Article Title: ?CERTIFIED ORGANIC?
Location: ?Newsweek Magazine? ? September 30, 2002 ? pages 50-55; Written by: Geoffrey Cowley
Due Date: December 17, 2004
Read the article titled ?CERTIFIED ORGANIC?. You can use the Saint Leo University Library or your public library to locate the article. To access the Saint Leo University Library refer to your syllabus and to the Saint Leo Homepage. You may also refer to other material or research. Using the article, other references, your response to the questions below and the definitions to the words below, develop a two-three paper on Organic Foods vs. Inorganic Foods. Your paper should be in paragraph form; paper should read like a well-organized story. You may add additional information regarding the subject matter. The paper should be in a Word file, doubled spaced with 12 pt type in Times New Roman font. Save your file (Name, DL#, etc) and submit your analysis via WebCT e-mail as an attachment. You will be graded on your clarity, organization of the paper, understanding of the subject matter, grammar and your depth of response. Include all references used.
1. Which food do you prefer ? organic or inorganic?
2. What do you see as the benefit or advantage of your choice?
3. What are the disadvantages of your choice?
4. What are the top four selling organic foods in the United States?
5. What is the National Organic Rule?
6. Define the following words: (incorporate the definitions into your paper)
******* Below is article
STAMP OF APPROVAL: New government rules will define 'organic.' The sale
of these fruits, veggies and snack foods has soared, but we still aren't
sure what good they do. Here's a guide to how purer products affect the
health of our families and the planet
Otto Kramm used to come home from work at night and warn his toddlers to
keep their distance until he'd bathed and changed his clothes. He wasn't
just trying to keep them clean. As a vegetable farmer in California's
Salinas Valley, Kramm spent his days covered in pesticides, herbicides
and fungicides, and he worried about their effects on young children. "I
didn't know what was on my clothes," he says, "or how it might affect
the kids 15 years down the road." The more he thought about it, the less
he liked the feeling. So in 1996, Kramm did something radical. He bought
into a farm that was being cultivated organically. "It was scary," he
says. "I couldn't fall back on the tools I'd always used to fight the
pests and the weeds." But he worked out a new relationship with the soil
and ended up not only cleaner but more prosperous. Today Kramm has 6,000
acres on three farms. The nation's largest organic-produce distributor,
Earthbound Farm, is buying up everything he can grow. And he's never
off-limits to his kids.
Organic farms are still sprouts in a forest of industrial giants. They
provide less than 2 percent of the nation's food supply and take up less
than 1 percent of its cropland. But they're flourishing as never before.
Over the past decade the market for organic food has grown by 15 to 20
percent every year--five times faster than food sales in general. Nearly
40 percent of U.S. consumers now reach occasionally for something
labeled organic, and sales are expected to top $11 billion this year.
Could dusty neighborhood co-ops sell that many wormy little apples?
Well, no. That was the old organic. The new organic is all about bigger
farms, heartier crops, better distribution and slicker packaging and
promotion. Conglomerates as big as Heinz and General Mills are now
launching or buying organic lines and selling them in mainstream
What exactly are consumers getting out of the deal? Until now, the
definition of "organic" has varied from one state to the next, leaving
shoppers to assume it means something like "way more expensive but
probably better for you." Not anymore. As of Oct. 21, any food sold as
organic will have to meet criteria set by the United States Department
. The National Organic Rule--the product of 10 years'
deliberation by growers, scientists and consumers--reserves the terms
"100 percent organic" and "organic" (at least 95 percent) for foods
produced without hormones, antibiotics, herbicides, insecticides,
chemical fertilizers, genetic modification or germ-killing radiation.
Food makers who document their compliance will qualify for a new USDA
seal declaring their products "certified organic." "This really
signifies the start of a new era," says Margaret Wittenberg of the Whole
Foods supermarket chain. "From now on, consumers will get a very solid
idea of what is organic and what is not."
Yet for all the clarity they provide, the standards say nothing about
what's worth putting in your shopping cart. "This is not a food-safety
program," says Barbara Robinson, the USDA official overseeing the
effort. "We're not saying that organic food is safer or better than
other kinds of food." How, then, should we read the new label? Does
"certified organic" tell us anything worth knowing about a chicken
breast or a candy bar? Are organically grown grapes more nutritious than
conventional ones? And is organic agriculture
a viable alternative to
modern factory farming? These are complicated, politically charged
questions, but they're questions worth asking ourselves--both as
consumers and as citizens.
When the counterculture embraced organic food and farming in the early
'70s, the motivation was more philosophical than practical. Maria
Rodale, whose family runs the pro-organic Rodale Institute in Kutztown,
Pa., sees the current boom as evidence that people are still "expressing
their values about the environment and even spirituality and politics
through the food choices they make." Market research suggests she's
about 26 percent right. When the Hartman Group of Bellevue, Wash.,
surveyed consumers two years ago, only one in four cited concern about
the environment as a "top motivator" for buying organic food. Flavor was
a bigger concern, cited by 38 percent as reason enough to pay a premium
of 15 percent or more. Sophisticated chefs have responded in droves,
many now serving only fresh, seasonal food from small local growers.
"The difference is huge," says Peter Hoffman, owner of New York's
Restaurant Savoy and chairman of the Chefs' Collaborative. "When people
taste asparagus or string beans grown in richly composted soil, they
can't get over the depth and vibrancy of the flavor."
