed on whether organic food is more nutritious. But there is hope. An improvement in our health and the environment can occur with a shift away from highly processed foods, whether it is organically produced or not. Consumers would reduce the amount of resources used for food production, as well as diseases linked to poor diets. This shift can only begin, however, by understanding that a healthier lifestyle and safer environment goes beyond depending on a label.

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GROWTH IN ORGANICS

As a result of this demand, the industry has grown nearly 20% per year since 2005, according to the Organic Trade Association, and is projected to experience continuous growth.

33 30 27 Organic Food Sales ($ Million)

Consumer interest in organic foods has opened market opportunities for food producers. Once a niche product sold in a limited number of retail outlets, organic foods can now be found in most conventional supermarkets and club stores, and longtime manufacturers of conventional products have introduced organic items to their product lines.

24 21 18 15 12 9 6 3 0

2005

2006

2007

2008 Year

4

2009

2010 (Projected)


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ORGANIC FOOD LABEL ORIGINS 1940s

6

1962

1973

1979

Synthetic pesticides and herbicides

Rachel Carson documents the negative

The synthetic pesticide DDT is

The first organization to certify

were introduced to the American

effects of chemicals in agriculture, giv-

banned, marking the beginning

organic farms in North America,

agriculture and embraced and used

ing rise to a renewed focus on organic

of the modern environmental

the Certified Organic Farmers, is

wholeheartedly.

agriculture and the environment.

movement in the United States.

formed.


1990s

2000

2001

2002

Congress passes the initial Federal

The USDA releases a major study

The USDA passes the Final Organic

Deadline for compliance with the

Organic Foods Production Act of

showing that certified organic crop

Rule after reinstating prohibitions

provisions of the Final Organic Rule.

1990, establishing the framework for

land more than doubled during

on irradiation, as well as genetically

National Organic Standards.

the previous decade. Some livestock

engineered seed and sewage sludge.

sectors grew even faster.

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ORGANIC DEFINED

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All ingredients are organic. The USDA Organic logo may be used on the packaging.

Contains 95% of organic ingredients. The USDA Organic logo may be used.

70% to 94% of the product Is organic. The USDA Organic logo may not be used.

The food has less than 70% of organic ingredients. The USDA Organic logo may not be used.

100% ORGANIC

ORGANIC

ORGANIC INGREDIENTS

INGREDIENT PANEL ONLY


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THE ORGANIC FARMING MISSION

Natural

Humane

Healthy

Ecological

Return organic nutrients to the soil just as the natural growing process does.

Raise animals humanely in accordance with nature by allowing outdoor grazing.

Produce the nutritious food possible without the use of antibiotics or hormones.

Save carbon emissions by supporting local, sustainable farmnig communities.

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THE SYSTEM TODAY FALLS SHORT...

No Regulation

No Accountability

No Health Guarantees

Often Not Ecological

There is no requirement that that organic products follow the natural growing process.

How much access animals are given to the outdoors is not spelled out.

A significant amount of nonorganic substances are used in USDA organic products.

The USDA certifies international products, despite carbon emissions involved with travel.

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The original mandate for pesticide testing was never implemented.

The list of allowable non-organic substances in organic products has grown from 77 to 255 since 2002.

USDA

Most truly sustainable farmers cannot afford to be certified organic by the U.S. government.

organic An amendment to the 2006 agriculture appropriations bill allowed certain synthetic substances in the preparation of organic food. Pesticide use on organic crops is not regularly monitored. 12


The USDA organic program is a marketing tool that sets standards for what can be certified as organic, but neither the legislation nor the regulations address food safety or nutrition. So what do we do?

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BUY REAL INGREDIENTS

Organically-grown products have become the solution to eating ethically and healthfully. But most Americans eat so poorly — we consume more calories from soft drinks than from vegetables, and one-third of adults are obese — that the question of organic is secondary. Evidence indicates that a person’s health and the environment will improve with eating less animal products and highly processed foods and consuming more real ingredients, increasingly from the plant kingdom. From these changes, we would reduce the amount of land, water and chemicals used for food production, as well as lifestyle diseases linked to unhealthy diets and greenhouse gases from industrial meat production. All without legislation.

