Organic Food

Introduction

In the modern world, the use of most products from supermarkets is highly questionable in terms of consumers’ health. Industrial ways of growing fruits and vegetables, mushrooms, meat and poultry do not always meet the standards. If you go to the modern supermarket, you will see a great number of foods. However, among all the diversity, there is virtually no product created by nature. All products are made by human hands, or rather created by the food industry. Taking into account that the residents of big cities eat mainly this particular production, it is necessary to know what kind of negative impact it has on the human organism. Thus, more and more natural products named “organic food” in the Western countries are gaining popularity. Nutritionists are sympathetic to organic food and consider it natural and safe. De Laurentiis stated, “Generally defined, “natural” and “organic” mean close to nature and imply a suspicion of factory farming and chemical engineering” (1). This paper will discuss the history of organic food development and its impact on all living beings all over the world.

What Is Organic Food?

The Essence of Organic Agriculture

Organic products are considered to be a new category of products, the production of which does not imply the use of chemical fertilizers, genetic engineering technology, artificial additives and other dubious methods. However, the scientists have not proved yet that organic food is safe for humans and environment. Carroll wrote, “The analysis showed that there was a significantly higher level of antioxidants in organic foods than in conventionally grown foods” (1). A very long time ago fruits and vegetables were grown in the natural environment using natural fertilizers and relying not on the volume of harvest, but on the taste and benefits. But the great industrial revolution armed manufacturers with new means of pest control, growth, ripening accelerators, and other tools of food growth. A lot of farmers have started using food preservatives, colorants and flavor enhancers in order to increase sales of products. As a result, people do not eat natural fruits and vegetables. If consumers knew the truth about the products that they buy, they would probably agree to starve than eat them. However, it is necessary to note that companies should certify all organic foods at least once a year. This procedure is confirmed by a special symbol on the packaging. Due to this legalization, rates of production and consumption of organic products are rapidly increasing around the world. Kroger wrote, “Most people, understandably, claim that they want to eat healthy food, and that organic is a good way to go about it” (1). People are trying to take care of their health more and more, so such kind of food is the best solution for them.

Taking into account scientists’ experiments related to organic food, it is necessary to emphasize that this food supports the state of soils, environment and people. It is obvious because organic food is based on the processes adapted to the local conditions, as well as methods of trying to avoid the adverse effects. Kahl stated, “Organic plant products within the European Union are produced according to a specific set of regulations, which e.g. implicate that organic plants are cultivated without pesticides and synthetically produced nitrogen fertilizers” (26). Thus, the fact that this food is natural and does not have repugnant substances is very important.

Also, organic agriculture joins innovation, tradition, and science in order to benefit from the environment and spread reasonable relationships and a good life quality for all those involved in this system. Moreover, the organic market offers not only organic drinks and foods, but also organic children’s goods, clothes, medical devices, cosmetics, food and pet toys, organic furniture, flowers and so on. According to the Market Research, “The European organic food market had total revenues of $34,800.7m in 2014, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.4% between 2010 and 2014” (1). It is necessary to note that the first organic hotels, where all kinds of food, bed linen and a range of other products were organic, were established in Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Germany in the end of the 1990s. However, organic foods remain the main categories of organic products. All production units of organic food are annually certificated following strict regulations. Both the reduced production of chemical additives, genetic engineering, and a range of other requirements for organic products are inspected. For example, there is a strict regulation concerning the area of residence, special types of food, and everyday walk in the fresh air for organic pets. It is possible to determine organic products by a special marking on the package. In most developed countries there is a widely recognized symbol that certifies the correspondence of production methods to the national requirements. There are several signs on the products which indicate the certification by several organizations.

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The History of the Development of Organic Food

In order to know when the first organic agriculture appeared it is necessary to deeply investigate this subject. There are a lot of facts that confirm the invention of this concept a long time ago. However, it was formed as an independent direction of organic agriculture at the beginning of XX century. Lord Northbourne, the expert on agriculture, was first to introduce the concept of organic agriculture. He described it in his book Take Care of the Earth. Fromartz said, “For most of us, the reason is simple: We want natural food that’s better for us and for the environment” (1). Thus, the natural and healthy food was the main reason why this concept had quickly developed.

Hayes said, “The secret to healthy, organic veggies lies in the soil” (1). All his words were proven by Howard Albert’s researches. This British botanist was one of the organic agriculture founders. His book Agricultural Testament had a great impact on many scientists and farmers. He described the negative impact of chemical fertilizers on the health of animals and plants. Also, he proposed a system of fertilization based on the use of compost from plant residues and manure.

