There are many reasons to go organic – for the health benefits, for the environment. But in general people don’t know a lot about organic foods, and as a result, they have certain misconceptions about them. Here are a few of those misconceptions.
- They believe organic farmers do not use any pesticides at all.
Organic farmers do use pesticides, but the ones that they do use are natural, that is, not synthetic or chemical. The pesticides that they can use are on a list of allowed and prohibited substances published by the National Organic Program, a regulatory body housed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The National Organic Program is tasked with developing national standards for organically-produced foods. The standards are intended to show consumers that foods with the USDA organic seal meet consistent, uniform standards. The regulations do not address food safety.
There are a few exceptions to the synthetic pesticides as well, as long as they do not contaminate the water or soil. These include copper sulfate, lime sulfur, peracetic acid, and chlorine-based pesticides. In addition, organic farmers also use insects, such as lacewings and ladybugs, to eat harmful bugs.
- People believe that organic produce is safe to eat immediately.
Regulations for organic foods don’t always cover bacterial contamination, so it is possible that organic foods may contain salmonella, E. coli, or listeria.
The wind also carries pesticides through the air, so organic produce may contain trace amounts of chemical pesticides carried from other places. Produce should always be washed. Vinegar also kills salmonella and E. coli.
- People believe that only small family farms grow organic foods.
This is generally true, but not all are small. There were about 20,000 organic food producers in 2016, and some of those producers are large farms.
The process required to become an organic farm takes a lot of time and effort. For example, the farmer cannot spray his orchards or fields with synthetic or chemical pesticides for three years before being recognized as organic. The farmer must also present a detailed outline of what substances he will be using on his farm to the National Organic Program to ensure that they are all on the approved list.