A few years ago, nutritionists touted the benefits of very low- or no-fat diets. Nearly every type of cooking oil was caught up in the “bad-for-you” mantra. Research turned the no-fat idea on its head, however, when researchers discovered that healthy bodies require certain types of fat to stay healthy. In fact, the use of cooking oil in moderation is, according to the American Heart Association, part of a heart healthy diet.
To be fair, agricultural crops of the past were laden with pesticides. In recent years, new technologies emerged that greatly reduced the need for pesticides. Many of today’s farmers are further reducing pesticide use with natural forms of pest control. You can purchase cooking oils like olive and cottonseed oil that are certified pesticide-free, kosher, non-GMO, gluten-free and vegan. If you haven’t heard how different today’s cooking oils are, it’s time to learn the truth.
The Organic Revolution
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees certified organic operations. Organic agriculture is a growing method that produces products in ways that preserve the environment, most notably by avoiding pesticides and antibiotics. Organic farmers, food processors and ranchers follow the USDA’s organic standards that outline how crops are grown, livestock raised and materials used. To be certified organic, farms must agree to the following requirements:
- Preserve biodiversity and natural resources.
- Promote animal health and welfare.
- Provide outdoor access for animals to encourage natural behavior.
- No genetically modified ingredients are allowed.
- Organic and nonorganic food is stored and grown separately.
- Undergo yearly on-site inspections.
Organic and certified pesticide-free farmers use a variety of methods to control crop-damaging pests, including insect traps, predator insects, healthy microorganisms and disease-resistant crop selection to provide organic crops free from pesticide residue.
Growing More with Less
Sustainable farming is method of farming that protects the public health, environment and animal welfare. Sustainable farms utilize crop rotation, pasture-based animal husbandry and conservation tillage to develop and support healthy ecosystems. Like certified organic farms, sustainable farms, including those growing cotton, avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides.
Sustainable farming methods promote a wise use of resources. For example, the sustainable farming strategy in drought stricken areas is to grow crops that don’t require irrigation and water crops at the root, thereby reducing evaporation. The prolonged drought in California and the Southwestern United States is a prime example of why the use of water conservation methods is so important.
The difference between certified organic and sustainable farming is that organic farms are USDA inspected and must meet specific requirements to claim certified status. The farming philosophies are similar, however and that is to produce food without negatively affecting the environment.
The trend toward pesticide-free, sustainable farming is good news for cooking oil manufacturers and consumers. Canola, olive and cottonseed oils have a wide range of health benefits when used in as part of a healthy diet.