Organic became a buzz word a few years ago and then has ebbed and flowed in popularity since. I was recently asked to write an article on what the term “organic” is all about, and it made me really look at it again from a new angle. What does this term really mean, and why should we choose this option? What is it all about?
What does organic mean?
Looking at the term “organic”, it means “relating to or derived from living matter”. When we look at it in relation to food or farming methods, it refers to produce being produced without the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides or other artificial chemicals. The premise behind the organic movement is that organic products are healthier for us, are they really?
I decided to look at the science. There have been many studies done to try to test the difference between organic produce and produce produced by normal farming methods, but there are just too many variables. It is not just the chemicals that make a difference, but also the soil and growing conditions, so it is difficult to come to a definitive conclusion.
Are organic products healthier for us?
The general consensus is that as far as macronutrients (vitamins and minerals) go, there may not be a huge difference. Where there are differences being found however, is in the realm of the phytonutrients. These chemicals are what plants produce to protect themselves from pests and disease. If they are being sprayed with pesticides, they appear to not produce as many of these chemicals, and these are what are being found to be key in helping us to neutralise free radicals and in the functioning of our immune systems, helping us to fight off diseases such as cancers.
Is eating healthy more expensive?
Research has shown that eating a healthier diet in general is slightly more expensive than eating processed mass produced foods, due to mass production as well as subsidies. This is only some of the total price, however. The price that you pay in health costs, due to the link of an unhealthy diet to chronic disease, makes an unhealthy diet far more expensive than a healthy diet. Research has also found that people who choose organic products tend to eat healthier.
Organic produce is often more expensive than its conventional farming equivalent, due to it mostly being done on a smaller scale. As the demand increases however, I think that we will see the price come down and become more in line with conventional produce.
By getting produce directly from the organic farmers and cutting out the middle man, you can get organic produce cheaper. Box or bag schemes, that supply a variety of local, seasonal produce are also ways to keep costs down. Another great way is grow your own organic produce. Not only is it often cheaper to grow your own food from seeds, but it is therapeutic too! Go on, get your hands dirty!