Do You Know What's Organic?
The Federal Government is taking steps to make sure you do.
What to Do in the Meantime?
Until the guidelines are in place, Givens suggests that shoppers look for
labels reading "certified organic." The term refers to produce meeting
the production standards of one of 45 independent third-party programs that
establish standards for organic products. To qualify, the vast majority of
these programs require farmers to have used organic farming techniques, such as
not using toxic pesticides and fertilizers, for at least three years. The
programs mostly differ on how far organic fields must be from fields using
"The label means that somebody has come into the facility and inspected
it," Givens says.
Shoppers may also want to read labels and check the product for seals or
symbols that indicate the produce complies with the government's general health
and safety requirements.
Straightening Out the Public's Perception
Even when organic foods begin to carry official federal seals, it's doesn't
mean that the foods are more nutritious, says Laurie Demerit of the market
research firm The Hartman Group. Consumers mistakenly believe that
organic-grown food provides more vitamins and minerals, while there is no
scientific evidence that this is true, she says.
Several years ago, the firm found that people who bought organic produce and
products did so to support an environmentally sensitive approach to farming.
"Today they're saying it's better for their health and that of their
kids," Demeritt says. "People seem to like the idea and the lifestyle
of 'organic.' They're almost doing it as a social thing -- they want to be in
that lifestyle niche."
The main reason to buy organic, Givens says, is to support the environment.
"When people choose organic they're working to preserve water resources and
prevent the kinds of agriculture-related problems that have started to pop
up," she says. "Consumers can make a choice for a better
The choice couldn't be more simple for Corrado. For her, it's a matter of
watching her children thrive and grow, without having to worry about
potentially hazardous chemicals.
Christine Cosgrove is a freelance writer who specializes in
health and medical issues. She has worked as a reporter for UPI in New York
City and as a senior editor at Parenting Magazine. She lives in