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What Constitutes Organic food

What Constitutes Organic food and what foods are best eaten that way

Yesterday I posted more reasons to buy and eat organic, but I didn’t explain what organic is and which foods benefit us most to be eaten that way.

Simply, organic farmers don’t use synthetic chemicals to fertilize or synthetic pesticides to control weeds or bugs.  They use mulch as a weed barrier and natural methods to stop pests.  But of course its never that simple.

The department of agriculture says that only products can be labeled 100 per cent organic if they are completely organic or made of all organic ingredients.  If the tag says only “organic” it must be at least 95 percent organic.  To confuse us more “Made with organic ingredients” are products containing at least  70 percent organic ingredients, but the official organic seal can’t be used on those products.  The USDA not only has strict standards for organic farming, it also inspects organic farms to assure their standards are being met.

The following are the 5 steps to Organic certification.- click here

Characteristics of Organic Farms:

Organic vegetable farms minimize the kind and amount of fertilizers and pesticides used to produce a crop as their overall goal. Emphasis is placed on long term planning based on information regarding crop pest life cycles, soil conditioning, extensive evaluation of ecological relationships, field conditions, and, options for management of these variables in a given field or on a given farm. According to the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, there are three basic characteristics that define an organic farm:

1. – Soil conditioning is maintained through the heavy use of composted and naturally occurring plant and animal material incorporated into the soil profile; green manure and cover crops, and, crop rotation.

2. – Soil fertility is depended upon the continuing activity of minor organisms such as earthworms and bacteria to digest organic matter and convert it to compounds available to plants.

3. – Pest control is advanced by “healthy” soil, plant resistance, selective and limited use of pesticides that poise little or no adverse effect to the soil, crop, environment and human health.

Beware of the top 10 foods most likely to retain the most pesticides- always buy organic

  1.  Strawberries
  2.  Bell peppers
  3.  Spinach
  4.  Cherries
  5.  Peaches
  6.  Foreign-grown cantaloupe
  7. Celery
  8.  Apples
  9.  Apricots
  10.  Green Beans

The following are safer because they don’t absorb much pesticide or are normally peeled before eating.  These aren’t necessary to be bought organic yet.

  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocados
  3. Bananas
  4. Broccoli
  5. Cabbage
  6. Kiwi
  7. Mango
  8. Onions
  9. Papaya
  10. Pineapple

Organic Beef

To raise cattle organically the farmer must meet the health conditions and natural behavior of the animal in nature.  What the heck does that mean.  I call BS on that.  Many of these animals have been domestically raised for hundreds of years.  So this is a fine line but….

Organic livestock must be given access to the outdoors, frest air, water, sunshine, grass and pasture and must be fed 100 percent organic feed.  Any shelter provided must be designed to allow the animal comfort and the opportunity to exercise.  Darn, I’d like to live organically too.  Organic practices prohibit feeding animal parts of any kind to animals that by nature eat a vegetarian diet.  Yes, that is done in feed lots to increase the protein to the animal.  In fact that is what is believed to have caused “mad cow disease”.

To top that “national organic standards require oversight of production and handling systems.  Production and handling operations must undergo onsite inspections and have farm or operating plans in place in order to be certified organic.  The standards also specify feed requirements, including what is and is not allowed.

Organic production requires that livestock cannot be fed plastic pellets for roughage, or formulas containing urea or manure.  They cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones.  For an animal to be raised for organic beef its mother must have been fed organic feed for at least the last third of gestation.”

If you’d like specific information go to http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/standards/prodhandreg.html

Conclusions and recommendations

When I started this blog I was extremely open minded about “normal” eating practices.  Knowledge is sometimes dangerous or at least expensive.  I can’t help but to completely recommend eating organic vegetables and beef.  Actually it seems that we’d be stupid not to. – jughandle

Organic foods – The 20 Best Organic Foods

Why Organic Matters

Organic foods.  Walk into an average grocery store and you face a choice—47,000 choices of products, actually. And their labels advertise terms such as low fat, high fiber, free range, and organic. Some matter, some don’t. But those labels aren’t even the most confusing part:

Many scientists say organic is more nutritious than conventionally grown food, while others say it’s not. The back and forth is enough to make us “eat what’s available when we’re hungry and try not to think too much about it because it’s all so disheartening and confusing,” writes Maria Rodale in her book, Organic Manifesto.

