Organic Certification: Why it's so important

Organic Certification: Why it's so important

Today is World Environment Day. In honor of it, I’d like to take a moment to tell you why I’ve worked so hard to obtain organic certification for Teeccino’s ingredients, both in the US and in foreign countries. Protecting yourself and your loved ones from pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and other toxic chemicals requires testing food ingredients to ensure their safety. Organic certification requires such testing. If you have any doubt in your mind about whether you should support organically grown foods and herbs, let me help dispel it with the stories of my experiences searching for the healthiest ingredients for Teeccino and discovering why organic certification and laboratory testing is so necessary!

The necessity of testing food crops for chemicals

My goal to get organic certification for Teeccino began when I tested a sample of carob pods for pesticides in the early 2000’s.

Carob trees are a member of the legume family, a hardy species that grows wild in the Mediterranean. I had always felt confident that no one ever sprays these wild trees, why would they? I was shocked to get a test result on this sample showing unacceptable levels of malathion, a frequently used agricultural pesticide and insecticide. That was the beginning of my understanding that without organic certification backed up by laboratory testing for toxic chemicals, I couldn’t be certain about the history and purity of the ingredients I was buying for Teeccino.

I also had a big eye opener with a mint crop grown here in the Pacific Northwest that I had exported to a German tea company for many years. Testing was done every year in Europe where at that time, pesticide testing was capable of detecting a much larger number of chemicals at lower detection levels than was being performed by labs here in the US. Although this mint crop was not certified organic, testing had always shown each year’s crop to be acceptable by German standards, which are stricter than those in the US. Suddenly this crop had levels of pesticides and insecticides that were way over the norm and made it completely unacceptable for human consumption. What had happened?

It turns out that this mint crop had the same problem as my carob sample. Both had experienced spray drift from conventional fields that surrounded the area where they were grown. Had these two crops been certified organic, they would have been grown in an area where only organic crops were grown. However, even so, organic crops can be contaminated by spray drift when nearby conventional farmers do aerial spraying during windy days. Another reason testing is so important even for organically grown products!

Organic certification requires laboratory testing for both soil and crop to verify the paperwork submitted by the farmer. Such systems as field checks by inspectors, independent laboratory test verification, and organic agricultural trainings are mandated by the National Organic Program to ascertain that the certified organic food really has been grown without toxic chemicals and synthetic fertilizers.

The benefits of organic certification in rural communities

I’ve seen the benefits of organic training in rural villages which are prey to the promises of big agriculture and its array of so-called wonder chemicals. Rural villagers often can’t read the warnings on the chemical packages or the directions for their safe usage which may not be in the language they speak. I’ll never forget the family that was liberally dusting its corn with DDT hoping to keep their corn inventory bug free during storage. DDT was literally floating down on their heads from the rafters above where they had it stored!

Organic trainers organize workshops in rural villages like these to teach the health benefits of organic agriculture and the best systems for getting better yields from organically grown crops. It has always been the goal of organic trainers to not just approve “organic by default” crops, (i.e., crops that have had no chemical inputs simply because of such chemicals aren’t available in those rural locals). These trainers are true advocates of organic principles whose goal it is to help families achieve better health while growing the best possible organic crops that you and I want to eat or drink.

GMOs, glyphosate and your health

I’m sure you’ve all heard about GMOs and the need to have fully transparent labeling so people can make up their own minds about buying food that contains GMOs. Though our government has made it hard to tell if conventional food has been genetically modified, you can rest assured that organic certification prohibits GMOs. Thus, organic products don’t need dual certification. If you’re buying organic, you’re buying GMO free. Of additional concern is the prevalence of glyphosate, also known as “Round Up”. Monsanto has genetically engineered crops to be resistant to this herbicide so that farmers don’t have to cultivate their fields to eliminate weeds.

The problem is, the “weeds”, which in many cases are herbs beneficial to wild life such as butterflies and bees, are also becoming resistant to Round Up’s weed killing chemical. Now more and more glyphosates are being sprayed on our foods and levels keep rising above EPA regulations for safety for consumption.

So, what does the EPA do? You would think they must conduct safety tests to see if such levels are harmful to humans and the environment, wouldn’t you? Instead, they just quietly raise the levels permissible in foods without independent tests to prove the safety. They took Monsanto’s tests as proof of safety despite the fact that scientists performing tests for Monsanto have been caught falsifying results. In 2013, the EPA raised the levels of glyphosates permissible in carrots 15 times higher than previously allowed and 25 times higher for sweet potatoes! The levels for sesame seeds, flax and soybeans were doubled.

Studies show that glyphosate prohibits some of our beneficial bacteria from growing in our intestines but it doesn’t prohibit the growth of pathogenic or “bad” bacteria like c. botulinum, which is responsible for botulism. Is it a coincidence that gluten sensitivity is on the rise during the exact same years that glyphosates sprayed on crops has increased by hundreds of millions of tons? Could glyphosate be affecting our beneficial microflora leaving our intestines vulnerable to digestive disorders? That’s the latest theory that we’ll be paying attention to as independent scientists continue to explore this association. In the meantime, I’m buying and eating organic foods as much as possible and avoiding GMO crops!

Here are some organizations I recommend supporting to aid their work to improve organic crops and demonstrate the superiority of organic methods of agriculture over chemical agriculture.

The Rodale Institute:

The Organic Center:

Organic Farming Research Foundation:

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