Originally only available from health-food shops or specialist retailers, organic foods and products can now be bought from many supermarkets, fresh-food markets, greengrocers – and even on the Internet.
A conventionally produced vegetable and an organically produced one can look the same – so why buy what is usually a more expensive item, and how can you tell what really is organic and what is masquerading as organic?
Understanding the label…
Labels can be very confusing; sometimes you may see a product labelled “natural”, or “all natural ingredients”, or “hormone-free”, or “free-range” – none of these are organic. Single-ingredient products like eggs, fruit and vegetables can be labelled “100% organic”, but if a product – such as a breakfast cereal – contains only certain organic ingredients, this must be stated clearly on the label.
What makes a food organic?
In most countries, it can take up to 3 years for a farm to become certified as ‘organic’, and a farmer must make significant changes to his farming, production and processing practices. A product will – by law – have had to meet certain strict criteria before it is allowed to have the word ‘organic’ in its labelling and marketing. Organic certification means long-term commitment and effort.
The word ‘organic’ refers to the way a product has been grown and processed by the farmer – whether it is a meat or dairy product, or a grain, vegetable or fruit item. Organic farming means respecting the welfare of animals, and not using conventional methods of disease prevention, weed or pest control, or soil fertilization.
Decide for yourself…
- Conventional farms spray synthetic pesticides.
- Organic farms use naturally occurring pesticides (e.g. sulphates, light oils, copper, pyrethrin).
- Conventional farms use chemical herbicides that pollute the soil and water table.
- Organic farms hand-weed, mulch or use natural compounds.
- Conventional farming methods overuse the soil – depleting it of nutrients.
- Organic farming methods involve crop rotation to conserve nutrients.
- Conventional farms apply synthetic fertilizers.
- Organic farms use natural fertilizers such as compost or manure.
- Conventional farms use growth hormones to promote growth and antibiotics to prevent disease
- Organic farms promote healthy livestock growth and minimise disease with a balanced diet of organic feed, outdoor access for exercise, and by rotating grazing areas.
This information presented to you acts as a guide which contains researched information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.