The following are the answers to a selection of your questions on organic food, from Stonyfield Farm CEO and co-founder Gary Hirshberg and author Sam Frommartz, of "Organic, Inc."
Question: When do you expect the supply of organic food to reach the demand so that prices can come down? -- Susan in Bellevue, Wash.
Sam Fromartz: Since it takes three years to convert a conventional farm to organic production, expect continued supply shortages ahead. To fill the gap, food companies will source more organic agricultural goods from overseas, but demand is growing globally.
In the meantime, consumers can save money by buying seasonally. When certain vegetables or fruits are in season, the organic versions may even cost less than conventional. You may also save money by buying direct from an organic farm through a seasonal subscription. This type of program is known as a CSA -- community supported agriculture.
Question: How do you certify something is organic if it is grown in countries like Mexico or even China? Does the USDA certify each producer or is there a 3rd party organization that is certifying organics in developing countries? -- Ralph in Baltimore, Md.
Gary Hirshberg: By U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations, any organic ingredient we use in our USDA certified organic products -- no matter what country it comes from -- must meet the U.S. organic standards. That means the products must be grown and processed under the same standards required in the U.S. and inspected and certified by a certifier accredited by the USDA. There are approximately 95 USDA organic accredited certification agencies world wide, 40 of them foreign.
For more information, explore these links:
Question: What are the benefits of baby organic food? How do other moms feel about it? I have a 6-month-old and I debate if I should feed her organic or the regular baby food. -- Dana in Riverdale, N.J.
Hirshberg: Moms are a major part of the surging growth of organic! Having a baby is a natural time when people start thinking about what they are eating and how it affects their health.
In the case of organic dairy foods for babies and toddlers, Stonyfield Farm offers the popular YoBaby line. It is made with milk from cows that were fed organic feed and have not been treated with antibiotics or artificial growth hormones, and the fruits and grains in our products were grown without the use of toxic and persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Is organic better for your baby? Dr. William Sears, pediatrician and best-selling author, recommends organic foods for babies and toddlers. In his latest book, "The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood" (Little Brown, 2006), he notes that growing kids "are more vulnerable to the carcinogenic risks of pesticides." Further, he states, "Pesticides are stored in fat, and young children, especially infants and toddlers, have proportionately more body fat than do adults -- thus, more potential for storing toxins."
Studies have shown that residue from pesticides have been found in startling amounts in children. In 2002, a University of Washington study found that children who ate mostly organic produce had far lower levels of pesticide residues in their bodies. We certainly raised our children on organic, and we're happy we did!
More information on this important topic can be found here.