Better For What?

28 Mar

Throughout the section that we read, Pollan looks at the true meaning of what it means for food to be local, organic, and sustainable.  Pollan writes, “Polyface Farm is technically not an organic farm, though by any standard it is more ‘sustainable’ than virtually any organic farm.  Its example forces you to think a lot harder about what these words- sustainable, organic, natural- really mean” (Pollan 2006: 131).

Pollan devotes a large portion of book to question whether or not organic is the best option in relation to health benefits, costs, taste and overall quality.

When we ask the question “Is organic food better?” we must ask “Better for what?”

Taste: According to Pollan, the taste of organic food is not necessarily better; freshly picked conventional produce is bound to taste better than organic produce that’s been riding the interstates in a truck for three days (Pollan 2006: 177).

I completely agree with this.  Eating vegetables from my non-organic garden tastes 100% better than eating organic vegetables bought from my grocery store.

Health: Probably better, but not automatically.  Organic contains little or no pesticide residue- the traces of carcinogens, neurotoxins, and endocrine disruptors now routinely found in conventional produce in meat.  What Pollan can’t prove is that the low levels of these toxins present in these foods will make us sick- give us cancer- but that doesn’t mean that those poisons are not making us sick (Pollan 2006: 177).

At the moment, I don’t think there is enough hard evidence to prove that organic is better for us health wise, although it does seem to make the most sense that the non-use of pesticides etc. is a better option.

Nutritional quality: Over the years there have been sporadic efforts to demonstrate the nutritional superiority of organic produce, but most have foundered on the difficulty of isolating the great many variables that can affect the nutritional quality of a carrot or a potato- climate, soils, geography, freshness, farming practices, genetics and so on (Pollan 2006: 178).

Environment; Farmers who grew it; Public health; Taxpayer: To grow the plants and animals that made up Pollan’s meal, no pesticides found their way into any farm worker’s bloodstream, no nitrogen runoff or growth hormones seeped into the watershed, no soils were poisoned, no antibiotics were squandered, no subsidy checks were written (Pollan 2006: 182).

Organic seems like it is the best in terms of the environment, farmers who grew it, public health and for the taxpayer… but WAIT!

Pollan notes, industrial organic is nearly as drenched in fossil fuel as its conventional counterpart (Pollan 2006: 182).  While it is true that organic farmers don’t spread fertilizers made from natural gas or spray pesticides made from petroleum, industrial organic farmers often wind up burning more diesel fuel than their conventional counterparts: in trucking bulky loads of compost across the countryside and weeding their fields, a particularly energy-intensive process involving extra irrigation and extra cultivation (Pollan 2006: 183).

So is organic really better? WHO KNOWS!



What Are We Really Eating?

27 Mar

Question: What health problems can be linked to modern food production?

Answer: Consumption of harmful toxins and bacteria linked to disease and antibiotic resistance.

Today, modern food production is industrial farming. With industrial farming numerous problems and concerns are created. Numerous opportunities for bacteria, chemicals, and health problems are introduced through industrial farming and into our foods. Yet again, due to lack of knowledge many individuals myself included do not know of these issues. Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma brings to light such problems.

Industrial farming for produce regularly uses synthetic fertilizers, which destroys the quality of the soil. Plants grown in such soils produce products not “any more nutritious than the soil in which they grew”(Pollan 2006:148). It is concerning to think that although we may be eating fresh produce the nutritional quality may in reality be far from what it once used to be. In Pollan’s Omnivores Dilemma he explains that with synthetic manure we threaten to damage the health not only of the soil […] but of the ‘national health’ as well and the health of the creatures that depend on it.

Furthermore, toxic pesticides are often used on crops to ensure high yields and those pesticides work their way into the foods we consume. Alternatively, as a step in the right direction “instead of toxic pesticides, insects are controlled by spraying approved organic agents […] and by introducing beneficial insects like lacewings” (Pollan 2006:159).

Excessive use of antibiotics and chemicals in animal production to prevent parasites, disease and sickness can cause negative health impacts for us who consume them. The residual antibiotics we consume in industrially produced meats can cause antibiotic resistance. So when we are ill prescribed antibiotics can become less effective. In addition chemicals used to prevent parasites are often toxic for consumption. On farms such as Polyface mentioned in the Omnivore’s Dilemma the chickens “do a more effective job of sanitizing a pasture than anything human, mechanical or chemical” (Pollan 2006:212). This natural cleansing of pastures keeps the animals on such pastures from having to undergo being treated with “Ivomectrin, a systematic parasticide, […] or worm them with toxic chemicals” (Pollan 2006:212). Farms like Polyface “elimanate: antibiotics, wormers, parasticides, and fertilizers” all of which are toxic and harmful to humans (Pollan 2006:215). Lastly overall products produced on farms such as Polyface “have much lower bacteria counts than supermarket” (Pollan 2006:229).

Eliminating harmful pathogens and chemicals is crucial in maintaining health. Industrial farming should be slowly phased out and farms like Polyface should become the new norm. Good health is worth the price of higher production costs.


What does ORGANIC mean?

27 Mar

The ‘Canada Organic ’ label — is your assurance that the product bearing it has met the Canadian government’s regulatory requirements for organic products.

Organic production prohibits the use of:
  • chemical pesticides,
  • antibiotics,
  • synthetic hormones,
  • genetic engineering and other excluded practices,
  • sewage sludge,
  • cloning animals or using their products,
  • excess processing of foods, artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation.

