The rise of organic foods has been one of the most significant developments in the recent ‘green revolution.’ Eco-shopping is no longer for the reserves of the eco-warrior and has moved into the mainstream. But though we know they are supposed to be better for us and the environment there’s still some confusion over what makes an organic item organic and why we should buy it. To help make sense of it all, we’ve taken the most frequently asked organic questions and laid down the facts:
What Makes Food Organic?
Central to the idea of growing organic food is the notion that good food can be grown naturally, using and preserving the goodness of the land rather than relying on dangerous and toxic chemicals.
In organic farming, farmers use methods to ensure that their land has adequate time to replenish natural minerals and nutrients in the soil. Crop rotation for example, works on a season to season basis, where the farmer rotates different crops around different stretches of land. Because each type of fruit and vegetable grown depends on a specific mixture of soil nutrients, moving them around allows the soil to keep its overall nutrient levels up. This therefore eradicates the need for unnatural, man made substances being added to the soil.
The other main element of organic farming is the use of natural, not artificial, crop enhancement. This means…
- Severe restrictions of the use of artificial chemicals to aid plant growth, such as fertilisers or pesticides
- Reliance on the soil to provide crops with the nutrients a plant needs
- Not ‘rejecting’ items on the basis of their aesthetic look
- Humane treatment of animals
- Animals do not receive growth boosting drugs during rearing and are not cruelly over-fed.
Why are People Buying Organic?
It’s certainly clear that the organic market is growing in popularity, and most of us will have purchased an organic item at one time or other. In 2006, the supermarkets announced that sales of organic food during that year had risen by more than ever before – up 20% at Waitrose, 28% at Morrisons and 12% at Asda.
There are many reasons that people are more inclined to buy organic. Here are a few of them:
Tastier –Many of us believe that the organic foods taste fresher and of a better quality than other non-organic items. Better for the environment –People believe they are ‘doing their bit’ by buying organic because of the natural, pesticide-free approach to growing organic is much better for the environment. Safer –Organic foods are grown naturally, without the aid of chemicals or toxins, so you don’t need to worry about what may have potentially contaminated the produce. Fashionable –Buying organic has become part of the 21st century way of life, and many chefs and restaurateurs have helped make organic foods a fashionable trend in the kitchen.
How Do I Know if it’s Really Organic?
There are strict legal restrictions set by the government for the classification of organic products. Crops need to pass certain tests before becoming an organic item. Look out for the special organic symbols on items before you purchase them. The Soil Association also has its own set of standards and labelling that mean items bearing their logo have been grown to an even higher organic standard than the minimum requirements set by the government.
Where Can I Find Organic Produce?
There was a time that only specialist stores would stock organic items. These days, organic items are big business and can be found on most supermarket shelves. However the greener approach to buying organic is to support smaller, local and independent stores stocking organic supplies. Farmers’ markets and shops are good sources of locally grown organic produce where you can actually see where your fruit and vegetables have been grown, and even who by. You’ll also be benefiting farmers and local stockists more by cutting out the middleman.
Even better, why not start growing your own? Allotments and vegetable patches are also growing in popularity and it can be very easy to start growing your own produce using natural methods and enjoying homegrown foods.