What is Organic?

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The term "organic" is used to describe how agricultural foods are produced. It also is used to describe the methods of processing. The goal of growing organic foods is to improve the health of people and animals, as well as the soil and plants. Growing organic foods and using organic methods for processing them is considered low impact to our environment, and helps balance agricultural practices with the needs of nature.

Farmers with certified organic land must never use chemicals that might pollute the air, water or food. Organic farmers use methods that respect the land and help nurture the animals who live on it. Instead of using chemicals to boost growth of plants and try to discourage pests from damaging crops, organic farmers use sustainable farming techniques including composting and crop rotation to improve the fertility of the soil, and non-toxic pest control methods like spraying vegetable oil on crops.

To maintain the "certified organic" standing, farmers must not use any synthetic fertizers or dangerous or toxic pesticides and chemicals on the land for at least three years before certification and for anytime thereafter. Pesticides can linger in the environment long after they were applied to the land, so simply purchasing organic foods doesn't completely guarantee that the foods are 100% pesticide-free - but studies by Consumer Reports in 1998 have shown that organic fruits and vegetables had much lower-level pesticide residues, or none at all, when compared to those produced with conventional methods.

Organic farmers do not use antibiotics or growth hormones which improves the health of people who consume the foods. Where as the non-organic methods of processing food often requires preservatives or irradiation to keep it fresh and edible, the organic methods maintain the integrity of the food without the use of preservatives or irradiation.

Antibiotics lose their effectiveness for fighting disease and infection when used excessively or incorrectly. When farmers use antibiotics in healthy animals, and humans eat the animals or the milk cows produce for example, the effectiveness of those antibiotics in humans can actually be reduced. Organic farmers treat their animals' health without using hormones and antibiotics in order to improve human health through the food chain.

Farmers who grow organic crops are also committed to the humane treatment of the animals that live on their land. For example, farms that have cows for milk allow cows to make milk according to their natural schedules. They provide their animals with organic feed, plenty of fresh air and access to pastures to graze.

Tisha Kulak Tolar is a writer for Fit4EverYoung.com, where she writes about bodybuilding, exercise, general health and fitness, nutrition and supplements.

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