• Miriam Rose

What does “Organic” ACTUALLY mean?

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between organic and regular food? Except for the price difference of course, with organic produce being approximately 30% more expensive. Despite this price difference, there has been an 80% increase in organic farming sales since 2004. Why is this the case?

What does “organic” actually mean?

You may have read my blog about why it’s so important to wash your vegetables if you can’t buy certified organic produce. What do I mean by this? Let’s delve into what “organic” really means.

According to Australian Organic Ltd, the term ‘certified organic’ means:

"The farm, product or service, has been independently, third party verified by a certification agency as being organic. This means that every part of the supply chain from the soil on the farm, to production of a product/ingredient or the service provided has been through rigorous audits and testing and adhered to a standard, such as the Australian Certified Organic Standard (ACOS)."

What does this standard involve? Well there are three main areas emphasised in the guidelines:

Ensuring minimal chemical and pesticide use

The guidelines emphasise the importance of reducing chemical and pesticide use. There is a list of substances permitted for use and prohibited also. Section 4.7.1 outlines that the “The aim of organic certification is to minimise residues and to disallow residues to be present that are…used in the production and preparation chain.” Section 6.6.2 (d) outlines that “Synthetic colouring agents, synthetic fragrances/parfums, ethoxylated ingredients, silicones, paraffin and other petroleum or petroleum-derived products are all prohibited.” In addition, Section 6.6.2. (e) states that “where a preservative is required for the safety and/or stability of a product, only preservatives derived from natural sources are to be used.” Products are also not permitted to be of Genetic Engineering (GE) origin, treated with ionising radiation or a product from nanotechnology products.

Maintaining good animal welfare practises

Included in the ACOS are guidelines around the upbringing, spatial allocation and transport of livestock. The guidelines specifically outline that practises should be put in place to minimise the stress of the livestock also.

Promoting sustainability and environmental integrity

Modern, conventional agriculture is not regenerative to the environment. This is the reason why our soils are consistently being depleted of many nutrients, contributing to our current population’s widespread nutrient deficiency problems. Thankfully, certified organic produce must adhere to certain environmental sustainability guidelines. For example, Standard 4.1.1 states that “sufficient organic material shall be returned to the soil by the recycling, regeneration and addition of organic materials and nutrients to increase, or at least maintain, the [soil] content.” Read my blog here to understand why a wide variety of soil microbes and soil regeneration is so important. Standard 4.6.1 states that “Management, protection and enhancement of biodiversity and environmental aspects on organic farming operations shall be a priority of certified operators.” The standards also emphasise the importance of maintaining native bushland areas to enhance the on-farm flora and fauna biodiversity. This protects the Australian environment from potential plant and animal extinctions and maintains the complexity of our ecosystems.

Why you should try and buy organic

More of the good stuff! (Greater nutrient levels)

According to a study named “Organic foods vs Supermarket foods,” Organic foods are higher in minerals such as:

• 63% more calcium

• 73% more iron

• 118% more magnesium

• 178% more molybdenum

• 91% more phosphorus

• 125% more potassium

• 60% more zinc

Click here to read my basic micronutrient guide, explaining how these minerals are beneficial for your health!

There are also higher levels of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids (which are anti-inflammatory) in organic produce, including meat and dairy products

Less of the bad stuff! (Reduced toxic build up)

In addition to there being more of the good stuff in organic produce, there is less of the bad stuff. A recent study showed that “More frequent consumption of organic produce was associated with lower DAPs (urinary dialkylphosphate levels)”. In other words, individuals who consumed more organic produce had less chemical residues building up in their bodies.

According to a 2017 study, there is massive evidence to suggest that sub-lethal (aka. ‘safe’) exposure to pesticides is linked to an increased incidence of diseases such as “cancers, Alzheimer, Parkinson, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, asthma, bronchitis, infertility, birth defects, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, diabetes, and obesity.”

"Exposure to pesticides is linked to an increased incidence of diseases such as “cancers, Alzheimer, Parkinson, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, asthma, bronchitis, infertility, birth defects, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, diabetes, and obesity.”

Supporting animal welfare and environmental sustainability

As outlined above, certified organic farming emphasises the importance of better animal welfare and environmental sustainability. Not only will you be supporting your own health by eating organic, you’re supporting the health and welfare of our planet and animals also!

Where to find organic produce

Five Serves Produce:

Five Serves produce are a local farm growing seasonal organic vegetables for the lower Blue Mountains, Penrith, The Hills and Hawkesbury communities. They grow on the banks of the Hawkesbury River and deliver through a Community Supported Agriculture Program.

They offer Weekly or Fortnightly Vegetable box subscriptions, involving pick-up or delivery options and a variety of sizes to suit your family needs! Click here to find out more about how you can have access to seasonal, organic produce regularly.

Supermarkets and Greengrocers:

Look for the “Australian certified organic” logo, as they have adhered to the Australian Certified Organic Standard (ACOS):

Additionally, any of the logo’s below will be adhering to a similar standard also:

If you're struggling to get your hands on organic produce all year round, you may need to supplement with a multivitamin to keep up your healthy micronutrient levels! Click here to read my blog that discusses the difference between good and bad multivitamins, and how to pick the right one for you!

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