Have you noticed that an increasing amount of aisle space at your grocery store is now reserved for “organic” produce? And more and more commercials and advertisements are touting “organic” foods? Foods labeled “organic” are increasingly available in the stores. While organic food sales account for only 1-2% of total food sales in the U.S., it has grown 17-20% in the past few years, while sales of conventional foods have only grown at about 2-3% per year.


What does it mean to be “organic?”

To be certified “organic,” products must meet standards set by the country in which they are sold. In Japan, organic products must meet the criteria of the Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS); in the U.S., the standards that apply are from the National Organic Program. These are standards that were developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Organic fruits, vegetables and grains are grown without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste, or sewage sludge, and they are processed without ionizing radiation or food additives. For animals, “organic” means that they were raised without the routine use of antibiotics and without the use of growth hormones. In most countries, organic produce must not be genetically modified.

Why do people buy and eat organic foods?

People support the growing and consumption of organic foods because they feel that it is better for the environment since synthetic pesticides are not released. Also, organic farms use less energy, produce less waste, and are safer for the people who grow the food because of decreased pesticide exposure. Organic foods are not only tastier for the consumer but also healthier because no synthetic pesticides are used. On the other hand, some people do not support organic food, arguing that the potential health effects of pesticide residue are subject to debate and organic foods generally cost more than traditional food.

What is the difference between “organic” and “natural?”

Foods labeled “organic” are not the same as foods labeled “natural.” Only foods labeled “organic” have been certified as meeting the USDA organic standards. The USDA has not developed a definition of “natural.” The food industry uses the term “natural” to indicate that a food has been minimally processed and is preservative-free.

Are organic foods healthier for me?

Some studies have shown that organic fruits and vegetables have higher nutritional levels than conventionally grown produce; however, the evidence is not considered conclusive. According to Marion Nestle, Ph.D., the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, the differences in vitamins between organic and conventionally grown foods are small. According to Dr. Nestle, growing and consuming organic foods is more of an environmental issue than a nutrition issue.