Organic foods are defined as food products that are grown and/or processed following government standards of organic farming. These standards vary across the globe, but usually include; the cycling of resources and soil that foods are grown in, the promotion of environmental balance and conservation of biodiversity. While there are no mandatory organic labelling requirements in Australia, many businesses prefer to be endorsed by an organic certification body. These businesses display the BUD logo as a marker of integrity as organic certification in the country.
Although most people know that all organic products are ‘chemical free’, this is only one of the many benefits that are gained when eating organic foods. Organic foods are grown in a holistic farming system which means that that the soil that food is grown in has added nutritional value due to the interaction with animals, insects, people and weather conditions.
An example of this is; a farmer who plans to grow organic vegetables will have had chickens, pigs, cows and other farm animals grazing on the land prior to planting the vegetables. The soil is then turned with the manure and other animal elements before planting. The farmer will also grow other non-food plants around his crops to promote insects that will help to keep the crops healthy and protected as they grow. The farmer will move his animals to a different section of the farm where he plans to grow his crop next season so the added nutrients will be available in this soil and eventually in the food. Rarely will the same soil be used to grow the same crop consecutively. This crop rotation means that consumers need to eat far less organic fruits and vegetables than non-organic counterparts to achieve the same nutritional value.
Some researchers say that an organic fruit has ten times the amount of nutritional value than a commercially purchased piece of fruit!
Certified organic foods are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, insecticides, fertilisers, or chemicals. Because it is yet unknown how these chemicals react in the human body, eating organic will keep you on the safe-side until the research field can be expanded and substantial results are known about the dangers of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. Organic farmers use natural fertilisers like manure and ward off pests by attracting insects, birds and by setting traps rather than killing off species with chemicals. Weeds are controlled by using mulching, tilling, hand weeding and utilising crop rotation techniques. Before the industrialisation of our food system, these techniques were the way all farmers tended their farms. So, we can view organic farming as a return to traditional natural techniques of food growth that will increase consumer health and wellbeing.
Due to these farming techniques organic produce does not last for months in cold storage like commercially grown produce. Organic foods rot and decay at a natural rate. When purchasing organic fruits and vegetables they are always fresher and contain greater nutrient levels – even if they may look smaller or misshapen compared to those you find in the supermarket (remember – this is how food is supposed to look, not large and conforming to a particular shape).
Organic farming is also better for the environment. These farming techniques use less energy, increase soil fertility, reduce soil erosion, conserve water, and reduce pollution. Organic farms are usually smaller and closer to resellers due to the spoil rate of the food. This means that the carbon footprint of the food to the consumer is far smaller than foods that are grown interstate or overseas and have to travel great distances before they hit the plate.
Unfortunately, many people state the reason that they do not make the switch from conventional to organic foods is due to organic foods being a higher price. Once we start thinking of the benefits to our health, the environment, the farmer, society and future generations it is much easier to see that the benefits of eating organic foods far outweigh the costs. A good example of this benefit to cost ratio can be seen in Mediterranean countries where farming their own produce or buying at farmers markets is far greater than in Australia. On average people in these countries spend a far greater percentage of their income on food and their food quality is better compared to Western countries, but their rates of chronic lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and mental health issues are far less.
September is Australian Organic Awareness Month – visit our stores for the best selection of organic produce or shop our selection of non perishable organic bulk and other items online.
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