Hello everyone, I'm back! I took a short break after I passed the semester (yes - I have not graduated yet, some people have confused this). Not that it's been all that relaxing of a break because there is still so much to do but I'm a happy busy.
Not much to update everyone on things happening at The Nook. Today they leveled The Nook and it's on block but there are more things to do before we can move in. I can't wait for it all to be finished. Imagine: it's Autumn, the leaves have changed colors and The Nook is (more or less) finished. I'm doing a blog post with pictures of the interior. Our "new" 1935 Norge cook stove (shout out to Christy...I hope that's what you said your names was...), where we put the kayak (you won't guess...or maybe you will...), and the wood stove is in use. I can't wait!
But now to the task at hand.
I'm starting another mini series, this time on organics and GMOs. We'll start out with my English paper from my semester and go from there. I'm calling this "Back to Eden" because that's what our lifestyle means to my husband and I. Healthy food, working outside with plants, and all of our future goals. It's back to Eden for us, pure and simple.
Albert Einstein once said that “information is not knowledge”. A person may be told
something, “informed” as it were, but is the information being received accurate? Nothing
should be taken at face value, especially when society is advertising something. It is a great
responsibility to self-educate. This is especially true in the subject of health. What is sold as food
should be held up to high standards. It should be easily accessible and known to the public what
those standards are. Labels on food should always be accurate and trustworthy, not vague and
assuming. The USDA labeling of organic food can be trusted because of the standards the food
Some companies do not want the public to be fully aware of the status of the product. If
the people are fully aware of the quality of what they’re buying they will be more likely to buy
better for themselves. Companies like Monsanto do not want this. Monsanto is a corporate giant
in the business of Genetically Modified Organisms, also known as GMOs. GMOs are not able to
take status as organic and create problems in the environment and people’s health. Nutrient loss
is a main factor in the problems of Genetically Modified food. (GEO-PIE website) Where health
and money are concerned, often GMO affiliated companies choose money. There are countries
where GMOs are actually banned, namely the cultivation of Monsanto’s products. Austria,
France, Germany, Italy, and basically most of the rest of Europe have banned the growth of
Monsanto crops on their lands. (GMO cultivation bans in Europe)
This is not the case for the United States. Here, the laws are relaxed on the use of
Genetically Modified substances. It isn’t clear what is GMO and what isn’t when buying food.
There are no labels for what is GMO. Products may be able to state “natural” or “organic”, but
without a trusted source backing these labels how can we be sure? In 2014, the state of Vermont
wanted to enact a law for state labeling of GMOs and non-GMOs alike. This would make it more
apparent to the public what is and what isn’t wholesome. The GMA of America did not want
that, and went up against Vermont in a lawsuit against it. This is very troubling when thinking
about the labels on food. The U.S.D.A.s labels are one of the few labels that can be trusted.
The U.S.D.A.’s labeling of organic food is an example of a proper and trusted labeling
system. This food must meet strict standards, and because the United States Department of
Agriculture sets the standards in regulating the labeling, people more apt to trust food with this
label rather than any product that simply states “organic” or “natural”. Simply stating that
something is organic or natural doesn’t necessarily prove that it is. When food is labeled organic
by the U.S.D.A., there is trust that it is organic by knowing the requirements it takes to be
labeled organic by this department. That is why it is so important to know what the labels
actually mean. After learning what they mean, an educated decision can be made.
There are some methods for growing and preparing food that aren’t considered organic.
One of those methods is the use of sewer sludge for fertilizer on crops. Human waste, chemicals,
and an alarming amount of harmful metals are all absorbed as the plants take in the harmful
substance. With U.S.D.A. labeled food, there is trust that they aren’t sludge-absorbed products.
Instead of sludge, these products are grown with approved substances. For nutrients, farmers
may instead add ashes to the soil. For example, a farmer may burn manure that was collected,
and then afterwards spread the ashes on the fields. Also, a bio-fertilizer may be used. Bio-
fertilizers are filled with microorganisms that feed off of the manure. As they are feeding off of
it, they also release nutrients over an amount of time. The use of animal manure is also
encouraged, as long as they are free from harmful substances. “Manure sources containing
excessive levels of pesticides, heavy metals, or other contaminants may be prohibited from use.”
(USDA Guide for Organic Crop Producers) These options are much better than sewer sludge
because this means only natural methods of growing the crop are used. This is also true for
livestock. The livestock should not eat food that is GMO (genetically modified organism). If any
part of the process is genetically modified, the entire product loses organic status.
Not only are certain fertilizers not allowed, but there is a process of maintaining the
plants. When the products maintain their organic status, it helps the environment. Water
pollution can be a problem amongst farmers if chemicals of sprays get released into it. So the
water must be properly managed. Contaminating the environment will affect the product itself.
