Demand for organic foods is growing rapidly in the United States as consumers seek healthy options, especially for children, say scientists working to encourage organics.

The issue was a key topic at the recent Border Food Summit, held in Rio Rico south of Tucson, including a presentation by Ricardo Salvador, director and senior scientist for food and environment program at the Union for Concerned Scientists.

“Moms in particular are so concerned about the healthfulness of the food that they are purchasing for their children,” says Salvador. “They are creating a growing demand for organic food.”

The benefits of organic food production are well documented and Salvador says the concept is simple.

“Organic food production is the idea that you can produce food without using synthetic inputs," he says. "It’s an important idea because it means that you can recycle important naturally occurring resources, primarily nutrients which are important for crop production.”

Salvador says he is encouraged to see interest in organic food production grow, but he says consumers should be cautious about how industrialized food production systems adapt to the growing demand.

“Demand is now so strong that the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, is beginning to stock organic food and supply it,' he says.

This newfound availability is good for consumers, but “there is the danger that ‘organic’ could become appropriated, and it could actually be scaled up and practiced on an industrial scale.”

Salvador says organics are in a transition period, and ultimately, it will be up to the consumer to hold food producers accountable and to distinguish between sound organic production practices and what he terms "green-washing" of an industrialized food system.