More and more Consumers want certified organic foods because they know these foods are grown without genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and that they are grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, antibiotics or hormones.
Organic food is highly regulated in Canada. Every farm, producer, processor and distributor is inspected at least once a year by the Canada Food Inspection Agency to ensure the food is truly organic.
Organic agriculture is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
* Soil is enriched with compost, green manure and organic amendments.
* Weeds, pests and disease are controlled through crop rotation and selective use of natural non-chemical pesticides.
* Livestock are provided quality living environments and are raised without hormones or antibiotics and are not fed animal by-products.
Natural and organic are not interchangeable terms. You may see “natural” and other terms as “all natural”, “free-range” or “hormone free” on food labels. These descriptions must be truthful, but don’t confuse them with the term ‘organic”.
Price comparisons are often made between organic and convention food items. Organic food is much more labour intensive because farmers do not rely on the same mechanical and chemical levels as conventional production. Organic certification and maintaing that status is expensive. Organic feed for animals can cost twice as much and of course there is no room for Government Subsidy as the organic farms tend to be smaller then convention farms and produce under the range for subsidy aid. But the Organic food industry is more efficient and direct with fewer steps in the supply chain from farm to table. When you buy organic food, your money goes to the actual growers of that food, and less to the shareholders and bankers behind the large grocery stores. This means you have a significant impact on farming families with your food dollars.
Did you know that conventional produce from the farm to your dinner table travels an average of 1,500 miles. This uses a lot of fossil fuel and emits carbon dioxide into the air. In addition produce must be picked while still unripe and then needs to be gassed to “ripen” after transport or the food is highly processed in factories using preservatives irradiation and other means to keep it stable for transport. Local food is the freshest food you can buy, fruits and vegetables are harvested when they are ripe and thus full of flavour.
Many factors influence the decision to choose organic foods:
* Pesticides – Conventional growers use synthetic pesticides to protect their crops. When farmers spray pesticides it can leave a residue on the produce. People buy organic to reduce their exposure to this residues.
* Food Additives – Organic regulations ban or severely restrict the use of food additives, processing aids and fortifying agents commonly used in non-organic foods, including preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colourings and flavourings and monosodium glutamate.
* Environment – Organic farming practices are designed to benefit the environment by reducing pollution and conserving water and soil quality.
Wether you go totally organic or opt to mix conventional and organic foods, be sure to keep these tips in mind:
Wash and scrub fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water to remove dirt, bacteria and chemical traces. You should even wash items with inedible skins like melons, citrus fruits, because cutting the rinds with a knife brings contaminants to the inside.
Select a variety of food from a variety of sources to reduce your likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide.
Read food labels carefully, even if it says organic it can still be high in sugar, salt and fat ingredients, so opt for healthier alternatives.
Fruits and vegetables where organic labels matter the most because they have the highest pesticide levels when conventionally grown are:
Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Cucumbers, Potatoes, Grapes, Cherry Tomatoes, Kale, Summer Squash, Imported Nectarines, Peaches, Spinach, Strawberries and Hot Peppers.
In the Summer try growing your own produce in your garden, community plot, or windowsill container, you’ll know they don’t have pesticide residue and tending the garden is a healthy activity.
Through environmentally sound practices, organic producers and processors strive to sustain the health of the earth while providing food for those who inhabit it.