Sadly, not buying organic food is a mistake that you can no longer afford to make. According to more and more studies, eating organic foods can help you build more muscle and burn more fat, not to mention protect the environment from harmful pesticides and increase your chances of siring healthy offspring (sons in particular). Here are 20 top organic foods to get you started. Add them to your grocery list to upgrade your diet, strengthen your body, and help heal the planet.

via organic foods | The 20 Best Organic Foods | MensHealth.com.

Soil and the Organic Garden

According to Wikipedia:

Organic farming is the form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotationgreen manurecompost and biological pest control. Organic farming uses fertilizers and pesticides but excludes or strictly limits the use of manufactured (synthetic) fertilizerspesticides (which include herbicidesinsecticides and fungicides), plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibioticsfood additivesgenetically modified organisms,[1] human sewage sludge, and nanomaterials.[2]

Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations, based in large part on the standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an international umbrella organization for organic farming organizations established in 1972.[3] IFOAM defines the overarching goal of organic farming as:

“Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved…”

Soil

Apparently the soil in an organic farm or garden MUST be turned and amended and the crops MUST be rotated to insure problem free growth.

Crop rotation is one of the oldest and most effective strategies for organic pest control and healthy soil culture in your organic garden. Specifically, it means the planned order of vegetables or fruits in garden beds; avoiding planting the same crop in the same space for a two or three year period; and knowing what family your edibles belong to.

Where the same vegetables or fruits are grown in the same patch of soil successively, soil depletion and pest infestation may follow. As organic gardeners don’t use insecticides, preventing pest infestations must be controlled by other means.

Many soil dwelling insects are fairly immobile. Take wireworms for instance. They love to feast on sweet potatoes and carrots. If you plant those edibles in the sameraised bed every year, wireworms will build up in the soil and in a few seasons you’ll have a terrible infestation on your hands. But if you follow carrots or sweet potatoes the following season with a non-root vegetable like lettuce or spinach, the wireworms will lose their food source and will be incapable of multiplying.

The same idea holds true for diseases such as tomato blight. If your tomatoes were infected with blight last year, fungal spores from the blight may overwinter in your soil. Planting tomatoes the following year in the farthest garden bed from the blight infested bed will minimize the chances that your tomatoes will pick up the diseaseagain.

Crop rotation also spares depletion of your garden soil. Every plant requires unique amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium (N-P-K) and other trace minerals. When the same plant makes repeated demands of the same patch of soil, the elements it requires are quickly depleted and may take years to replace. For this reason, heavy composting in between crops is recommended for soil health and using a soil test kit formonitoring levels of N-P-K.

Rotating your vegetables and fruit also greatly reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides. In my organic garden, I have no need for pesticides at all – there simply are no infestations – and I only use a small amount of organic fertilizer, but large amounts of compost.

For more information on crop rotation and identifying which families your vegetables are in, check out this explanation on crop rotation from OrganicLife.

crop rotation potatoes Don’s follow potatoes with potatoes in your garden.

 

What to use in your soil?

Meat substitutes

Meat substitutes.  Check out this page on One Green Planet titled “10 Vegetables That Can Substitute for Meat“.

Not your hippie friend’s meat substitute

Not too long ago vegan friendly substitutes for meat were like eating cardboard.  Not to mention they were highly processed and contained a lot of chemicals.  Not so much today.  There are quite a few products that are very good and can even stand on their own without being called a “substitute”.

Cutting down on meat?

