Chapter 2 – Organic or Commercial, Is There a Difference?

“When grocery shopping for yourself and your parrots have you wondered about the nutritional value of the fresh fruits and vegetables you’re purchasing? Why do organic grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes cost more? Are the pesticide residues in commercially grown foods really worth avoiding? Does your bird love to crack open raw peanuts in the shell? If so, did you know that if those peanuts were grown commercially they have a higher potential for absorbing the chemical fertilizers, soil fumigants, fungicides, and pesticides used during its growing season because peanuts grow underground?

Commercially grown fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes routinely have an overwhelming volume of chemicals used on them on a regular and ongoing basis. These synthetic compounds inundate the plants and penetrate the soil they are grown in. Products used include herbicides, fungicides, and soil
fumigants that sterilize the ground and pesticides that indiscriminately kills all insects—even the beneficial ones. A report in the April 1988 issue of Food Science and Technology Abstracts stated that apples sprayed with pesticides retained 50 to 100 percent of chemical contaminant residues, even after several months in cold storage and a detergent wash.

What is Organic?

When distinguishing commercially grown foods from organic produce, strict growing requirements must be met and maintained. Currently, the standards for organic food vary from country to country and state to state. Read the ingredient labels on all food containers. Foods labeled ‘no spray’, ‘pesticide free’, or ‘residue free’ are not organically grown. Artificial colorings, flavor enhancers, or chemical preservatives, such as ethoxyquin, should not be used in any packaged food labeled ‘organic’.

Because these discrepancies exist it would be wise to familiarize yourself with the specific standards for organic foods in your region. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) has established strict guidelines for its members to follow. You can view their information detailing the development of organic agriculture around the world on their website. The goal of this multinational, nonprofit organization is the worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially, and economically sound agriculture systems that are based on the principles of organic farming practices.

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Biodiversity describes the variation, number, health, and diversity of different living organisms within a given ecosystem. Biodiversity is often used as a measure of the health of biological systems, ecosystems, and environments.

Global Statistics

The latest edition of Organic Farming Worldwide 2007: Overview & Main Statistics, edited by Minou Yussefi and Helga Willer, states that organic agriculture has been rapidly expanding and is now practiced in more than 120 countries around the world. According to their latest survey nearly 31 million hectares of agricultural and farm land are managed organically by at least 633,891 farms.

The figures for global organic agricultural, in descending order, are: Australia/Oceania: 11.8 million hectares, Europe: 6.9 million hectares, Latin America: 5.8 million hectares, Asia: 2.9 million hectares, North America: 2.2 million hectares, and Africa: .9 million hectares. These statistics do not include noncertified organic hectares that would raise these numbers even higher.

This study also documents the registered areas of organic wild collection lands. The largest collection areas exist in Europe and Africa and cover about 62 million hectares. The most important foods harvested in these areas are bamboo shoots, fruits, berries, and nuts.

When we add the registered organic wild collection areas to the global statistics the total figure rises to 93 million hectares of organic agricultural land around the world. Organic Farming Worldwide 2007 indicates that the global interest in organically grown foods and products continues to rise. More and more consumers -primarily across North America and Europe—are realizing the personal and global significance of buying organic and they are voting with their money. In an effort to help meet the demands of this trend more farms around the world are converting to sustainable organic agriculture.

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