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The first experiment was carried out by Eve Balfour in the UK. By comparing conventional and organic agriculture she wanted to show a perceptible difference between them. Four years later she published her famous book Living Soil. Due to this work the most well-known organizations specializing on organic agriculture, namely the Soil Association, were founded. According to the article “Facts about Organic Food”, “There is an extremely strict list of permitted ingredients to ensure that nothing harmful or potentially harmful will be found in organic food” (1). Thus, this organization could allay fears concerning this food.

It is necessary to note that Rudolph Steiner made an important contribution to the development of organic farming and created the first comprehensive work devoted to organic agriculture “Spiritual and scientific basis of the successful development of agriculture”. He favored the development of biodynamic agriculture. It is a kind of organic agriculture that includes all the principles and standards of organic farming, and affects the cosmic rhythms and spiritual aspects.

In order to save soil Louis Bromfield conducted an experiment and published his book Pleasant Valley. He described his agrarian experience in Ohio, USA. Bromfield was an active supporter of the farming practices that were aimed at promoting soil conservation. Due to his research, it was real to support ideas given by Howard. Moreover, he described his experience concerning organic agriculture on his farm in the book The Farm in Malabar, published in 1948.

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However, Jerome Irving Rodale was the most influential discoverer of new ideas concerning organic food in the US. Rodale was one of the first scientists who popularized the term “organic agriculture”. In 1942, he founded the magazine Organic Farming and Gardening. Then, he published a very interesting magazine Prevent, which was one of the popular publications. Due to this research, the philosophy of organic farming was set out. In 1954 his son, Robert Rodale, became the head of his father’s business. Unlike his father, he put emphasis on the fact that organic products were very healthy. He also considered social and environmental benefits of such kind of production. In 1971 Robert founded a research center, which is currently called the “Rodale Institute Experimental Farm”. Furthermore, according to DeCostole, “Organic agriculture is a production method that emphasizes the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality” (1). This statement also proves the importance of development in this direction.

In Japan, organic agriculture was developed about 100 years ago. Mokichi Okada, the Japanese philosopher, contributed to its development. He paid special attention to the so-called “natural agriculture”. Its principles largely correspond to the current organic farming. Masanobu Fukuoka, the Japanese farmer, was one of the initiators of organic agriculture. He practiced new farming techniques, where he did not use fertilizers and pesticides”. Sometimes, this method is perceived as the one that has no effect in terms of subsistence agriculture. Imus wrote, “A Stanford University study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine last week showed that eating organic products and meat reduces the consumer’s level of pesticide ingestion and exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria” (1). This statement is the second confirmation of this theory. Also, he found a natural approach in agriculture and created a revolution of one straw.

Production of Organic Food in the World

Robinson stated, “Instead of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, organic farmers rely on biological diversity in the field to naturally reduce habitat for pest organisms” (1). Therefore, organic agriculture is practiced in almost 140 countries around the world. In 1998, there were about 8 million hectares of organic farmland, and in 2006, this number was increased to more than 30 million hectares. Now there are more than 700 thousand organic farms in Australia, China, Argentina, the USA, Italy, Uruguay, Spain, Brazil, Germany, and the UK. All these countries are considered to be leaders in the area of organic farmland.

According to the research of the Mayo Clinic Staff, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established an organic certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards” (1). That is why there are a lot of hectares of land under the certified organic wild plants in Asia and Africa, while in Africa the area of organic agricultural land without wild plants equals to one million hectares. The wild plants play the most significant role among the organic berries, mushrooms and medicinal plants. Wild plants, not being a part of the agriculture, are included in the analysis of the global market for organic food.

The share of organic land as a part of the total agricultural land occupies a low level of the total area of agricultural land in the world. The states of Western Europe are the leaders in this regard. Taking into account the percentage rating, Liechtenstein occupies the first place by far, as in this country every three hectares of agriculture are organic. It is necessary to note that such countries as Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Estonia, Greece, Portugal, Sweden, Latvia and the Czech Republic have a very developed system of this kind of food.

The structure of the organic land is similar to the structure of the agricultural land in the world. Pastures occupy most part of the land, and permanent crops occupy the rest of it. Willer wrote:

According to the latest survey, almost 31 million hectares of agricultural land are managed organically (data as of end 2005). This constitutes 0.7 % of the agricultural land of the countries (123) covered by the survey. In total, Oceania holds 39% of the world’s organic land, followed by Europe (23%) and Latin America (19%). (1)

Thus, the amount of land occupied by organic food is quite significant.

