Thursday, 17 April 2014

A-Z Simple Living: O = Organic

For today's post I chose the word Organic because it is a word that crops up so many times a day, but I have been meaning to do more research on this topic for some time...and this challenge gives me the perfect opportunity to do so. Organic, in relation to food purchasing, generally means a steep increase in price, so I wanted to investigate what it actually means...and how I can ensure that what I am buying is actually organic.

Organic farming involves the production of high quality food and produce, without the use of artificial fertilisers, synthetic chemicals, genetically modified foods, growth promoters or hormones.  Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.  Organic farming emphasises the need to maintain appropriate land management and aims to ecologically achieve the balance between animal life, the natural environment and food crops. By purchasing or growing organic produce, therefore, you are getting the product in it's most natural form, such as my basket of goodies above.

My experience as an 'organic farmer' is a simple one. Basically, in preparing my soil I have not used any chemical fertilisers - only organic manure and my own compost. I use organic sugar cane mulch to inhibit weeds and retain moisture. When my produce is growing, I use worm juice, seaweed solution from my fish farm tanks or bokashi liquid as my fertiliser. And, when my plants are faced with pests, I still do not use any chemical sprays...I make my own homemade pesticide. So, I am therefore an organic gardener and know that what I am growing is chemical free.

So, how do I know what I am buying is organic? In Australia the way to ensure something is organic,  is to do your own intensive investigation or to seek and rely on a certification mark to confirm that it has been independently certified. This is not to state that uncertified products are not what they say they are. Some small businesses cannot justify the costs involved with certification but their products are organic. Also, just because a product has organic on the label does not mean it is truly organic.

Just as with 'low fat', 'reduced fat, and 'lite' categories of distinguishing food, there is a similar definition for organic produce in Australia:

All of the following products are permitted under the National Organic Standard in Australia:
  • 100% organic.
  • Organic (which means products have at least 95% of their ingredients derived from organic production methods).
  • Made with organic ingredients (at least 70% of ingredients derived from organic production methods).
  • Products containing less than 70% organic ingredients cannot use the term organic on the display panel, but can make reference to the ingredients being derived from organic production methods in the list of ingredients.
The Auatralian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) is responsible for the appointment of approved certifying organisations which are the ones below. Basically any organic produce with these labels has been certified by AQIS:

Logo of AUS-QUAL Pty Ltd

Logo of Australian Certified Organic

Logo of Bio-Dynamic Research Institute

NASAA Certified Organic (NCO)

Logo of NASAA Certified Organic

Logo of Organic Food Chain

Logo of Tasmanian Organic-dynamic Producers

So, in a nutshell it is all a little confusing and subjective, as I am sure it would be in most countries. Larger companies can 'buy' their certifications and I recall this happening with the Heart Foundation's 'tick' several years ago when McDonald's was stripped of the privilege to use it.

For me, I will grow what I can, shop at the markets from farmers I know are organic...and the rest, well I can't say that I can go totally organic because my income does not allow for it - some things are double the price, but I will be a little more conscious of what products claim to be organic.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you buy organic over non-organic?
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