Tag: produce

“Is it organic?”

No those aren’t transformers you’re not about to be Michael Bay-ed. Last week we talked about the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists of produce with the most and least amounts of pesticide residue found on them. And as promised, let’s take a closer look at what exactly that USDA organic label provides (does peace of mind count).

Below is a very useful breakdown from the Mayo Clinic.

What is organic farming?
The word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to meet the following goals:
• Enhance soil and water quality
• Reduce pollution
• Promote a self-sustaining cycle of resources on a farm

Materials or practices not permitted in organic farming include:
• Synthetic fertilizers to add nutrients to the soil
• Sewage sludge as fertilizer
• Most synthetic pesticides for pest control
• Irradiation to preserve food or to eliminate disease or pests
• Genetic engineering, used to improve disease or pest resistance or to improve crop yields

Organic crop farming materials or practices may include:
• Plant waste left on fields (green manure), livestock manure or compost to improve soil quality
• Plant rotation to preserve soil quality and to interrupt cycles of pests or disease
• Cover crops that prevent erosion when parcels of land are not in use and to plow into soil for improving soil quality
• Mulch to control weeds
• Predatory insects or insect traps to control pests
• Certain natural pesticides and a few synthetic pesticides approved for organic farming, used rarely and only as a last resort in coordination with a USDA organic certifying agent

Me again. So what are those benefits? Organically grown crops have been shown less likely to contain pesticides and 48% less likely to test positive for cadmium (toxic heavy metal). The jury seems to be out on whether organic compared to conventionally grown impacts the level/quality of nutrients in the produce. As mentioned last week it’s a good idea to give produce a good rinse before consuming; it may also be a good idea to peel/remove the outer layer of conventionally grown produce that made the Dirty Dozen to limit pesticide ingestion. This may in turn then decrease the level of nutrients the produce provides. Next post, let’s explore the research on pesticides.




Food Waste

Man vs. food waste

“My lifetime ratio of bananas purchased to bananas eaten is running about 5 to 1,” once tweeted Conan O’Brien.

As many of us can probably relate, the road to good healthy eating intentions is paved with browning fruit and wilted vegetables. We sigh and resolve to eat those perishables just a few days sooner next time. (The mega-pack of strawberries seemed like such a good idea at the grocery store, right?)

Food waste not only is a waste of money, but contributes to global warming as well. Food, if not composted, can end up in landfills where it decomposes and emits greenhouse gases.

The thought of throwing out food that we’ve paid money for doesn’t seem enough to make us change our eating habits, though.

As an NPR piece on the environmental effects of food waste points out, the “average family is responsible for about 1,800 pounds of emissions from food waste” a year. To put that in perspective, that’s a fifth of the emissions produced by an average car.

This strikes me as another problem—much like healthy eating—that will require more community and population-level interventions to combat. If guilt over wasted food and money and exhortations to stop wasting food were enough to stop the problem, we’d be there already.

Some ideas on how to reduce food waste:

  • Increase access to local food that hasn’t been shipped for days or weeks already
  • Provide community or neighborhood incentives for composting
  • Ask retailers to provide food in smaller packages or allow shoppers to buy items by the pound instead of packaged
  • Provide incentives for people to buy appliances or other devices that can help them store food longer (canning supplies, freezers, etc.)

These are just a few ideas. Have more of your own to share? Please feel free to leave a comment.

If you’re interested in how we can reduce corporate food waste, you may also wish to read more about “Freegans,” a group of people who go to dumpsters to reclaim unspoiled food thrown out by retailers.

Image credit: Bleu Man