The Reasons that Facilitated Interest to the Problems of Modern Methods of Food Production

The concept of sustainable development covering various spheres of human activity is also related to the world agriculture to some extent. The phenomenon of organic agriculture is a direct evidence of this fact. Problems of environmental management and the provision of safe and healthy food products are especially relevant in today’s society. In XX century owing the emergence of new technologies it was possible to increase productivity in agriculture, reduce production costs, improve quality and significantly increase the shelf life of products. However, many aspects of these achievements remain insufficiently studied. They can be hazardous for human health and cause irreversible changes in the environment.

There were a number of negative impacts of agricultural pesticides and other chemicals in the 1970s-80s. It has become clear that pesticides kill useful insects, and sometimes create excellent conditions for breeding new pests. When applying pesticides, the farmer’s health is at risk. It is estimated that each year agricultural chemicals kill 200 thousand men. Some pesticides remain in food and are absorbed by the human body. Many of them are very resistant to degradation, getting into the environment. Anyway, they are in the human body and negative effects become obvious only after some time. Some pesticides can cause chronic diseases, abnormalities in newborns, cancer and other diseases. Pesticides contaminate ground water and drinking water. Thus, their spread can become uncontrolled. These circumstances lead to the fact that some pesticides have already been banned in developed countries. However, their use is practically unlimited in developing countries.

In the 80-s of the previous century the world saw the development of genetic engineering technologies, which immediately found their way into the US agriculture, and later in other developed and developing countries. Currently, there is much debate about the safety of transgenic plants and animals in agriculture. However, Wright said, “According to the Organic Trade Association, 78 percent of American families purchase organic foods” (1). Taking into account the data of the international concern Monsanto, a leader in the field of genetically modified plants, there are no scientific cases that would confirm the negative impact of transgenic plants on human health, despite almost a 20-year history of their use in the United States and other developed countries. However, many experts believe that enough time has not passed yet so it is not possible to draw definitive conclusions about their safety. It is possible that the negative consequences will affect future generations.

These and many other examples of the problems of modern methods of food production indicate that people are more likely to be forced to take into account the quality of consumed food. In developed countries, where the consumer has enough financial resources and are willing to pay for his/her health and environmental safety of the planet, a new direction, namely organic farming is being actively developed.

Certification of Organic Agriculture

Over the past 10-12 years, organic food has become a separate business sector. It appeared in the developed countries as an important economic and political factor. Currently, major producers of organic products are Australia and the European Union. Speaking about Eastern Europe, Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland have become leading producers of organic products. In Europe, organic products are very popular and are in great demand. In most countries, a lot of organic foods are sold in shops. However, in Japan there is a system of direct deliveries, according to which about a million customers have signed contracts implying constant supply of organic products bypassing the shops.

In the modern society, an ordinary consumer is faced with a huge challenge of what food to choose. Therefore, it becomes difficult to make a choice: which products are useful and which ones are of poor quality; what products are suitable, and what products cannot be eaten because of personal or religious beliefs. For this reason, some of the products have their marking, which means that these products have been tested. Currently, most countries have their own regulatory system in the field of organic agriculture, which includes not only the requirements for methods of production, but also processing, packaging, and storage of products. Nowadays, there is a wide range of organizations for certification of products, all of which issue a certificate for products with specific requirements for production. Thus, certification is a certain safety factor ensuring that the customer receives exactly the product he/she expects to receive. The demand for organic products is still being developed in some countries. Countries where their own rules of organic agriculture are absent can certify organic food with the help of foreign authorities with the ability to use their sign on the package.

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In 1972, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements was established. In 1980, this organization published its first standards, which became a basis for the creation of state standards and inspection systems. Many organic products with different signs of certification have an additional inscription IFOAM ACCREDITED, which confirms the fulfillment of basic international requirements in the field of organic farming, though it is not a requirement. In 1963, the governments around the world also established an international organization, namely the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

The label must have a certain indicator with a sign including a code of controlling authority and the place of cultivation of agricultural raw materials from which these products have been made, as well as the name of the certification body. A code of control body consists of: a country code following the international standards, the concept of “organic production” and a cipher assigned by an empowered authority. This organic logo of the EU can be found in the relevant European production standards regarding organic products. If a company tries to violate the use of such a mark, it will entail responsibility for the violation of not only the national legislation regulating organic production, but also the intellectual property rights. In addition to the European system of certification of organic products, similar certification is available in English and Japanese. The US National Organic Program certifies and monitors organic producers. Label requirements are applied to raw, fresh and processed foods that contain organic agricultural ingredients.

 

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