For most people organic means no chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It’s a great start but organic certification means much more than that. When you buy organic you also know that your food is not genetically modified, that strict animal welfare standards have been followed and that local conservation has been taken into account. Whilst organic food is often more expensive than its non-organic competitors you’re getting a lot more for your money. Giki looks at some of the additional benefits and how to find organic products in the supermarket.
The Benefits of Organic
Organic food continues to grow faster than the overall food sector with more and more supermarket aisles stocked with products carrying logos such as the Soil Association or the EU Organic leaf. At the same time farmers’ markets have sprung up in almost every town across the UK as people want to know more about who made their food and where it comes from. Why the change? Whilst consumers cite numerous, covering everything from food quality to taste, three reasons stand out: organic is better for the environment, organic certification means higher animal welfare standards and organic also means no GMOs.
The Environmental Effect
One of the defining characteristics of organic production is that chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides are not allowed. This leads to reduced “leaching”, a process by which excess fertilizer runs off fields and into local streams and rivers. In the worst cases this can lead to harmful algae blooms which can be devastating for local wildlife. Reduced fertiliser usage also reduces the greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer production. Meanwhile more natural pesticides are also less likely to harm local wildlife and the processes that are used in organic production help to build up the quality of a farm’s soil over time. The offset is that this can mean that organic farms produce less produce in a given area than a non-organic farm. This is one of the reasons that organic produce may be more expensive. It’s a hard trade-off for most consumers but the higher price does have even more benefits.
Less well know is that a number of the main organic certification standards, such as the Soil Association and EU organic also have strong animal welfare standards. These cover everything from how much space an animal has, the diets they are fed, their access to pasture (making sure they truly are free range) and processes to control the routine use of antibiotics. The latter may seem out of kilter with improved animal welfare (surely anti-biotics make them better?) but with the WHO believing that antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to global health the reasons to curb usage are clear.
And lastly GMOs – genetically modified organisms. Some people prefer not to eat GMO based foods and this is the final organic benefit if that’s the case. Not only are organic crops never GMOs but there are also strict controls in place around the diets that organic animals can eat to ensure they avoid GMOs in their diets.
How to find organic produce?
So what should a shopper look out for when looking for organic produce? In the supermarket the best approach is to look for independent, third party certification from bodies such as the Soil Association, EU Organic or USDA.
Giki makes this easy for consumer with our organic badge. We use certification from independent, transparent third party certifiers so you can simply scan a product and look out for the organic logo. If your product does not win the badge simply check out the alternatives to find one that does. You can download Giki here.
We’d also really like to hear from you about your favourite organic products (many of which might not have a barcode!) and, in particular, can you find organic products which are a similar price to non organic.