Organic produce has been in our supermarkets for a number of years now, but how much do we really understand about organic food? Has the term just become a buzzword used to encourage consumers to part with their money, or is organic food really far superior to non-organic food? In order to understand the benefits that may be offered by switching to organic produce this Christmas, and in the long term, we must first of all define what ‘organic’ means.
What does ‘organic’ really mean?
The term ‘organic’ refers to the way in which agricultural products are grown and processed. There are strict legal requirements that must be met and maintained in order for a product to be labelled as organic. These requirements are regulated by both the EU and the UK Government and administered by registered certifying bodies such as the Soil Association. Organic Farms and processors are rigorously assessed to ensure that these requirements are met. Crops must be grown in soil which has not been affected by agro-chemicals, and they must remain separate from conventional crops. Farmers are forbidden from using synthetic agro-chemical pesticides, herbicides, bioengineered genes (aka GMOs), petroleum-based fertilisers, and sewage sludge-based fertilisers if they want to sell their crops as organic.
In order for meat to be labelled as organic the livestock have to be born, reared and grazed on an organic farm and fed organic feed and must have access to the outdoors. In addition, they can’t be given, growth hormones, or animal by-products. Antibiotics are given only for welfare reasons to control existing disease and have to be authorised by a Vet as part of an Animal Health Programme.
The benefits of organic produce
There are a variety of benefits to eating organic food over conventionally grown foods; for example those with food allergies find that the lack of chemicals used in the growing and processing of the foods helps to ease their allergy symptoms. Some of the other benefits are as follows: