Do you eat organic? Or do you happily gorge on anything green and leafy, regardless of what the label says?
It’s a complicated business, the world of organic and so-called ‘natural’ produce. But what can be agreed on is that organic farming works with the environment, as it uses fewer pesticides.
Campaign manager at the Organic Trade Board, Catherine Fookes, explains: “It’s a way of farming that protects and encourages wildlife while looking after the health of the soil. Instead of relying on chemicals, organic farmers work with nature to feed the soil and control pests. They use crop rotation and clover to build fertility in the soil.”
She adds: “Organic farming is designed and defined in law to minimise the use of pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics in food production.”
With organic sales firmly on the increase (up 4% in 2014), and the UK being the fourth largest organic market in Europe, it seems more people than ever are coming round to the idea of eating organic. But what are the facts for and against going organic?
For eating organic
• A major study in 2014 found that organic foods contain much higher levels of antioxidants than normal crops
• “Eating organic is the most certain way to reduce your exposure to pesticide residues,” says Fookes. In fact, they organic produce on average contain 30% fewer pesticides
• Bacteria found in organic foods are less likely to be resistant to antibiotics
• Organic foods have been found to contain 48% less cadmium (a mineral which can be toxic to humans)
• Organic farming releases fewer greenhouse gases and can significantly reduce your carbon footprint
• Helping animals: Fookes notes organic farming’s “ wider benefits to wildlife, biodiversity and high animal welfare standards”
• Mentally, buying organic has a habit of making you feel better about yourself and what you’re eating. Call it the self-righteous factor, if you will!
Against eating organic
• There is no international, agreed definition of ‘organic’, so the term itself can be confusing and misleading
• Eating organic is definitely not better for your wallet
• Produce can be smaller and come in stranger shapes (it’s not all uniform), so if you don’t like wonky carrots and bulbous potatoes, it can be a problem
• Sometimes organic foods are difficult to get hold of, particularly at smaller supermarkets
• Studies have – on the whole – been largely inconclusive as to whether the difference between organic and non-organic foods is worth the trouble of only eating organic
A third way?
It’s hard to always eat organic – whether that’s due to financial restrictions or the local supermarket not offering the best selection.
So alternatively, try eating locally and seasonally. It will cut your carbon footprint, and the produce is guaranteed to taste better because the plants haven’t been manhandled into producing fruits when they’d normally be dormant.
Growing your own makes sense, but your nearest grocer will be able to point you in the right direction, too.