Published November 22, 2012
Oprah Winfrey is going organic. The media mogul and highly popular TV personality has filed for trademarks for “Oprah’s Organics,” “Oprah’s Harvest,” and “Oprah’s Farm.” Oprah owns hundreds of acres of arable land in Maui, Hawaii, where she is expected to plant crops for her brands. Can we expect to see the billionaire Winfrey wearing farmer coveralls, and leaning on a hoe with a stalk of hay in her in her mouth? Not likely.
So what does Oprah’s introduction into the world of organics mean? Is this just celebrity flash? No. Ever since the passage of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1991, organics have gathered steam. Small companies in the organic food industry like Muir Glen, Stonyfield Farm, Earth’s Best baby food, Green and Blacks chocolate and the Whole Foods 365 brand have gone big. Large companies like Kraft, Smucker and Dean Foods have acquired organic companies, seeing a more sustainable food future. Investment firms including American Capital, Booth Creek Management Group, and Solera Capital have invested in organic brands. Oprah’s recent moves only reaffirm that organic foods are here to stay, and that everybody wants in.
While only 2 percent of foods produced in the U.S. are organic, this is still a lot of food. Organic foods, produced without the use of agrichemicals like pesticides, fungicides and synthetic fertilizers, are grown in a way that enhances soil fertility and protects both farmers and consumers. Farmers of sprayed foods typically have higher rates of cancer than the national average. But organic farmers are not exposed to those hazardous toxins, and thus are possibly at lower risk. Since 2002 organic foods have been regulated under the USDA certified organic program. All organic farmers and producers of organic foods are required to comply with strict standards of food production, to keep records of methods used, and are subject to federal inspections.
While organic food producers are not allowed to say that their foods are safer or more nutritious, independent analyses have consistently shown significantly lower pesticide residues in organic foods, and higher levels of nutrients as compared with foods grown with agri-chemicals.
Chefs worldwide have flocked to organic foods, from famous Berkeley, Calif., chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, to Philadelphia's Iron Chef Jose Garces, to Washington D.C. restaurateur Nora Pouillon. The word is out – organic foods taste better. This should come as no surprise. Organic food production builds soil. Fertile soil causes fruits and vegetables and grains and other foods to produce more flavor compounds. More flavor compounds means tastier food.
When First Lady Michelle Obama planted an organic garden on the White House lawn, it wasn’t a stunt; it was a statement. The savvy first lady wants Americans to eat healthier, and she knows that organic foods are safer and healthier. And while the small organic garden at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. is not going to single-handedly change the eating habits of the nation, it’s one more example of changing times.
Organic foods are an important part of a healthier eating plan. Just as pure water and clean air are essential to healthy life, so are foods produced by safer methods. To make your diet more healthy, make the change to organic versions of the foods that are most heavily sprayed, including peaches, apples, strawberries, grapes, cherries, celery, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, and red raspberries. Choose organic milk, as conventional milk contains pesticides, antibiotics and hormones. The same goes for meat.
No single change will guarantee a longer, healthier life. But eating organic foods will make a significant investment in a healthier lifestyle overall. Even Oprah is going organic. It might be wise to follow her lead.
Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at www.MedicineHunter.com.