Episode Recap — Talking All Things Organic with Jessica Shade and Gwendolyn Wyard
In this episode of Living Natural Today: Out with Toxins, In with Your Health, Teresa discussed what is organic with Dr. Jessica Shade of The Organic Center and Gwendolyn Wyard of the Organic Trade Association.
Dr. Jessica Shade is the Director of Science Programs at The Organic Center where she leads projects associated with communicating and conducting science supporting the benefits of organic. In addition to scientific research, Dr. Shade is interested in creative approaches to conducting, disseminating and communicating environmental research.
According to Shade, the mission of The Organic Center is to “convene, credible evidence-based science on the environmental and health benefits of organic food and farming – and then communicate those findings to the public.”
Gwendolyn Wyard has been actively working in the organic industry for 17 years. She serves as the Regulatory Director of Organic Standards and Food Safety for the Organic Trade Association. In this capacity, she works on the development of policy strategy through regulatory engagement in the interest of OTA’s mission and its members.
The mission of the Organic Trade Association is to promote and protect organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy. With a policy office in Washington DC, the OTA represents businesses across the supply chain and addresses all things organic including food, textiles, personal care products, and new sectors as they develop.
What is Organic?
According to Wyard, “it is a huge deal that “organic” has a definition. Codified in the federal regulations – which sets it apart from the many other labels out there – “organic includes products that are produced & certified in accordance with the specific requirements that are detailed in the US Department of Agriculture’s organic regulations.” Any product labeled organic must be inspected and certified – at least annually – by 3rd party certifying agencies (private or state state entities) to make sure USDA organic standards are met. There are penalties for non-compliance – with the amounts based on the seriousness of the violation(s).
In addition to general organic requirements, there are also specific requirements that apply to crop production, livestock production and the handling/processing of products once they leave the farm and before they arrive to the store shelf.
Different Levels of Organic
There are three classifications of organic:
- 100% Organic – Includes products made entirely with certified organic ingredients and methods
- 95% Organic – Includes products with at least 95% organic ingredients (the 5% must be on a national list)
Both of these categories may display the USDA Organic seal. A third category, containing a minimum of 70% organic ingredients, can be labeled “made with organic ingredients,” but may not display the USDA Organic seal.
Organic Versus Natural – Which Label is More Trustworthy?
Organic is the only eco-label in the world that is defined in the code of federal regulations and certified thru a 3rd party certification system overseen and enforced by the Federal Government. Natural, however, means very little. For a large majority of products utilizing natural claims, there is no Federal Government definition or accompanying standard and there is no verification process.
Are There Nutritional Benefits to Eating Organically?
According to Jessica Shade there is a “trifecta” of benefits from eating organic. Organic crops have higher levels of antioxidants, lower levels of toxic metals and fewer pesticides. Additionally, according to a study done last year, organic dairy has higher omega-3 fatty acids and lower omega-6 fatty acids compared to conventional.
Other Questions & Answers
Q: Does Organic mean NON-GMO?
A: GMO’s are not compatible with organic production. Organic does mean NON-GMO and it means a whole lot more.
Q: Is Organic Soil better than Conventional Soil?
A: A recent study in a journal named “Science,” compared organic and conventional soils. The study concluded that organic soil was superior to conventional soil.
Q: Do Pesticides get Stopped by the Skin of the Fruit or Vegetable?
A: That’s a myth! Pesticides don’t always stop at the peel. While the peel can act as a barrier that slows pesticide absorption, some pesticides can penetrate deep into the fruit or vegetable.
Q: How long does a farm have to be pesticide-free before it can be certified organic?
A: There is a 3- year transition period. That could be extended, but a minimum of a 3-year transition period.
Q: Organic Crops – What is used for Weed/Pest Control?
A: Organic producers have to develop and implement a preventative pest management plan. It’s only after this plan has failed that organic farms can use approved (non-toxic) pest and disease control materials.
Q: What kind of growth has organic seen in the past year?
A: Organic was the fastest growing sector in all of agriculture in 2013 (11.5% growth for organic food). Non-food organic had 12.8% growth in 2013.
Q: What is the Advantage of Organic Furniture?
A: Organic doesn’t use flame retardants (petroleum/oil/gasoline/chemicals) in the construction of furniture (crib mattresses, couches, chairs, etc). Rather, it is all made with organic cotton, organic wool and it’s a lot less flammable.
Read Next: Natural Does NOT Mean Organic!
Living Natural Today Wants to Know:
- Can you think of other reasons to choose organic?