To most consumers, though, organic means healthier. Fully 66 percent of
the Hartman Group's respondents cited health as a "top motivator" as
will almost any shopper on the street. "Buying an apple that has poison
on it, even if you wash it you don't know how much has come off," says
Wendy Abrams, a suburban Chicago mother with four kids at home. Abrams
buys organic milk and stocks her pantry with Newman's Own pretzels and
raisins on the theory that anything organic is less likely to harbor
cancer-causing chemicals. "There have been six cases of cancer on my
street," she says. "It's just weird."
All of these folks--market analysts refer to them as "true naturals,"
"connoisseurs" and "health seekers"--seem happy with their purchases.
But are they getting what they're seeking? It's hard to argue with the
connoisseurs, and not just because they know what they like. A tomato
grown on a vast commercial plot is bred less for taste than for
durability, notes Bob Scowcroft of the nonprofit Organic Farming
Research Foundation. It has to resist disease and ship well. Organic
growers, with their smaller harvests and their reliance on nearby
markets, can plant delicate heirloom strains and give the fruit more
time on the vine. "They pick it when it's ripe," says Marion Cunningham,
author of "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook." "No one goes around picking
organic fruits when they're as hard as little rocks."
The health seekers may have common sense on their side, but no one has
found a way to determine whether people eating well-balanced organic
diets are healthier than those eating well-balanced conventional ones.
No one denies that nonorganic produce contains pesticide residues that
would be toxic at high doses. Nor is there any question that children
(because of their size) consume those residues in higher concentrations
than adults. But there is still no evidence that pesticides cause ill
health at the doses found in food, or that people who eschew them come
out ahead. Technological optimists find it ludicrous that anyone would
fret over pesticide residues when the hazards of foodborne bacteria are
so much clearer. E. coli is "perhaps the deadliest risk in our modern
food supply," says Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute--"and its
primary hiding place is the cattle manure with which organic farmers
fertilize food crops." So wash your produce, but don't let it scare you.
Organic or conventional, fruits and vegetables are the best fuel you can
put in your body.
Dangerous bacteria are even more common in animal products, but the
organic program is not a germ-control initiative. Under the new
guidelines, meat and dairy labeled organic must come from creatures that
are raised on organic grains or grasses, given access to the outdoors
and spared treatment with growth hormones and antibiotics. Experts agree
that by spiking animal feed with antibiotics, conventional farmers are
speeding the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria. Buying organic is one
way to vote against that practice. But in terms of your own health,
you'll profit more from holding back on animal products than by eating
organic ones. In one study, Danish research found that organic chickens
were actually more likely than conventional ones to carry campylobacter,
a pathogen that can cause severe diarrhea.
So organic food is tastier and more appealing, but not demonstrably
better for you. If you're shopping with only yourself in mind, maybe
you'll save your money. But if you pause to think about what you're
buying into with every food purchase, organic goods start to look like a
bargain. Our current agricultural system took off in the years following
World War II, when farmers discovered that chemical fertilizers could
force higher yields out of tired soil--and that pesticides could clear
croplands of competing species. As farmers saw what the new chemicals
made possible, American agriculture
was transformed from a rural art
into a heavy industry dominated by large corporations growing single
crops on vast stretches of poisoned soil.
As any ecologist might have predicted, the new approach was hard to
sustain. A small, varied farm can renew itself endlessly when managed
with care. Last year's bean stocks help nourish next year's cantaloupes,
and a bad year for tomatoes may be a good year for eggplant. As they
lost sight of those lessons, the factory farmers grew ever more
dependent on chemicals. Insects died off conveniently at first. But each
application of insecticide left a few hearty survivors, and within a few
generations whole populations were resistant. Today, says Scowcroft,
"we're applying three times as much chemical as we were 40 years ago to
kill the same pests." It's not just insects. Conventional farmers now
use herbicides to kill weeds, fungicides to kill fungi, rodenticides to
kill field mice and gophers, avicides to kill fruit-eating birds and
molluscicides to kill snails. Strawberry growers now favor all-purpose
fumigants such as methyl bromide. "You inject it into the soil and put a
tarp over it," says Monica Moore of the Pesticide Action Network of
North America. "It kills everything from mammals to microbes. It's a
These practices may not be poisoning our food, but there is no question
they're killing off wildlife, endangering farmworkers and degrading the
soil and water that life itself depends on. Pesticides now kill 67
million American birds each year. The Mississippi River dumps enough
synthetic fertilizer into the Gulf of Mexico to maintain a 60-mile-wide
"dead zone" too choked with algae to support fish. And soil erosion
threatens to turn much of the world's arable land into desert.
still delivers cheap, abundant food," says
Fred Kirschenmann of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
Ames, Iowa. "But when you factor in the government subsidies and the
environmental costs, it gets very expensive. We're drawing down our
ecological capital. At some point, the systems will start to break
Can organic agriculture
save the day? Not if it's just a boutique
alternative. But as demand grows, more and more farmers are taking a
leap backward--and landing on their feet. They're discovering they can
enrich the soil and manage some pests simply by rotating their crops.
They're learning that they can often control insects with other
insects--or lure them away from cash crops by planting things they
prefer. Well-run organic farms often match conventional ones for
productivity, even beat them when water is scarce. Creating a
food supply may well require advanced technology as well as
ecological awareness. But an organic ethic could be the very key to our
PHOTO (COLOR): CRUNCH: Michelle Mikshowsky, an organic Eve
PHOTO (COLOR): MOO: Organic milk cows at a farm near Viroqua, Wis.
By Geoffrey Cowley
With Anne Underwood and Karen Springen
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