How Do You Know if it’s Really Organic?
And what does going ‘organic’ really mean…
Understanding just what is ‘organic’ can be a problem….
Depending on the laws governing the sale of Organic produce in your Country, and what sort of outlet you are purchasing from, it’s not always straight forward as we would like.
I know here is Australia, I can go along to a local ‘organic’ market, but at the end of the day, you can’t really be sure that the produce is what they say it is… At least there is a little more assurance, if you purchase from a large supermarket that has ‘certified organic’ displayed on the produce… but even then I just wonder!
There are some things you can be aware of though, that can at least increase your chances of getting what you pay for, and when it’s all said and done, it probably goes without saying that it’s best, where you can, to grow your own.
This probably the only way you know exactly what has gone into producing your fresh fruit and veggies.
So you might notice when you go shopping that organic produce is labelled as such, but how do you know if it is, what it says it is?
Let’s just cover a bit about what it means when the term ‘organic’ is used.
According to Wikipedia organic foods are “Foods that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Organic foods are also not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.”
Currently it also means that there is no GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) factors involved… This is really important and probably fast becoming the MOST IMPORTANT REASON to buy organic foods.
Organic foods (as I have mentioned in earlier articles) are grown and stored without chemical pesticides and artificial fertilizers. They are not irradiated and have not been genetically modified – this is all very important.
Unfortunately, while this all sounds great, the word “organic” is not exactly a legal term, and sometimes it can seem almost meaningless.
In the Australia and the United States, the legal term for organic food is “Certified Organic”. In the United States food can be certified by the USDA when it meets certain conditions set out by the National Organic Program (NOP). In Australia it is the ACO or Australian Certified Organic standard which is the body governing certified organic foods, which includes imports and exports.
Under the control of these governing bodies, Certified Organic produce must be grown using organic methods without chemical pesticides, genetically modified ingredients or petroleum or sewage-based fertilizers. It also cannot be processed with irradiation or contain prohibitive preservatives.
Certified Organic livestock must not be given antibiotics or growth hormones, and which is so important from a humane standpoint, they also need to have access to the outdoors.
When it comes to processed Certified Organic foods, 95% of the ingredients must be grown organically to contain the seal. And if a label says it is “made with organic ingredients,” it only needs to be made of 70-95% organic ingredients (there might be some variation of these guidelines depending on the country involved and their specific requirements).
Food that carries a certification seal is generally thought to provide the consumer protection, however, there are those who question the level of protection provided.
Some critics are concerned that the regulations deal with the way the food is grown, but it offers no guarantee of the quality of the product. There are also reports that the certification standards are lacking, which is outlined in the 2010 US audit report from the Inspector General.
So exactly what does this all mean for you and me… the consumers?
1. Products, especially non-food items, can be labeled as organic, but they are not required to meet the appropriate guidelines. These non-food products are not subject to the Certified Organic standards.
2. The guidelines can be difficult to enforce properly, which means some foods might be labeled as Certified Organic when really they shouldn’t be.
3. Some food that is actually organic is often not certified, either because the grower chooses not to get certified or isn’t able to get certified because of the costs involved or for some other reason.
What can you do?
Obviously, there is no ‘perfect’ system that can guarantee the food we buy is actually what it says it is, even though you can increase the likelihood that it is actually certified organic and most likely going to be better than available alternatives.
While there are problems with organic labeling, it is still very important to read labels…
If you do some research and become smarter about processed foods, then you can apply some common sense and deduct fairly accurately just how good a product may or may not be.
- Look at the number of ingredients that are listed… Do you recognize them or do they just sound like a lot of ‘chemicals’?
- Take particular notice of the wording of things like “made with organic ingredients”, which is a typical way of making something sound good, when in reality the amount of ‘organic ingredients’ is minimal.
- Remember the ‘less is more‘ principle – the closer your food is to natural and the less processed then the better it’s going to be.
Some other things you can do, besides growing your own, is to get to know local organic growers and support your local organic farmers markets and become educated about the most common GMO types of foods… like corn and canola oil etc. It has never been more important than in the current world we live in, to know where your food is coming from. It does take a bit more effort, but the more you do it, the better you will get at it, and the easier it will become.
The future health and well-being of you and your family likely depends on it!