Environmental friendly irrigation is supported and minimal tilling, if any, is encouraged. If there
is excessive amounts of tilling, soil erosion may occur. The top layer of the soil loosens and is
easily carried by wind or rain into nearby streams. This strips the land of nutrients and pollutes
the waterways. Once that occurs, not only is the product tainted but so is all of the wildlife
The soil can also be stripped of nutrients from lack of crop rotation. The lack of crop
rotation and an excess of tilling the soil are partially what brought about the Dust Bowl in the
1930s. Now, there are regulations for these practices where the farmers are to “maintain or
improve soil organic matter content; provide for pest management in annual and perennial crops;
manage deficient or excess plant nutrients; and provide erosion control”. (ECFR)
After maintaining the proper steps in growing the food, it should also be stored
appropriately. The food has to be stored according to the regulations of the USDA. If it isn’t,
then the food has a greater chance of losing its organic status because of improper care. This is
especially the case in storing non-organic food and organic food alike in the same area. They
could cross contaminate and cause the organic food to lose status. “If storage rooms include both
organic and conventional (non-organic) products, the organic products should be stored in a
manner that reduces the possibility of contaminants or commingling with conventional
products.” (USDA Guide for Organic Crop Producers) It is suggested that measures be taken so
that the organic food and non-organic food are stored at separate shelf height in general. Not
only is it important that the food stays organized separately according to status, but it is very
important that the food is appropriately dated according to when it was harvested and shelved.
This helps maintain the freshness status of the food, especially food that is without preservatives
extending the shelf life.
To ensure that all the regulations are properly followed, the U.S.D.A.’s labeling is
overseen by an authorized certifying agent. “Every operation that applies for organic certification
is first inspected on site by a certifying agent.” (USDA Blog) These agents are trained and
certified in knowing and ensuring that the proper procedures were followed when growing the
product. They are to review the steps used so that it is actually organic and not just “natural”.
Occasionally, they oversee some of the work and monitor the growing methods.
Basically, not all food labeled “natural” or “organic” without a USDA seal can be trusted.
If the food doesn’t meet the standards, then it isn’t known what is in the food. What is put in the
ground and sprayed onto the plant is absorbed and soon passed into the people ingesting it.
Food that is labeled as natural is not allowed to have the labels such as “chemical free” on their
packaging. That is a risk that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is important to know exactly what is
eaten. The products should be free of harmful substances that either degrade the nutrition value
of the food. Often, you will see products defined as natural that state “made with real fruit”. This
means that the fruit used to make the product was real fruit and was not a flavor substitute. There
still isn’t any saying that the substitute wasn’t still used. Products that fall under the category of
kosher and fresh are often seen as natural. It isn’t always true. Educating the standards behind
these labels is important.
The opportunity to make properly educated decisions in buying food should be taken
seriously. Know why and how the food is labeled to further decide what is best. Many people
may think light of the subject, or even say that properly labeled products cost more, but can a
price be put on health? Maybe if there was a requirement for all food to be properly labeled as
organic or GMO, people would be more aware of the choices they make. By becoming more
aware of the choices available and why they exist, habits will change and the majority of people
in this country could start leading a healthier lifestyle. Labels on food should always be accurate
and trustworthy, not vague and assuming. The USDA labeling of organic food can be trusted
because of the standards the food must meet.
I hope my paper has got you all thinking about the food we buy and why we buy it.
Tune in next week for what GMOs are and how they got their start! Mwahahahaha...
Good health to you and yours!
GMO cultivation bans in Europe. (n.d.). Retrieved September 02, 2016, from http://www.gmo-free-regions.org/gmo-free-regions/bans.html
Organic Labeling Standards. (n.d.). Retrieved September 02, 2016, from https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/organic-labeling-standards
Reference, B. (n.d.). ECFR — Code of Federal Regulations. Retrieved September 02, 2016, from http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=5d23a1551075719dfa7ac4e885e1543d
(GEO-PIE website). (n.d.). GMO: Harmful Effects. Retrieved September 02, 2016, from http://enhs.umn.edu/current/5103/gm/harmful.html
USDA Blog >> Organic 101: Five Steps to Organic Certification. (n.d.). Retrieved August 06, 2016, from http://blogs.usda.gov/2012/10/10/organic-101-five-steps-to-organic-certification/
USDA Guide for Organic Crop Producers. (p.d.f.). Retrieved August 10, 2016, from www.ams.usda.gov/NOP
Author: Tina Potter
Master Herbalist, I've graduated as an American Healthcare College Alumnus, I've become a member of American Herbalist Guild and author of survivalist series Survival Ember co-authored by professional survivalist Kenny Dietrich of Ashland, KY. I've been beyond blessed with the constant desire to learn and teach.
COMMON SENSE NOTICE: I do not claim to diagnose, treat, or cure disease. What you do with the information I post is up to you, but it is advised to consult with a doctor before acting on alternative methods of medicine. I wish you all the best!