Breaking Down the Badges:
The Meaning Behind Organic, Non-GMO, and Biodynamic
Eating healthy isn’t as simple as it should be. A slew of food products fill store shelves today, each with its own proclamations of unsurpassed nourishment for your body. Between the claims of “non-GMO”, “organic”, and even “biodynamic”, how can you find the kind of pure food that’s best for you and the planet? Obscure terms and vague claims can make it hard to know what you’re really buying, but this article will break them down to the basics.
What is Organic?
In essence, organic products are grown without synthetic chemical additives in pesticides and fertilizers, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Since 2001, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has regulated the ways the term ‘organic’ can be used, meaning that anything with an organic label goes through an extensive certification process.
For this reason, organic food is grown using farming practices that preserve, protect and sustain the natural environment. The overall goal of organic farming is to build up soil fertility using compost, crop rotation and biological pesticides. Unlike conventional farms that rely on unsustainable inputs like synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, organic farms strive to improve the natural environment with every season.
While organic farming far surpasses conventional methods for sustainability, many people feel that the term isn’t regulated enough to be meaningful. Oftentimes, large organic farms can legally comply with regulations without acting much different than the conventional farms next door. Many organic farms also rely on chemical pesticides like Bt and other measures that compromise the long-term sustainability of their land, meaning that unless you know exactly how your food was grown, choosing organic isn’t a foolproof way to get pure food.
The Meaning Behind Non-GMO
Though the term “Non-GMO” has exploded in popularity in recent years, few people know what it really means. Put simply, a genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism that has been altered through genetic engineering. DNA technology is used to combine molecules from multiple organisms in new ways to create unique genes, which are then transferred into living cells. In this way, scientists can take the traits of one species (like pesticide resistance) and add it to a crop to increase its productivity in farm fields.
While the rise of genetic engineering has created crop species that can withstand droughts, pests and other challenges, there has been intense backlash against their use. Many people believe that the research on the long-term impacts of GMO food is incomplete and that they contribute to health problems like allergies. Others worry that the altered genes will make their way into wild plant populations and permanently change the ways they work for the worse.
For this reason, ‘non-GMO’ is a popular advertising term for health food today. However, it is unregulated because the FDA doesn’t have set standards about what it entails, meaning that some foods labeled “non-GMO” actually contain GMO ingredients. Equally troubling, non-GMO labels tell you nothing about how the plants are grown, meaning that non-GMO plants can be raised on a heavy diet of ecosystem-damaging synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Biodynamic Foods: A Step Towards Wellness
Coming from the Greek words for “life” and “force”, biodynamic agriculture is holistic, ecological method of regenerative agriculture that goes beyond the rest. While biodynamic growing is concerned with using compost and natural pest control methods, it also takes into account the impacts of celestial features, including the gravitational pull of the moon. By treating farms like living organisms, biodynamic farming is a system-based method of cultivation that is invested in sufficiency and sustainability from the soil up.
Though similar to other forms of sustainable growing, biodynamics goes beyond organic food. A key component of biodynamic growing is following a triple bottom line approach that takes into account the ecological, social, and economic sustainability of farming practices. In this way, biodynamic farmers strive to improve the communities they work in, often through the farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs.
Today, biodynamic farming is practiced in over 50 countries around the world. Demeter International is the predominant form of certification for biodynamic farms today, and certification includes stringent requirements. To qualify, farms must have 10 percent of their acreage set aside as a biodiversity preserve, diversity in their crop rotations, and a two-year limit on annual plantings in the same field. All biodynamic certified food is completely organic and non-GMO, meaning that it’s grown only in ways that improve the natural world.
Choosing Biodynamic Wellness for Health
At White Leaf Provisions, our team is committed to providing you with the best food available, which is why we are passionate about biodynamics. Working directly with nature provides the healthiest food with the biggest benefits for the planet, which is why our goal is to play a key role in improving the options and accessibility of biodynamic food in North America.
Head over to White Leaf Provisions and read more about their mission that healthy food starts with healthy soil.