Sondra Pierce

Organic and Local Foods

Colorado farmer Sondra Pierce knows the difference between conventional and organic farm products – she grows both. Here, she dives into one of modern farming’s most confusing topics: organic foods.

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Reputably Sourced Food Facts

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What is Organic Food?

When it comes to food production, the “organic” label refers to a specific production method, not the quality or safety of food. Organic farmers, ranchers and food processors follow a U.S. Department of Agriculture-defined set of standards to produce organic food and fiber.1

For example, organic farmers do not use synthetic fertilizers, certain pesticides, GMO seeds, antibiotics, hormones or non-organic feed.2 These standards are part of what makes organic foods more expensive.3

  1. http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=organic-agriculture.html
  2. http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=TemplateN&navID=OrgStandardsLinkNOPAboutUs&rightNav1=OrgStandardsLinkNOPAboutUs&topNav=&leftNav=&page=NOPOrganicStandards&resultType=&acct=nopgeninfo
  3. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-20043880?pg=1

Is Organic Food Safer than Conventionally Raised Food?

According to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit leader in medical care, research and education, a recent study examined the past 50 years’ worth of scientific articles about the nutrient content of organic and conventional foods. It found that organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs are not significantly different in their nutrient content.1

Any food, whether organic or conventional, can become infected with illness-causing foodborne bacteria.

All foods, whether organic or non-organic, must meet the regulations set by U.S. government agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).2 3

  1. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-20043880?pg=1
  2. http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm214870.htm, http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm194218.htm
  3. http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/securty.htm

What Makes Food “Local”?

The USDA reports that there is no consensus on a definition of “local” or “local food systems” in terms of the geographic distance between production and consumption. However, “local” food is well recognized as food that is sold based on a marketing arrangement, such as farmers selling directly to consumers at regional farmers’ markets or schools.1

  1. http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-markets-prices/local-foods.aspx

Is Buying Local Better for the Environment?

Buying food from local farms helps support area farmers, but does not ensure that your food is more sustainable. Sustainability involves many factors beyond a food’s carbon footprint, including soil tillage, fertilizer use, waste handling, shipping, water use and more.

In fact, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University reports that the number of transportation miles and the amount of energy involved in producing and shipping food indicates what is local but not what is environmentally friendly. Sometimes growing and harvesting local food takes more energy and makes a larger impact on the environment than growing food far away and having it shipped.1

  1. http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/pubs-and-papers/2011-06-food-fuel-and-freeways-iowa-perspective-how-far-food-travels-fuel-usage-and-greenhouse-gas-emissions.pdf (Page 22)