Buying organic is a growing trend – even though organic foods and food products are usually more expensive because organic methods are more labour-intensive and have lower yields.
Organically produced foods include fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes, milk and dairy items, meats and meat products, eggs and honey – as well as commercially processed foods that are made using organic produce and prepared without the use of artificial chemicals or preservatives.
The production of organic food addresses issues of health and of ethics, to reflect concerns about the use of chemical pesticides and artificial fertilisers, food irradiation, genetic modification, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability,
The Health and Nutritional Benefits of Organic Food
The main nutritional benefits of organically grown foods are higher vitamin C content, increased selenium levels, and lower nitrate levels. Studies show that there are no remarkable benefits in other vitamin or mineral content.
Pesticides, artificial additives, chemical residues, genetic modification, irradiation, growth hormones and antibiotics in animals are usually the main concerns among buyers of organic products. Although all these are monitored and controlled to some degree in many countries, chemical pesticide and fertiliser levels will always be much lower in organic produce than in conventional produce – even though some organic foods may be grown on land that has not always been ‘organic’ so may take time to become totally free of residues. Natural pesticides such as copper, sulphur, light oils, pyrethrins and some biological substances are perfectly OK for use in organic farming.
Ethical Organic Farming
Animals on organic farms are treated humanely; pigs, cows and sheep are given plenty of outdoor space to move around in, eggs and poultry items come from free-range hens, not caged ‘battery’ ones. Feed is also organic, so free from antibiotics, steroids, hormones or drugs that promote growth unnaturally – though certain medications and vaccines are allowed, to keep animals healthy and disease-free.
Environmental issues are addressed by efforts to conserve water and energy, and protect the soil against becoming drained of nutrients. Conventional farming methods damage the environment with chemicals, have reduced the fertility in soil, and have upset the natural chemical balance of water resources – often making the water more saline and encouraging the spread of blue-green algae in many areas. Organic farmers use green compost and animal manure to enrich the soil and control weeds, rather than using chemicals. They ensure soil ‘health’ by using more traditional methods of crop rotation, and use renewable water and energy resources wherever possible.
Organic for All-Round Benefits
In some countries, organic foods and food products are now widely available, and demand is increasing by up to 30% every year. So there is no doubt that, to most people, organically produced foods are healthier than conventionally produced ones, and are a great benefit to the welfare of animals, and to sustaining the environment.