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READ LABELS Use the Nutrition Facts label to not only help limit the nutrients you want to cut back on, but also to increase those nutrients you need to consume in greater amounts.

Recommended Daily Intake Nutrient

Units of Measurement

Daily Values

Total Fat

grams (g)

65

Saturated Fatty Acids

grams(g)

20

1.

Review the Serving Size: Pay attention to the serving size, then ask yourself, “How many servings am I consuming?�

Cholesterol

milligrams (mg)

300

Sodium

milligrams (mg)

2400

2.

Check Calorie Size: Generally, 40 calories per serving is low, 100 calories is moderate and over 400 is high.

Potassium

milligrams (mg)

3500

Total Carbohydrate

grams (g)

300

3.

Limit Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium: Eating too much of these nutrients may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, like heart disease, some cancers, or high blood pressure.

Dietary Fiber

grams (g)

25

Protein

grams (g)

50

Vitamin A

International unit (IU)

5000

Vitamin C

milligrams (mg)

60

Calcium

milligrams (mg)

1000

Iron

milligrams (mg)

18

4.

Feed Your Body Nutrients: Eating enough vitamins, fiber, calcium and iron can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.

Based on a 2000 calorie diet Limit these Nutrients

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www.fda.gov Get Enough of these Nutrients


Nutrition Facts Serving Size 3 oz. (85g) Amount Per Serving Calories 38

As Served Calories from Fat 0 % Daily Value

Total Fat 0g Saturated Fat 0g Cholesterol 0g Sodium 0g Total Carbohydrate 0g Dietary Fiber 0g Sugars 0g

0% 0% 0% 2% 3% 8% 17


BRING ORGANIC TO YOUR BACKYARD Prepare the Soil

Test your soil to ensure it contains the correct amount of humus (organic matter). Support local farming by purchasing manure locally.

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Make Good Compost

Choose the Right Plants

Plant in Wide Beds

Compost feeds plants, helps conserve water and cuts down on weeds. The best compost forms from the right ratio of nitrogen and carbon-rich organic waste.

Choose plants that will be well-adjusted to each spot, in terms of light, moisture, drainage and soil quality.

Plant crops in wide beds to reduce weeding and water waste and to target compost and nutrients. Raised beds also work great!


Proper Watering

Weeding

Water the roots of the plant. Use water at room temperatures to avoid shocking the plant or damaging its roots.

Reduce weeds by applying mulch to your beds. Organic mulch is always preferable to landscape fabric.

Protect without Pesticides

A diverse garden fosters natural predators, such as frogs, toads, lizards, and birds, for preventing pests.

Harvesting

The more you harvest, the more plants will produce. To store, wait right before your produce flowers.

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SUPPORT LOCAL GROWERS The average meal travels 1500 miles from the farm to your dinner plate. Buying fruits and vegetables from local farmers’ markets not only supports local agriculture, but also saves countless pounds of carbon emissions, since your food has not been shipped from far away to your supermarket. The total distance traveled of local and conventional produce in the United States Apples Brocolli Cabbage Carrots Garlic Lettuce Onions Potatoes Strawberries Tomatoes 0 miles

100 miles

500 miles

1000 miles

1500 miles

2000 miles

Source: The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

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COOK AT HOME For the average consumer, eating one meal away from home each week translates to roughly 2 extra pounds each year. Maintaining a healthy diet outside your home is possible, for the average adult, one meal eaten away from home increases daily intake by about 134 calories. Children consume almost twice as many calories when eating food prepared outside the home. Over the last two decades, rates of obesity have tripled in children. So for your sake and your family — cook more meals at home using real ingredients from local food sources in your area.

What is the impact of consuming a meal away from home on an average adult’s daily intake of nutrients? 10

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Servings vegetables per 1000 calories

Servings whole grains per 1000 calories

5 0 Percentage

-5 -10 -15 -20 -25 -30

Servings fruit per 1000 calories

Percent Calories from Saturated Fat

Source: United States Department of Agriculture

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PUT THE PIECES BACK TOGETHER Visit www.takepart.com to explore the ways you can get involved in the food movement locally and globally.

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USDA organic 25



Organic Erosion