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Organic foods are made according to certain production standards, meaning they are grown without the use of conventional pesticides and artificial fertilizers, free from contamination by human or industrial waste, and processed without ionizing radiation or food additives. If livestock are involved, they must be reared without the routine use of antibiotics and without the use of growth hormones, and generally fed a healthy diet. In most countries, organic produce may not be genetically modified.
Organic food production is a heavily regulated industry, distinct from private gardening. Currently, the European Union, the United States, Canada, Japan and many other countries require producers to obtain special certification in order to market food as organic within their borders.
Processed organic food usually contains only organic ingredients. If non-organic ingredients are present, at least a certain percentage of the food's total plant and animal ingredients must be organic (95% in the United States and Australia) and any non-organically produced ingredients are subject to various agricultural requirements. Foods claiming to be organic must be free of artificial food additives, and are often processed with fewer artificial methods, materials and conditions, such as chemical ripening, food irradiation, and genetically modified ingredients.
They may also be required to be produced using energy-saving technologies and packaged using recyclable or biodegradable materials when possible.
Several surveys and studies have attempted to examine and compare conventional and organic systems of farming. The general consensus across these surveys is that organic farming is less damaging for the following reasons:
Organic farms do not consume or release synthetic pesticides into the environment — some of which have the potential to harm soil, water and local terrestrial and aquatic wildlife.
Organic farms are better than conventional farms at sustaining diverse ecosystems, i.e., populations of plants and insects, as well as animals.
When calculated either per unit area or per unit of yield, organic farms use less energy and produce less waste, e.g., waste such as packaging materials for chemicals.
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The Future of Food
The Psychological Benefits of Gardening
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The Whole Truth About Milk
Growing Produce Almost Everywhere
Get Rid of the Lawn, Plant Your Own Vegetables
Farmers markets bloom at hospitals
Shopper's Guide to Pesticides
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