Most of us wouldn’t describe ourselves as activists. We don’t have enough time to join rallies, or enough money to make donations, but the truth is we make a political statement every time we go shopping. With everything we buy we are saying “I support this product and how it was made.”
Lately I’ve been seeing more and more items at the grocery store with a big “O” on them; Organic pasta sauce, Organic cereal, Organic butter. They are some sort of store-brand, generic, organic product line. I have begun buying them whenever I find them. Even if they cost a few more cents, I feel those few cents are my way of supporting organic farming, which I firmly believe is better for the environment and the long term sustainability of our food crops.
As these products become more prevalent, I have found myself wondering what requirements exactly have to be fulfilled for a product to be considered “organic.”The USDA had a wealth of information on their website.
In 1990 the National Organic Program was established to set national standards for organic foods. The USDA describes organic food as “…produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.” There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the overarching idea. By law, only food producers who meet the standards set by the 1990 Organic Food Production Act can put “USDA Certified Organic” on their labels.
That’s all well and good, but do the “O” brand organic products have the USDA stamp of approval? I couldn’t remember ever seeing the phrase “USDA Certified Organic,” so I pulled out a jar of pasta sauce I bought recently and looked closely for the first time. There on the bottom right hand corner of the label was the tiny USDA ORGANIC logo. So now we know. The logo is the thing to look for. It’s an easy and relatively cheap way of making an environmental statement.
One last quick note on the organics front. There has been some trouble surrounding this issue in Washington in the past year. Big companies have lobbied for (and won) the right to put the organic label on their products, even though they don’t contain organic ingredients. For example, Anheuser Busch can now sell its Organic Wild Hops Beer without using any organic hops at all.
If you would like to contribute your voice to the protests against the degradation of the organic stamp of approval, the Organic Consumers Association has everything you need to know, and a form to make emailing your representatives very easy. Sassy mommas unite!