Organic Food Can Go Mainstream in Coming Years
Organic foods have become more popular in the US in recent years as food safety stories regularly cross the news, and consumers reconsider what they are willing to eat. For many the choice to purchase USDA certified organic products is a combination of knowledge and access, as well as a desire for more healthy foods.
What is Certified Organic?
The Certified USDA Organic program is a system of regulations managed by the United States Department of Agriculture that lets consumers know that in the growing of the food being purchased, no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers were used (none, or less than 5 percent exposure). It also confirms that there are no artificial preservatives or additives, and that the food has not been subject to irradiation. Choosing organic products encourages farmers towards good ecology. It promotes less groundwater pollution, less soil erosion, improved farm biodiversity, and enriched soil - which can be, in part, drought-resistant. Products certified 95 percent or more organic can display the USDA sticker.
The USDA organic standards are based on the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and amended though Public Law 109-97 in 2005. Their purpose was to establish national standards "governing the marketing of certain agricultural products" as organically produced, assure consumers that "organically produced products meet a consistent standard," and to "facilitate the commerce" of those organic products.
Organic Food Choices
Many consumers begin with organic produce because it is easy to appreciate the benefits of farm fresh fruits and vegetables. Organic carrots, celery, bananas, spinach, various types of lettuce, and many other items, are widely available.
With typical non-organic produce, growers have washed and rinsed these products before they are distributed to stores, and shoppers are expected to rinse and clean their food before they consume it. But this is placing a great burden on the cleaning process to keep Americans from ingesting potentially dangerous toxins. For many, the better choice is to pay a little more and choose products that were never - or minimally - exposed to these pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers in the first place.
Obviously there is the question of access when it comes to purchasing organic products. Some stores may only carry organic milk in the dairy aisle, but few other choices. Other food items like organic breads, hot and cold breakfast cereals, and a range of sweeteners such as cane sugar and raw organic honey are commonly available in the certified organic variety.
Costs Coming Down
As more Americans select natural and organic foods, the cost of that choice should come down by economies-of-scale. Whole Foods Markets was one of the first mainstream grocery stores to make it possible for consumers to purchase organic products across the country. Most supermarkets had some organic selections, but in recent years chain stores like Supervalu, Kroger, Safeway, Hannaford, Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, and others have dedicated growing floorspace towards natural and organic products. Even big-box stores like Target, Wal-Mart, and others are devoting considerable store space to food, with increasing organic choices.
Organic foods can go mainstream in coming years with wider access, growing consumer awareness, and more demands in society for healthy food choices.