How Organic Farming Improves the Food We Eat

in Organic

All farming was originally “organic” – until the discovery of super-phosphate fertilizers in the mid-1700s.  During World War I, the need for increased production saw the introduction of cheap ammonia-based fertilizers, and chemical pesticides were introduced in the 1940s, by which time the “organic movement” had already started.

Organic farming involves crop rotation, including leaving land fallow to regenerate for at least one growing season, and the use of natural fertilizers and pesticides.

The National Organic Program (NOP) contains regulations aimed to protect the public when purchasing organic products and within these regulations are three main areas, agricultural operations, production standards, and crop and livestock criteria.

If any operation wishes to sell any product as being organic, all manufacturers, packers and handling operations must be certified by an agent that these processes are carried out using materials set out in the National List of Allowed Synthetic and Prohibited Non-Synthetic Substances.

These standards require all aspects of organic handling, production and packaging comply with the Organic Foods Production Act.

To apply for certification for crops, a grower must use neither prohibited fertilizers nor pesticides on the land three years prior to planting.  Crop nutrition must be managed by use of certain allowed synthetic products and by organic cultivation methods, which will include crop and animal waste products.

These regulations also apply to any animals raised for meat or milk and poultry used for meat and eggs. No animal can be fed hormones or antibiotics ever but vaccines are allowed to prevent disease. For meat to be certified organic, ruminant animals must have access to grazing and be allowed to live outside, unless certain conditions prohibit it temporarily.

At the processing stage of organic farming, all additional ingredients must be contained in the National List of Allowed Synthetic and Prohibited Non-Synthetic Substances, and care must be taken to prevent organic and non-organic substances from being mixed together.

The reduction of hormones used in the raising of animals may lead to a reduction in human illness, but in the case of chickens used for egg production, it would be impossible for all chickens to be free-range. If organic farming was to be applied to all poultry in the United States, and area would be needed roughly the size of Texas!

With the growing number of mystery illnesses in children, and the increasing amount of cancers in the population, one can only assume that the old saying “you are what you eat” may be true. 

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Vincent Roscoe has 21 articles online

An excellent source of practical advice about food safety systems including produce traceability can be found at

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How Organic Farming Improves the Food We Eat

This article was published on 2011/06/24