The web site of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that while pesticides carry some risks, especially for babies and kids, strict rules protect people from being exposed to too much pesticide residue.
The Consumer Reports article mentions concerns that widespread use of antibiotics in conventionally raised animals may spawn drug resistance and that synthetic growth hormones (which are banned for poultry and any organically raised animals) could cause cancer or speed up puberty for girls.
Those fears don't hold water, critics say.
The National Dairy Council's web site states that "American milk and dairy products are among the safest and most highly regulated foods in the world" and that milk from hormone-treated cows has repeatedly been shown to be "safe for human consumption."
The U.S. market for organic foods has skyrocketed in recent years and is expected to more than double by 2009, states Consumer Reports.
Meanwhile, government standards for organic foods have been hotly contested. Here's Consumer Reports' guide to label lingo:
- "100% organic": No synthetic ingredients are allowed by law.
- "Organic": At least 95% of ingredients are organically produced.
- "Made with Organic Ingredients": At least 70% of ingredients are organic; the other 30% are from a list approved by the USDA.
- "Free-range" or "free-roaming": Animals had an undetermined amount of daily outdoor access. This label does not provide much information about the product.
- "Natural" or "All Natural": Doesn't mean organic. No standard definition, except for meat and poultry products, which may not contain any artificial flavoring, colors, chemical preservatives, or synthetic ingredients. Claims aren't checked.