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Tips  :   Natural, Organic, Local... What's the difference?
by Katrina Andrews

Living in California, we are constantly bombarded with healthy food alternatives, like Organic, Farm Fresh, All Natural... they all sound good, but what does it all really mean?

Let's break it down:

Organically Grown foods are different from conventional products in the way that they are grown, handled and processed.  It also means that the farm does not use hormones, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetic engineering (or biotechnology), irradiation or antibiotics.  And it must also be tested and certified by the USDA, as organic.  Products can that can be produced organically including produce, grains, meat, dairy, eggs, and processed food products.

Natural Food is not actually a legal term, but it is used to indicate that the food is preservative-free and has been minimally processed.  But Natural does not mean Organic unless it is labeled so.

Locally Grown is food that comes from a farm within a 100 to 250 mile radius.  But again, this does not mean that it is organic unless it has been certified.  But many local farms do not use harmful pesticides and instead use a process called Ecological Balance to prevent soil and pest problems by farming diverse crops that help in pollination and are natural pest controls.  Organic farms also use this process.

Environmental Benefits:
There is a huge environmental benefit to supporting organic and local farms, which do not use harmful hormones or pesticides.  Because their soil is healthier, in turn, the ground water is cleaner and they also help to minimize the greenhouse effect as well as global warming by keeping carbon in the soil.

Though the prices are often higher than grocery stores, the reason behind it is complicated, but the general consensus is that the very wealthy pesticide companies make deals with government agencies to discount farmers who get governmental loans and grants, but the farms who wish to be certified as organic have to endure a very lengthy, complicated and expensive application process and they often do not receive the government grants that non-organic farms get.  In turn, the farm is more expensive to run and the cost is then put upon the consumer.  

Health Benefits:
The pesticides, hormones and synthetics that are used on the food that we consume, is potentially harmful.  Though they are classified as safe, there have been links to certain types of cancers and pesticides.  If you are trying to make healthier food choices, you can start by checking out your local Farmers Markets.  They are a fun family event and a great way to get on a new food path.

If you knew what kinds of hormones and antibiotics are pumped into livestock on non-organic farms, you could very well become a vegetarian before you reach the end of this article.  Being that you cannot buy meats from your local farm, you can check with your local grocery store and Whole Foods markets for organic meats and poultry. Remember to check for the USDA Organic Certification.

Local Benefits:
A big benefit of buying locally is that since the produce does not have to travel very far (if at all) the fruits and vegetables are able to ripen longer before they are picked, making them much fresher.  Food that is picked too early also reduces the healthy nutrients and local farm produce is often picked fresh daily.  Foods, even organic foods, that come from the grocery store spend days sometimes weeks on trucks being transported from state to state.

By buying local, you are benefiting farmers who have probably been there for generations and you are also supporting the local community.  And though the prices may be higher for these products, the piece of mind is priceless!

(Sources: the National Organic Program & USDA Organics)

Katrina Andrews is a mother of two, a screenplay writer and
the author of, Cool! You're Pregnant! The Handbook for
the Busy Woman
.  You can visit her website at coolyourpregnant.com

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