However, what is more important is what organic agriculture does do for the health of the soil, the environment and everyone in it. Organic farmers cultivate their soil’s fertility and produce healthy food by:

  • rotating their cropsto balance nutrients in the soil, as well as discourage pests
  • composting and using “green” manures to add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil, keep weeds down and prevent drought and soil erosion.
  • using beneficial insects or mechanical and manual methods to control pests and weeds

These methods help to promote essential soil micro-biology, wildlife diversity, prevent pest outbreaks, protect soil from erosion, prevent contamination of water, and use far less energy than conventional farming methods.

Organic certification is a rigorous process that requires producers to adhere to a strict set of standards that go above and beyond all the applicable food safety laws. These include:

  • use of land that has been free of chemicals for at least 3 years,
  • detailed record keeping and regular audits, which means…
  • full food traceability — everything that goes into an organic product has to be documented and traceable
  • routine on-site inspections
Are all of my organic products tested for chemicals? 
No, probably not. This is because “organic” is not only about the final product but about how it was grown and made. Sadly, much of our water, air and soil are already contaminated by chemical residues — organic agriculture is a response to this but it doesn’t mean organic products will always be 100% residue “free”, since nothing can be (at least not until more farmers go organic!). Organic is about more than simply not using chemicals: it’s about rotating crops and building soil life for the future, it’s about treating animals well and many other things you can’t “test” for (which is why we have organic inspectors).


26 Mar

Canadian Organic Standards

25 Mar

Canada Organic Regime: A Certified Choice

Information for Organic Stakeholders

The Canada Organic Regime is the Government of Canada’s response to requests by the organic sector and consumers to develop a regulated system for organic agricultural products. The Organic Products Regulations (the Regulations) define specific requirements for organic products to be labelled as organic or that bear the organic agricultural product legend (logo). The regulations came into effect on June 30, 2009.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for the monitoring and enforcement of the Regulations. Under the Regime, Certification Bodies are accredited based on the recommendation of CFIA designated Conformity Verification Bodies. The Certification Bodies are responsible for verifying the application of the Canadian Organic Standards.

Why do organic products need regulation?

The Canada Organic Regime has been developed to:

  • Protect consumers against misleading or deceptive labelling practices;
  • Reduce consumer confusion about the definition of organic;
  • Facilitate the access of Canadian organic products to foreign markets that require regulatory oversight; and
  • Support further development of the domestic market.

What is an organic product?

An organic product is an agricultural product that has been certified as organic. A product can be certified if it is produced using the methods outlined by the Canadian Organic Standards.

Products that make an organic claim must be certified by a Certification Body that has been accredited, based upon the recommendation of a CFIA designated Conformity Verification Body. The Certification Body must certify the product to the Canadian Organic Standards. The CFIA is working with Conformity Verification Bodies to accredit Certification Bodies under the Canada Organic Regime.

How do products get certified under the new Canada Organic Regime?

Operators must develop an organic production system based on the Canadian Organic Standards and have their products certified by a Certification Body accredited under the Canada Organic Regime.

How do I recognize an organic product?

As of June 30, 2009, any product with an organic claim must comply with the requirements of the Organic Products Regulations.

  • Only products with organic content that is greater than or equal to 95% may be labelled as: “Organic” or bear the organic logo.
  • Multi-ingredient products with 70-95% organic content may have the declaration: “contains x% organic ingredients.” These products may not use the organic logo and/or the claim “Organic”.
  • Multi-ingredient products with less than 70% organic content may only contain organic claims in the product’s ingredient list. These products may not use the organic logo.

Certified organic products must also bear the name of the certification body that has certified the product as organic.

Organic products sold within the province of origin are subject to provincial organic regulations, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations and the Food and Drug Regulations. The provinces of Quebec and British Columbia have organic certification systems in place, while other provinces are considering developing their own system. Owners of products bearing organic claims are expected to demonstrate that the product is organic. All organic products bearing the organic logo or represented as organic in interprovincial and international trade must comply with the Organic Products Regulations.


Logo - Canada Organic Regime

Use of the organic logo is voluntary.

The logo is only permitted on products that have an organic content that is greater than 95% and has been certified according to Canadian requirements for organic products.

Imported products must meet the requirements of the Canada Organic Regime. Should imported products bear the logo, the statement “Product of”, immediately preceding the name of the country of origin, or the statement “Imported from”, must appear in close proximity to the logo or the designations.

Information from:



Jan’s Response

23 Mar

How has the content of Omnivore’s Dilemma been applied to my professional life?

Serving Up The Truth

21 Mar

I strongly believe that the government should take part in all aspects of controlling our food production. From the farm, to our plate, every step is important. Policies should be implemented on what should be shelved at groceries stores and what should not. Our country is so mal-informed, that the majority of the population has no thought process of what goes into their mouths, let alone what they are feeding their children or babies. To have control over the growth of crops and animals is excessive, especially when it takes place in another country, but the process is what defines packaged food from fresh. The chemicals and junk that gets added to preserve shelf live is mind-boggling. Restrictions should be enforced on what is actually safe to eat and what should not even be considered consumable.

The government needs to step up their game and start generating some sort of background checks on where food is coming from and how it was handled. The government needs to feel responsible for the safety of its community, especially when it comes to children. Baby food and “healthy” snacks for kids should be tested first before receiving a stamp of approval so that parents feel safe feeding their young ones food that they trust will benefit them. The government must think about the health and wellness of the future generations.