If you aren’t, you really should be.  I have been on a vegan experiment for the last 6 months or so with interesting results.  That is a story for another day, but suffice it to say if you are pushing 65 as I am or even 45 for that matter, it’s time to consider your long term diet, in order to have a “long term” at all.  I’m not saying to stop meat completely, in fact I’ve started back on a limited protein serving a couple of times per week.  I’ll explain that another time.

The products and the companies producing meat substitutes that I’m going to list below are a great way to expand your eating options and improve your health at the same.  Back off on the red, white and fowl meats.  Don’t stop by any means, but just imagine how much better they’ll taste when you aren’t eating them as often.

5 Options

Veggie Patch Products –  This is a large line of veggie and meatless products that might interest even the pickiest carnivore.  No artificial flavors, preservative and no trans fat.  These products include Meatless meatballs, chick’n Nuggets and Ultimate Meatless Burgers and many more. Click on the link to find who carries them in your area.

Trader Joe’s Meatless Corn Dogs and Morningstar Farms Veggie Corn Dogs – If you or your kids like corn dogs, try one of these substitutes and see if any one even can tell the difference. Trader Joe provide excellent products throughout their store and Morningstar is a leader in the vegan market.

Quorn –  While I’m not personally familiar with this brand, it is highly recommended.  Click on the link and check out the products for yourself.  They have meat and meatless products.

Quorn

Quorn

Turtle Island Foods –  I recently had my first Tempeh…. wait for it… wait for it… and I loved it.  Great texture, good flavor and cooks well with out falling apart.  Turtle Island carried Tofurky, tofurky pizza, tempeh and tempeh bacon.  I can’t yet vouch for all of these products, but the tempeh is great.

Gardein Seven – the article says about Gardein

“Gardein’s ad campaign advises consumers to “cheat on meat,” and their products make it easy to do just that. To boot, these breaded tenders contain heart healthy grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth and Kamut and have 8 grams of protein per serving”

Conclusions

I have concluded for myself that I am cutting down on meat and I will eat more of the products I’ve list above.  I recommend you come to the same conclusion, as I need to keep all the readers I have.  – jughandle

 

Bee Deaths Affect Our Crops

Our Bees are dying at an alarming rate.  Actually dying is the wrong word to use.  The Bees are vanishing, like something out of a science fiction movie.  If you haven’t heard about this problem yet, please let me bring you up to date.

Colony Collapse Disorder

DEAD_BEES_0930_rdax_676x456

The phenomena is known as “Colony Collapse Disorder”.  Bees have vanished in huge numbers to the point that crops such as almonds, avocados, blueberries, pears, plums and apple crops may fail THIS YEAR, as a result of nothing more than not being pollinated.  That’s right, no blight, pests or weather problems, just a lack of Bees.  The photo above is an unusual occurrence of a colony of dead bees.  Most of the time the colony just disappears.  It seems that bees are so smart that if they know or sense something is wrong with them they will basically commit suicide so not to infect the colony.

 

Experts Don’t Have A Clue

Oh sure, there are people who have good educated guesses at what might be causing the problem, but nobody knows for sure.  Could be pesticides, GMOs, a bacteria or a virus or a combination of all of those things.

 

Bee Keepers

truck of bees

bee trucks

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you think of bee keepers, most people envision a person in a funny white outfit harvesting honey from hives.  Bee keeping has made it to the “big business” scale.  There are bee keepers who travel the country in multiple tractor trailer rigs full of bees.  They hire out to large farmers for specific periods of time to let their bees loose on the farm to pollinate the crops at just the right time.

Crops

avocado tree

Hass avocados ripening

Almond tree in bloom

Almond Tree in Bloom

blueberry2 (1)

Blueberry Bush

 

Imagine no more blueberries, almonds or avocados this year

 

So, how can we save the bees?

The following is from an article in the Food Renegad written by KristenM

1. We should err on the side of the environment, rather than on the side of economic profits for the pesticide industry, and immediately ban neonicotinoids.

