When we walk down the produce section of the typical grocery store there will be the "normal" fruit or vegetable section that is a shiny, picture perfect, GMO-enhanced and "relatively" affordable compared to the organic section.
The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows:
"Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too." (USDA)
I would like to challenge organic food in the endless debate between organic food and local food. While organic food protects the lands and the quality of what we are eating, it is often not as sustainable as local food. An organic apple from California eaten by a New Yorker has thousands of food miles attached to it that we do not feel the bite of. A food mile is, "…the distance food travels from the farm to the store where you buy it…these miles are costly to the environment. They are, in fact, among the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide" (thedailygreen.com). It is opportunity costs like these that must be considered when we as consumers are making a choice of where our money goes, and yes what we eat is a choice.
While local food may not have as consistent of a definition as organic food, it can often be more sustainable. Being sustainable impacts more than just our environment. Buying locally will also help the local economy not just survive but thrive. It also encourages a sustainable political world. If we as consumers are demanding local food, then the government has no choice but to have the stakeholders be the local community. It is necessary to integrate environmental sustainability, especially into the food sector, to our cycle of political, economical and social development. It is changes like these that will begin reducing our ecological footprint.
Comment by: City Worker (Feb-14-2014)
That brings to mind a question that usually comes to my mind when I shop for eggs at Trader Joe's. There, you have a choice of "organic" eggs or eggs from “cage-free” chickens. You can’t choose to have both at Trader Joe’s.
I try to put myself in the place of the hens and the effect on the eggs they produce. Would I be in a better overall state if I were locked up in a cage, barely able to move, with all the attending physical and emotional stress, yet given food that is healthiest for me (organic food) and not given any unnecessary hormones and medications? Or, would I be better off eating some junk food and given some medications that were not good for me, but I was allowed to wander about.
I think possibly “cage-free” might be better than “organic” in this case. I don’t know.
Hi! My name is Meri McGloin. I am very interested in becoming more involved from a hands-on perspective in the peace-promoting / environmental world. I have done a lot of reading and research but am ready to take action now!