On your last visit to the grocery store, you might have seen fruits and vegetables with organic seals stamped on their packages. You may have said to your friend, “here you go, we have now found the food we are looking for”.
The word “organic” alone influences us into thinking that such fruits and vegetables must be better for our mind and body than conventional ones. But how are they better, and are they worth the extra money?
The main difference between organic and conventionally grown food boils down to the environment they are grown in. And remember – the organic label in Australia can only be used when the farming is certified as organic by one of the certifiers by the Australian Government. In Australia, the following are the organic certifiers: 1) Australian Certified Organic (ACO) 2) NASAA Certified Organic 3) The Organic Food Chain 4) AUS-QUAL 5) The Bio-Dynamic Research Institute 6) Safe Food Production Queensland 7) The Tasmanian Organic Producers and 8) IFOAM
Organic food contains significantly less pesticides and herbicides than their conventional counterparts. Organic farms use naturally-found (such as manure) to grow their crops. They rely on natural methods like crop rotation and hand weeding to eliminate weeds and pests. While organic farms make no promise of being 100% pesticide-free, it is important to note that they are subject to strict regulations on the use of pesticides.
On the flipside, conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are sprayed with synthetic pesticides and herbicides to terminate the growth of weeds and kill unwanted insects. While this helps reduce infestation and increase crop turnover in the short-term, this damages soil, biodiversity, and environment. You would agree that we should not ignore the long-term consequences of what food we eat on our health and wellbeing as well as the natural environment that ultimately provides food and water to us.
The pesticides that we digest from fruits and vegetables compromise our health. Pesticides common in conventional produce have been linked to different types of cancer. You can find more information about this in a scientific journal called Current Opinion in Environmental Science and Health”. Studies have also shown that the harmful effects of pesticides are particularly detrimental to children, whose brains and bodies are not yet developed.
Farmers who use synthetic pesticides are also susceptible to health issues because they are exposed to harmful chemicals regularly. So, when you choose organic, you are doing more than just reducing your intake of harmful pesticides. Your decision to buy organic also reduces farmers’ exposure to harmful chemicals and in turn helps them live healthier lives.
Organic farming revives and replenishes the environment. The organic method of diversifying crops ensures that the soil receives a variety of nutrients throughout the year, in addition to controlling weeds and pests. This improves the soil fertility, reduces the chances of soil diseases and makes organic farming much more sustainable in the long-term.
In contrast to this, many conventional farms use monocropping (planting a single crop at a time), which depletes soil fertility and weakens the soil’s ability to promote healthy crop growth. To combat this, farmers resort to using chemicals to get rid of bugs and weeds.
But chemical can easily contaminate the soil and nearby bodies of water. This threatens the survival of many living organisms such as fish, birds, and other insects. In one study, the presence of glyphosates (a common ingredient in herbicides) in water has shown to cause odd in fish such as “erratic swimming and breathing”.
Eating organic and adopting a healthier lifestyle doesn’t have to cost an arm. Running an organic farm is costly and requires lot of land, workers and other resources to be sustainable. Organic farmers are also more likely to experience greater losses on their crops because they use traditional methods to control pests and weeds rather than chemical pesticides. To protect their margins, farmers have no choice but to price high. Given all this, it is easy to see why eating organic can be taxing on your wallet.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you are tight on budget, it’s a good idea to go organic when buying fruits and vegetables that are known to have high levels of pesticides. Also known as the “dirty dozen”, the list includes apples, strawberries, lettuce and more. This is an effective way to eat organic where it matters the most without draining your income.
Another option – which depends on how much time, energy and space you have – is to turn your backyard into an organic garden. You decide which crops to grow and how to grow them.
The 2018 Australian Organic report revealed that more than 60% of Australians consume organic products every year. The organic food industry is forecasted to grow by 20 – 30% each year, and more and more Australians are expected to reap the benefits of organic eating in the coming years. As the saying goes, you are what you eat. You have complete power to choose what goes inside your body. Give your body only clean and fresh produce, and it will reward you back in the years to come.