What Does it Take for Produce to be Organic?

Certified Organic

When you’re standing in the store picking out produce for the week, do you ever stop and think about what it took for that organic apple to get to the store? Or how can the store claim it’s still organic? Do you ever wonder what are the regulations for that apple to be Certified Organic? From the soil, to the truck, and then the store, each step is constructed different than the traditional conventional counterpart. With the certification comes time, effort, money, and efficiency. Not only is it tough to create organic produce, it is also tough knowing which label to trust. There are so many different types or organic certifications, it may begin to get overwhelming for someone just beginning their research.

The main organic label known to shoppers is the USDA label, which mainly means the food is not sprayed/ come in contact with conventional pesticides, fertilizers are not made with synthetic ingredients, no bioengineering is involved, and/or ionizing radiation. 

USDA Guidelines

 

Before planting the seeds of what will become organic produce, there are steps needed to be handled with the soil. The soil needs to be stripped of all the impurities listed above for 3 years before the produce grown will be conventional. Once the soil is tested, and the levels are balanced, you will need to make sure all fertilizers, bug sprays, etc., are within the USDA guidelines. The soil and the produce need to be maintained with organic products throughout the entire time. From here, the produce needs to be picked with only other organic items. If at any point in the process fruits or vegetables are cross contaminated, the bundle of product will not be classified as fully organic any longer.

Whole Foods Experience

Organic produce items are also stored on higher grounds, away from any other conventional produce. Amy, a worker from Whole Foods stated that at any point in time that the organic produce was found on the bottom of the conventional items in the fridge, you would get a write up. Amy explained that part of working at Whole Foods is learning the different health guidelines people follow. It is important to keep everyone’s concerns in mind.

Another worker, Nico, who works in the juice bar at Whole Foods stated that organic produce is washed with a specific cleaner, which is made to get rid of all the outside factors that have hit the produce. These steps taken in store are vital to the process. If a worker does not care about the certifications or concerns, they can ruin the organic process in seconds. Most modern day food is mass-produced with priority lying in return on investment and prolonged shelf life at the sacrifice of minor health risks. Knowing this, the care and attention to detail required by the organic process leaves little to be appreciated.

Each individual at every level plays an integral role in maintaining the products organic label, and each takes a prominent risk of ending it. The process is so fragile that at the riskiest stages of development, an inspector is used to not only inspect the soil health, crop quality, pests, water systems, preventative health measures, but also any animals that will be part of the process. It’s hoops like these that make organic produce less appealing to food companies as it raises overhead costs while prolonging production.

Organic Livestock

Although, nothing in regards to organic produce is trivialized nearly as much as the use of animals for livestock. We’ve used animals for the purpose of consumption since the beginning of time, but as we developed away from hunter/gatherer mentality, our population also exploded, causing an increase in the need for our favorite source of protein but also a dwindling population of producers. Thus the creation of livestock farming and slaughterhouses. This is an example because, in 2006, over 30% of non-ice covered land on the planet was used by livestock systems. (Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.) Many think the over-saturation and cruelty of the meat industry is plenty of reason to switch to organic meat because it’s understood that the animals in question are free-raised, (in contrast to a small holding cell pre-slaughter) although some disagree.

Lisa Kemmerer, an animal activist, can be quoted saying, “Animals who are exploited for “organic” foods are raised, maintained, transported, and slaughtered just like their “nonorganic” counterparts: They are debeaked, dehorned, detoed, castrated, and/or branded, and they are kept, transported, and slaughtered in the same deplorable conditions” a common understanding in the food industry that animals kept for the purpose of livestock and the farmers keeping them must adhere to strict guidelines set by the North American Meat Institute in 1991, and later revised in 2019.(L. Kemmerer Speaking Up for Animals: An Anthology of Women’s Voice).  In fact, Data collected by Colorado State University’s Dr. Temple Grandin for the U.S. The Department of Agriculture shows that animal care in the meat industry has ethically improved drastically within the last two decades.

Production

Many fail to see the truly tedious organic process behind a simple label at the grocery store. Maybe it’s the increase in price or simply the general lack of understanding in organic process itself, many continue to buy foods curated with genetically modified organisms and pesticides. Many of these individuals may consider organically sourced food as being a “luxury for the rich,” although organic farming may turn out to be a necessity not just for the wealthy, but for everyone.

Prince Charles once said “It is vitally important that we can continue to say, with absolute conviction, that organic farming delivers the highest quality, best-tasting food, produced without artificial chemicals or genetic modification, and with respect for animal welfare and the environment, while helping to maintain the landscape and rural communities.” This statement renders the truth that we can both properly sustain our society while also respecting mother nature in the process.

Once we grasp this concept there will be no need to cut-corners with financial motivation, but organic production could very well become the new normality.

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