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Many products, including the ones at Good Food For Good, have the organic seal. But what does that mean? Can anyone just stick on an organic seal? It’s more complicated than that. Whether you know about the benefits of organic or not, read on to learn why eating organic can benefit you, farmers, and the environment.
What does Organic mean?
Organic refers to the way our food is grown and raised. In order for something to be organic, it must meet certain guidelines. For example, the crop cannot be a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) or use synthetic fertilizers. For livestock, this means the animals must have access to the outdoors, and they cannot be raised with the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, or animal-by products.
In Canada, The CFIA sets the regulatory rules for The Canada Organic Regime. They are the governing body that determines if a product can be labeled as organic. The Canada Organic logo implies that at least 95% of the ingredients in the product are certified organic (Canadian Food Inspection Agency, 2019).
Is there a benefit?
The difference between Organic farming and conventional monoculture is that organic farming does not use synthetic or chemical pesticides. In conventional farming, farmers use synthetic and or chemical fertilizers to manage weeds. In organic farming, crops are rotated, the land is tilled, weeding is done by hand, and mulch can also be used. It’s no wonder that organic produce costs more!
In order to have the Organic seal, The USDA and The CFIA require that food is grown and processed under a set of regulations. These regulations include using physical pest-control methods such as crop rotation, not using synthetic fertilizers, GMOS, antibiotics, growth hormones, artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors.
Many studies have been done comparing the organic and conventional produce in nutrition. The conclusion that was made was that there was no significant difference between the two. That is not to say that organic produce doesn’t taste better though. Since organic produce on average is free of any junk, it tastes like nature intended it to.
In a six-year study done by The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry they measured a higher level of antioxidants in organic onions compared to conventional ones. They found that organic onions had about a 20% higher antioxidant content. Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation in our body. They fight free radicals, which can protect us from inflammation, cancer, and the common cold. The fact that organic produce has a higher level of antioxidants is a novel finding, and should be explored further!
Should I be buying organic?
Although buying organic is not feasible for many consumers, what is important is not buying food that is on the dirty dozen list. What is the dirty dozen list? It is a list of 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residue, meaning during production, a lot of pesticides were used. Fruits and vegetables that were on the Dirty Dozen list were the following: Strawberries, Spinach, Kale, Nectarines, Apples, Grapes, Peaches, Cherries, Pears, Tomatoes, Celery, and Potatoes (Environmental Working Group, 2019). This “Dirty Dozen” list is changed each year by The Environmental Working Group, according to the level of pesticide residue in our produce.
Pesticides are poisonous to the “pests” that they target. In humans, they have been implicated in a wide range of diseases, and in pregnant woman the effect is magnified. Pregnant women need to avoid pesticides at all costs. During pregnancy, a baby is more sensitive to pesticides that can affect its neural development. This can result in children born with neural tube defects, clefts, and missing limbs.
For example, the common pesticide used by Monsanto: Roundup, has been classified as a common human carcinogen by WHO. While insecticide chlorpyrifos have been linked to developmental delays in infants. Which is no surprise considering if insects are eliminated – it would result in bad implications for our health too.
It’s good for the environment too!
The largest benefits attributed to organic farming is its environmental impact. Organic farming can improve the quality of the soil it is grown on, which cannot be said for many farming methods that use a monoculture (one species of crop).
In a study posted in The Journal of Agronomy, a 9-year comparison of no-tillage cropping systems to organic farming was done. What they found was that the concentration of Nitrogen in soil was higher in organic farming. Why is this important? Nitrogen is the most valuable nutrient in soil for plants. It helps support proper growth. Therefore maintaining the level of nitrogen in the soil year to year is sustainable for the soil, and ensures proper plant growth in the upcoming years.
Not only does it help plants, it helps the micro-community too. In conventional farms, pest-management practices often changes the structure of the food web and the micro-communities, which causes outbreaks of pests (Crowder et al. 2010). In organic farming, this food web is unaltered and balance is maintained. This ensures the health of the ecosystem, and prevents any pest infestations! Making the environment healthier in the long run, and supporting biodiversity of the land. Run-off from pesticides used in conventional farming also contributes to pollution in the long run, and negatively impacts our water supplies/
Buying local organic produce also ensures that it travels a smaller distance. This puts less of a burden on the environment and means that less CO2 is entering the atmosphere. Many studies have already attributed the level of man-made CO2 being the reason for our planet is warming at such an alarming rate.
To sum it up, organic farming is better for the planet, which ultimately is better for us. Without a planet to inhabit, there will be no us. Which is pretty good reasoning to me! Consumer interest generated from buying organic products is what supports organic farming. Buying with your dollar can greatly support the growth of the organic industry, and ensure more organic farms will be made!
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency. (2019, January 15). Regulating organic products in Canada. Retrieved July 16, 2019, from https://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/requirements-and-guidance/organic-products/regulating/eng/1328082717777/1328082783032
- Crowder, D. W., Northfield, T. D., Strand, M. R., & Snyder, W. E. (2010). Organic agriculture promotes evenness and natural pest control. Nature, 466, 109.
- Environmental Working Group. (2019). EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php
- Teasdale, J. R., Coffman, C. B., & Mangum, R. W. (2007). Potential Long-Term Benefits of No-Tillage and Organic Cropping Systems for Grain Production and Soil Improvement. Agronomy Journal, 99(5), 1297-1305.