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WEB EXCLUSIVE: What is organic food?

(Photo: MGN Online)

(WKEF/WRGT) - Organic foods of all kinds are becoming more popular. Many nutritionists support organic as a healthier option, but many consumers think of it as a more expensive, sometimes less attractive product. In fact, there are many differences that separate organic and conventional products. Here’s a breakdown of the differences from the U.S Department of Agriculture.

HOW IT’S DONE:

PRODUCE: Organic produce is grown without using chemicals or off-farm inputs. Conventional farms on the other hand may use pesticides or synthetic fertilizers to increase crops or control their growth. Organic farmers use green manures and other organic products for their produce. This is not always easy because every single input has to be organic, this includes the soil and the compost. Other rules apply as well such as the water cannot have any sewage runoff. Also, treated wood cannot be used in the garden/farming area for organic products.

The USDA has requirements that control how much of a pesticide can be used on products. They limit the amount of pesticides onto produce in order to limit the amount a consumer eats. They say they keep their limits at safe levels. Organic followers on the other hand argue that no pesticides should be taken in.

MEAT: Organic meat means that the animal was not given any hormones or antibiotics during growth. Organic raised animals are also not allowed to eat Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs. For example, some conventional farmers feed GMO corn to their animals as feed. Instead organic farmers use rotational grazing and mixed forage pastures for their livestock to eat.

For more information on GMOs, click here.

WHY FARM CONVENTIONAL:

A range of tools can be used by conventional farmers to help grow crops and breed animals. Many of such tools fall under the umbrella of “Agricultural Biotechnology.” AB has led to cheaper and more manageable farming, according to the USDA.

Through AB, crops have been genetically changed (hence the name GMO) to be resistant to certain herbicides, which makes weed and pest control easier. Some plants have also been altered to resist diseases and insects. More manageable farming has allowed for increased product and also lower production costs. Also, some crops have been given enhancing traits such as increased beta-carotene in rice.

AB crops make up about 88 percent of corn, 94 percent of cotton and 93 percent of soybeans according to the USDA’s website.

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