2. We should encourage and support local beekeepers feeding their bees honey rather than HFCS. Heck, why not start keeping your own bees?

3. We should plant bee-friendly flowers and allow the pollinators free reign in our lawns and gardens instead of immediately trying to kill any nearby hives.

4. We can encourage and support the work of researchers trying to breed sturdier bees.

The report recommends stepping up efforts to identify genetic traits in particular bees that make them resistant to suspected causes of CCD. Some honey bees, it turns out, take “suicidal risks” when infected with disease to prevent spreading the contagion to the colony.

The report also suggests importing Russian honey bees and other “Old World” bees to diversify bee breeding stock and build up CCD resistance. Scientists already have begun to stockpile bee semen and germplasm in case the worst comes to pass.
(source)

All of this together may not be enough. There are still too many unknown variables — like GMO crops where the plant itself is registered as an insecticide with the EPA.

Who can say what the long-term effect of these crops is on the honey bee population? Perhaps they are like neonicotinoids — initially appearing safe, but ultimately weakening the bees across generations.

Conclusion

As always let logic be your guide.  If you’ve never gotten behind a “cause” before, this might just bee the one to start with.  Call your local and state representatives and tell them you are worried.  They all have phone numbers with answering machines to record your concerns.  Heck, sometimes a real person will answer.  Call your extension service and ask what you can do to help.  Write me and tell me you are concerned and I’ll pass it along – jughandle

More on Water

Have you just realized that you need to drink more water?  Are you one of those walking around with a bottle of water to keep hydrated?  Sorry to inform you, but you are behind the times, and are now part of the problem and not the solution you may have believed.

Our Body

Our bodies are 2/3 water.  Water is critical to the function of all our organs, yet we don’t seem to care where our water comes from.  According to Women’s Health magazine  the Natural Resources Defense Council recently tested 1000 bottles of water and discovered that 1/5 or around 22% of the brands tested contained contaminates above the legal, state of California, public health levels. Arsenic was in all of them.

The plastic that most of the water is stored in can break down under temperatures that can be found in water stored in warehouses or even your own garage and then leach chemicals into your water.  You don’t warm your food in the microwave in plastic or plastic wrap any more, so why drink from the stuff?  Picture chemicals dripping into your food and water.

Both, Dasani, bottled by Coke and Pepsi’s Aquafina are just filtered tap water with added minerals for flavor.  Considering their water is then bottled in plastic, you’d be much better off drinking straight tap water, and much, much better off  drinking filtered tap water.

plastic bottle beach 1

Plastic Bottles

The plastic our water bottles are made from is called polyethylene terepthalate or PET for short.  First of all, PET is produced from crude oil, and it takes a bunch of oil to make it.  Roughly 17 million barrels to produce just water bottles, last year alone.  Now you now why water is more expensive than gasoline.  Secondly, over 90 percent of those 30 Billion water bottles end up in the land fill.  YES, ninety percent!

This next statement isn’t radical, or even liberal, tree hugging maybe a little, but certainly logical.  

STOP USING AND BUYING PLASTIC – NOW!!!  IF YOU CAN’T FIND AN ALTERNATIVE AT LEAST RECYCLE – PLEASE -jughandle

Canary in the Vegetable patch

You may be familiar with the use of a Canary to warn miners in coal mines when toxic levels of gas or the lack of O2 was imminent.  The bird would sing it’s happy song until a problem was present and then it would either die or at least stop singing which was a warning to the miners that there was a problem and to get the hell out.  The canary was much more sensitive to the change in the environment than the miners.   Today of course we have electronic sensors to warn of such problems, but nature has and always will be the best indicator of problems to which humans as the top of the food chain should pay close attention to.


frog

Turtles, Frogs and Fish are the Canaries of our crops and waters

Amphibians, not unlike the canary, are many times more sensitive to chemicals and changes in the water chemistry and soil make up than are humans.  When large populations of amphibians start to die or move to other more suitable locations we NEED TO PAY ATTENTION!

