I highly value organic, pure and real food that is prepared from scratch with love. This is why I eat less and less in restaurants, why I’m willing to compromise on other expenditures and why I’m inspired to browse at markets or spend hours in the kitchen experimenting. But what is organic food and what makes it so amazing?
There are many definitions for organic agriculture but according to FAO it is “a system that relies on ecosystem management rather than external agricultural inputs. It considers potential environmental and social impacts by eliminating the use of synthetic inputs, such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, veterinary drugs, genetically modified seeds and breeds, preservatives, additives and irradiation. These are replaced with site-specific management practices that maintain and increase long-term soil fertility and prevent pest and diseases.”
1. Your Body is Your Temple
While research results on the health benefits of organic fruit and vegetables have been contradictory, the benefits for the environment (below) are numerous. And by using our common sense, it’s not difficult to conclude that we’re just one species living on this planet where everything is connected and feeding our bodies with pesticide residues, growth hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms doesn’t seem right. A study conducted led by Newcastle University found that pesticide residues were four times more likely to be found in conventional crops than organic ones and that levels of the toxic heavy metal cadmium are nearly twice as high for conventionally grown foods. Some research has conducted that organic vegetables taste better, or have more vitamins and antioxidants than non-organic produce. It’s good to remember that there is a Big Money political game going on about our food and its production and the best person to judge whether organic food is beneficial for your health or not is YOU.
2. Because You Care About The Planet
Organic agriculture has many long-term benefits for the environment. The below information is from http://www.FAO.org
Soil. Organic practices such as crop rotations, inter-cropping and organic fertilizers encourage soil fauna and flora, improve soil formation. Nutrient and energy cycling is increased and the retentive abilities of the soil for nutrients and water are enhanced, compensating for the non-use of mineral fertilizers. Such management techniques also play an important role in soil erosion control. Soil biodiversity is increased, and nutrient losses are reduced, helping to maintain and enhance soil productivity.
Water. Organic agriculture uses organic fertilizers (e.g. compost, animal manure, green manure) and through the use of greater biodiversity enhancing soil structure and water infiltration. In some areas where groundwater pollution is a real problem, conversion to organic agriculture is highly encouraged as a restorative measure (e.g. by the Governments of France and Germany).
Air and climate change. Organic agriculture reduces non-renewable energy use by decreasing agrochemical needs (these require high quantities of fossil fuel to be produced). Organic agriculture contributes to mitigating the greenhouse effect and global warming through its ability to sequester carbon in the soil. A number of studies revealed that soil organic carbon contents under organic farming are considerably higher. However, there is much research needed in this field, yet.
Biodiversity. Organic farmers are both custodians and users of biodiversity at all levels. At the gene level, traditional and adapted seeds and breeds are preferred for their greater resistance to diseases and their resilience to climatic stress. At the species level, diverse combinations of plants and animals optimize nutrient and energy cycling for agricultural production. At the ecosystem level, the maintenance of natural areas within and around organic fields and absence of chemical inputs create suitable habitats for wildlife. The frequent use of under-utilized species (often as rotation crops to build soil fertility) reduces erosion of agro-biodiversity, creating a healthier gene pool – the basis for future adaptation.
3. Organic Agriculture doesn’t use GMOs
FAO: The use of GMOs within organic systems is not permitted during any stage of organic food production, processing or handling. As the potential impact of GMOs to both the environment and health is not entirely understood, organic agriculture is taking the precautionary approach and choosing to encourage natural biodiversity. The organic label therefore provides an assurance that GMOs have not been used intentionally in the production and processing of the organic products. This is something which cannot be guaranteed in conventional products as labelling the presence of GMOs in food products has not yet come into force in most countries. However, with increasing GMO use in conventional agriculture and due to the method of transmission of GMOs in the environment (e.g. through pollen), organic agriculture will not be able to ensure that organic products are completely GMO free in the future.
4. Support Local Farmers = Support the Local Economy
The environmental benefits of choosing organics foods don’t stop at the farming stage, but us as consumers can also support the local economy and reduce the carbon footprint of our weekly groceries by choosing organic produce. Especially at farmers markets the food is mostly local and often can be bought in bulk, reducing both the mileage that food travels from one player in the supply chain to the other as well as the amount of packaging used. This reduces the costs too; making farmers markets attractive places to shop.
5. Because You’re Worth It!
I’ve met so many people who say something like this: “Oh I wish I could buy organic food, but it’s just too expensive”. It’s true; Organic food is not mass produced, often requires more manual labour and because of the smaller volumes, marketing expenses are higher too. FAO lists some other factors that need to be taken into account when considering the price of organic food: Environmental enhancement and protection. For example, higher prices of organic cash crops compensate for low financial returns of rotational periods which are necessary to build soil fertility; Higher standards for animal welfare; Avoidance of health risks to farmers due to inappropriate handling of pesticides (and avoidance of future medical expenses); Rural development by generating additional farm employment and assuring a fair and sufficient income to producers.
I remember ten years ago the organic food stuff on offer were few and prices were sky high, but I’ve noticed a drop in the prices over the past couple of years and while I perfectly understand that not everyone is in a position in their life at this moment to make organic food a priority, many of us could still evaluate our preferences before saying “NO” to BIO. If you would reduce the consumption of cigarettes/ candy/ junk food/ ready-made-meals/ take-out/ trendy clothes/ magazine subscriptions/ cosmetics etc., could you start introducing some organic produce into your diet?