Buying organic products is one simple lifestyle change you can make that can reduce your carbon footprint. You are, after all, purchasing items from manufacturers that must adhere to standards “manage plant and animal materials to maintain or improve soil organic matter content.” There are a few things the smart consumer must bear in mind.
The Nuances of Organic
In order for a product to qualify as organic, it must meet the USDA-approved standards that are recommended by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). When you buy foods labeled “Certified Organic,” you can be sure that this is indeed the case.
However, many product lines are not regulated by the USDA. Yet, they still use terminology that implies approval. You’ll see this with personal care products and pet foods. To their credit, these industries have developed standards for their products. They may use certified-organic ingredients, but the USDA does not regulate them as they do food products.
The Fox in the Henhouse
Some concerns have been raised regarding NOSB and their approval process. The nonprofit Cornucopia Institute questioned the presence of Big Ag representatives on the board. In some respects, organic agriculture is the enemy of Big Ag. Is this an example of allowing the fox in the henhouse, as it were?
Similar objections have been raised to a USDA plan to allow poultry farmers to inspect their own slaughter facilities. The proposal explains that money can be saved by moving toward privatized inspection. The concern lies with the potential conflict between inspection speed and risks to food safety.
Both scenarios warrant public scrutiny. While not a direct implication of issues, these actions may interject bias that has no place in the arena of food safety. The agricultural industry is under increased pressure with rising demand and negative impacts on supplies caused by drought conditions.
However, perhaps especially because of these factors, the industry must not sway from the clearly-defined paths of food safety and organic certification. Rather, it must keep to strict adherence despite increased pressures.
The smart consumer, therefore, should stay informed. While legislation has not required it, some manufacturers, for example, have begun adopting labeling such as GMO ingredients to provide consumers with information to make informed choices. It is up to you to stay current with the industry.