Sad when we change our eating habits only to find our vegetables are tainted too!

It makes me mad to do all the research into finding a more healthy diet only to find that the so called “good” things we eat have problems too.  Farmers and scientists have been partnered up for years to find ways to grow fruits and vegetables larger, more quickly and with more nutrition than ever before.  It isn’t surprising then to imagine that some of these partnerships could get carried away with their experiments and approach the “Frankenstein” level of experimentation.

Scientists now are finding ways to kill pests and weeds but also make growing easier for the farmer resulting in producing more yield per acre than ever before.

crop-duster-mtopper

Growing food isn’t easy

It may seem that growing food is as easy as putting it in the ground and adding water and maybe some fertilizer.  You then wait, and when nature is done growing the seed you gather your crop and sell it.  Not so much.  First of all, changes are being made even in the seeds and the way the ground, or soil is being handled.  There are genetically altered seeds that can be cast upon un-tilled soil.  Not only that, but the farmer doesn’t worry about weeds hogging the nutrients from the crop.  All the farmer has to do is have a crop duster spray the entire crop with Round-up.  Oh, you might be thinking, Round-Up kills everything.  It is a herbicide after all.  Not any more.  There are genetically altered crops that are “Round-Up Ready”, meaning that the crop itself is resistant to Round-Up while the weeds around it die.  Seems great doesn’t it?  Just wait.  There will be huge problems.  Already the base chemical in Round-Up, Glyphosate, can be detected in the rain in many states like Nebraska and Kansas where large amounts of crops are treated this way.  Soon there will be weeds that are resistant to glyphosate just like there are rats and roaches that are resistant to the poisons humans use on them.  I won’t bore you with why there are diseases resistant to antibiotics.

So that I don’t lose your attention, I will try to get to the point.  Fast forward to the teams of farmers and scientists who are bored with making faster growing, larger producing crops.  There are still some problems to address in the growing cycle.  Under certain conditions crops can be damaged by fungus that can stunt the growth or even kill a plant.  This happen mostly on crops that are low to the ground and leafy, such as lettuce, strawberries, kale, beets and such.

Fungicides Kill Amphibians Quickly! Are our Children Next?

A chemical fungicide commonly used on the crops I mentioned before, called pyraclostrobin, has been shown to kill amphibians in as fast as MINUTES!

Residues of this chemical are found on non-organic supermarket greens and berries.. In the US, chemicals are often approved for farming or industrial use without adequate research to make clear what their health effect might be. Current findings show even minuscule exposures to certain chemicals at important times in human development such as, in utero and in early childhood, in particular, could affect a person’s life and health decades down the line, or even that of possible future generations.

dog pooping in yard

family playing in yard

Doesn’t Effect You?

From Health Hazards of Pesticides by Leah Zerbe – Rodale

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, in addition to its use as a fungicide, pyraclostrobin is used for its ability to speed the growth of plants. It’s also a go-to fungus killer for lawns and golf courses, a potential problem because rainstorms create runoff from the grass that can carry the amphibian-killing chemical into surface waters.

Frogs around the globe are facing extreme extinction pressure, and this new study provides insight into one of the possible major contributors to these amphibians’ decline. Aside from pyraclostrobin, British researchers also looked at other common fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides. Another startling finding? The insect-killing chemical dimethoate, an insecticide sometimes found on spinach, killed about 40 percent of exposed frogs within a seven-day period.

Plus, if you or your lawn company are using a spray treatment on your grass, just think of the danger it potentially has for your children, who play in the yard, or your pets who walk across it, then lick their paws.

Short term Solution

There are many things that need to be done about this problem, but YOU are the most important key to change.  First, you need to be aware that there is a problem.  Hopefully I’ve helped with that in this article.  Then, right away, today, next time at the market, buy organically grown food of all kinds.

 

I could write for days on this subject, but I’ve been told to “leave them wanting more”, so if you have a burning question or would like to make a statement, please respond to this post. – jughandle

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