Certified Organic, Certifiably Confusing.

Picture this: a shopper, traversing the aisles of her local grocery store with every intention of purchasing organic food –- how hard can it be?  Everything’s labelled so nicely…

But after a few minutes, our plucky shopper’s head is swimming, inundated by “USDA Certified Organic”s, “100% All-Natural”s, “Safeway O Organic”s, and a plethora of other labels. What does it all mean? Which ones are real, what means what, why is buying organic so. hard.?!?

Never fear, Sustainability 101 is here. Go grab some popcorn, kids –– we’re gonna be here for a while.

First off,  just what is “organic food?”

According to the US Department of Agriculture, “organic crops” are processed without  “irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, [or] genetically modified organisms,” and “organic livestock” is livestock raised in a manner that “met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors.”

Now, in the words of Morrissey, “What difference does it make?”

First, there’s the obvious: it’s grown without harmful chemicals and hasn’t been made into a teenage mutant ninja vegetable –– trust us, you don’t need that in your system. Stick to getting super powers from eating sustainably farmed nutritious foods.

Also, from an environmental standpoint, when we buy foods farmed organically, we’re supporting sustainable agricultural practices. The pesticides used in non-organic agriculture contaminate the soil and water supply, and they can even cause crops to become disease-resistant –– gross, huh?

(We think so, too).

“Okay, Sustainable Godmother, that’s great, but how do I know the foods I’m buy are really organic?”

Foods that meet these criteria feature a green “USDA Certified Organic” logo on their labels:

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Now, what about brands with enticingly organic-sounding names like “Safeway O Organic” and Giant’s “Nature’s Promise?” Rule of thumb: guilty until proven innocent. Often, these brands aren’t really organic; brands often use words like “all-natural” to cash in on consumers’ increasing desire for organic food, even when their products aren’t organic in the slightest. Check for the green label to see whether or not they’re legit.

Now that you know the benefits of organic food –– and how to outsmart clever marketing ploys –– go forth and veg(gie) out.

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