Certified Organic?

I'm wondering if anyone else is trying to figure out the USA Certified Organic label only to get it home and it's grown outside the USA? I try my hardest to buy local and when I relent and go to my grocery store, I'm so disappointed in the choices.. Anyone else?

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healthierkitchen
healthierkitchen March 2, 2011

Labeling in this country is a huge mess. I often see that label on scallions that further reading shows are grown in Mexico. I just read every label carefully. Sometimes, depending on season (OK - getting desperate this time of year) I might buy them anyway, but I want to have the right info and make an educated choice.

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susan g
susan g March 2, 2011

The OG label does not mean grown in US. If you want to avoid GMO's, chemical amendments, toxic sludge (yes, really), and more, choose organic first, then look for the grower's location. Obviously, when the farmers fields here in New England are many feet under snow, they are not harvesting much, so our choices for local are limited. There are winter farmers' markets with cold storage options, but if you just have to have something else -- choose wisely. And since New England isn't going to provide us locally grown citrus in any season, and it's in season now, we'll take the next best choice. Unless you can grow Meyer lemons in a pot in the living room?

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SKK
SKK March 2, 2011

My understanding is that a 3rd party certifies that food is organic and that 3rd party must be recognized by the US. Earthbound Farms, for example, even though based in California also grows organic greens in Mexico to have an extended growing season. When I am truly purchasing local, it also means I have to purchase seasonal. Living in Seattle, I am not that disciplined from November to June.

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SKK
SKK March 2, 2011

Hey Susan G, I wish someone could grow Meyer lemons in a pot in the living room here in Seattle, as well as some organic Texas grapefruit!

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healthierkitchen
healthierkitchen March 2, 2011

and bananas!

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pierino
pierino March 2, 2011

Don't get me started on this one while I only have my Droid to work with. But. I can spell Agribusiness.

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susan g
susan g March 2, 2011

Pierino brings up an important issue. When 'agribusiness' smells money, they eat up the little guys. Even Walmart has jumped into the pond. They are all still held by the USDA regulations, but there is a constant push for change to cheapen the process and risk all standards. Recent news, Horizon is accused of using totally illegal additives in their 'organic' milk (illegal for all milk producers, not just OG). And even 'local' gets diluted, when you check where the apples (or whatever) were actually grown. Our supermarkets will label local anywhere in New England. And prices... that's another horror show.

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SKK
SKK March 2, 2011

Pierino and Susan G now have me started - here is an eye-opener of a chart for which large companies own the smaller companies. http://www.fooducate.com/blog/2011/02/04/whos-your-daddy-guess-8-surprising-ownerships-in-the-food-industry/ For example, you will see that Horizon is partly owned by Dean Foods, "one of the largest conventional dairy and soy companies in the world."

Another fascinating and informative conversation centered around the Food Politics: A New Farm Bill for 2011 can be heard at
http://kuow.org/program.php?id=22732 Dan Imhoff, author of "Food Fight: The Citizen's Guide to a Food and Farm Bill" speaks and it gives us the history - how Big Ag took over and what is missing now.

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healthierkitchen
healthierkitchen March 2, 2011

Lately, during this farm market down time, I do most of my shopping at a small, local organic market that looks kind of like a coop but is privately owned. Small enough local business that the owner is accountable. Produce is really well marked with origin though not all local, esp. at this time of year. Milk, cheese, meat and eggs from local farms available. A nearby coop has similar items. Don't know if there is a coop or smaller market near you, but that helps some.

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pierino
pierino March 2, 2011

Okay, back on my laptop again. The rules for "certified organic" were written to suit big time agribusiness; and I've talked to genuine organic farmers about this. There is an economy of scale that goes with paying the fees and doing the paperwork in order to get the lable. Example, one of the most respected organic farms in Southern California, Coleman Family out of Carpenteria simply calls their stuff chemical free and the local restaurants flock to their stand at the Santa Monica Farmers market. But I've heard this from others as well. This was a standard written by lobbyists to benefit guess who?
Frankly I don't have a problem with organic products grown in Mexico. It's the "certified" part that is troubling. If your name ends in Midlands Daniel you already know what I'm talking about.

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Bevi
Bevi March 2, 2011

The safest way to steer clear of the agribusiness empire is to get to know your local suppliers and ask questions about their agricultural practices. Pierino is absolutely correct that the biggies buy up organic manufacturers to add to their portfolios. That's currently where the money is. Joining a CSA is a good way to support local enterprises. The counterpoint to this debate is we have become accustomed to using "fresh" ingredients. It is unlikely that there will be strict guidelines for organic certification in this country any time soon. It is not advantageous to the interests of the food industry, who generally views federal regs as costing money and taking away from the margin.

And to add to this issue, there is the recent legislation allowing the unlimited growth of GMO alfalfa. GMO seeds are a threat to biodiversity. First corn, then soy, and now this. Our food chain is unfortunately directly connected to the political interests that are in turn connected to agribusiness.

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thirschfeld
thirschfeld March 3, 2011

I hate to say it and I am going to catch grief for this I am sure but if your vegetables look pretty without any little bug holes one of two things is going on. It is being sprayed with something, and if it is "organic" pesticide they have to spray many more times than traditional sprays in order for it to work or they are using miles of row cover that is made from polyester and is very delicate and often one time use only. Where does that material go?. I am not convinced that chemicals, organic or not are not good. Well maybe three it could be grown in a green house but then there are issues there involving pollination. Personally I have become a believer in eat more vegetables irregardless whether they are organic or not, but try to be conscientious of how they were grown and how far they are traveling which we all know and I am now I am preaching to the converted. It seems to me the food thing is starting to be like bunch of hovering church deacons and I will tell you I have never felt guilty for having a hangover on Sunday just as I refuse to feel guilty for eating fois gras or asparagus at New Year Eve dinner.

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pierino
pierino March 3, 2011

As Paula Wolfert remarked, "I'd rather be a force fed duck than a Zacky chicken." Bring on the foie gras. And I could I have a side of fried pig ears with that?

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healthierkitchen
healthierkitchen March 3, 2011

I think the issue is not whether we choose organic, local, large farm/small farm so much as it is that as consumers, we should be able to make educated, personal choices. All of us here care greatly about food and what we eat and, yet, we will all have different tolerance/desire for local, domestic, organic, etc. Whatever each of us chooses should not be a subject of dispute as it's a personal choice. However, when labeling is confusing and/or misleading, our efforts to make our choices are hampered. When we are lucky enough to be able to purchase directly from producers and when our suppliers know their producers, it's great. However, when I do make purchases from a supermarket, it is frustrating and takes lots more time to read labels carefully. Some stores are better than others at taking care with their signs. Often at one particulare store near me, the display sign will say that the origin is USA and then the package says Mexico or Chile. Can I read the package? Yes. Will I miss that sometimes? Yes. Will I buy the scallions from Mexico? Maybe. But I want to make that choice myself.

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ChefDaddy
ChefDaddy March 3, 2011

I like to live and do as my great grandfather and grandfather would do. I grow all my own veggies and fruits. And raise all my own meat (foul, beef, pork, lamb). The idea being is to not rely on anyone including the gov't. In doing this you have to plan your menu and change habit's. In march we don't always get what we want and grow winter crops and live with what we have. Canning was also a big part life in the 19th century and relying on canned veggies was a part of this lifestyle. I personally would rather do this then buy veggies from a country that still uses lead in thier gasoline and pesticides that are no longer legal here. Just like like my ancestors I eat and plan menu's for the season. So what, right? My point is that it is march and to eat accordingly!

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usuba dashi
usuba dashi March 3, 2011

Any product produced under the National Organic Program, whether produced or grown within or outside of the USA, will be certified organic by a NOP accredited certifier. The programme works very nicely, thank you very much. Much better than any other government programme because the organic industry is furious in protecting it's standards that they will not allow the government to mess it up. So, whether the product is produced within the USA or outside, it has more paper trails, more monitoring than anything you can imagine. All Natioanl Organic Standard Board meetings are held in public, allowing public comment . . . of which the National Organic Standards Board listens to and takes very seriously. All of you are welcomed at any time to join our meetings to see how we are protecting the standards. These standards are always being updated . . . .the bar is always being raised to improve the organic industry.

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TiggyBee
TiggyBee March 3, 2011

@usuba dashi - My question was pertaining to USDA certified organic. Not National organic program. Thanks for the info though.

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usuba dashi
usuba dashi March 3, 2011

It is the exact same thing.

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usuba dashi
usuba dashi March 3, 2011

The further expand, the USDA AMS is in charge of the National Organic Program, so USDA certified organic is the same thing.

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TiggyBee
TiggyBee March 3, 2011

I just need to be a better label reader because frozen spinach certified organic, grown in China is not okay with me. Thanks everyone for your answers, I appreciate it!

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innoabrd
innoabrd March 4, 2011

When I managed a farmers' market in London, we had such a chore trying to get customers to understand what the label "organic" means. Strict labeling laws in the UK ensure that if you label food organic and it isn't certified by the Soil Association, you're liable for some hefty fines. BUT, organic just isn't feasible for a lot of small producers, which includes the majority of farmers' market vendors, some of whom FAR exceed the requirements for organic. The costs of obtaining and maintaining certification only work if you have some scale. I have a friend in Egypt who grows olives and some of his orchards are certified organic, and for those olives he gets a significant premium, but he has to fly inspectors in from Italy twice a year...

Here in South Africa, the term is mostly meaningless because there's little enforcement. Every little market calls itself an "organic" market.

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healthierkitchen
healthierkitchen March 7, 2011

Just read on Marion Nestle's blog Food Polictics that the USDA recently revoked the accredidation of 2 agencies that certify organics due to some flaws in their procedures: Certified Organic (COI) and Guaranteed Organic Certificiation Agency (GOCA).

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