“Organic” farming is defined to be free of synthetic chemicals, pesticides, fertilisers, or genetically modified organisms.
Does eating organically lead to better health?
An interesting question that begs an answer is- could a fully organic diet could lead to better health? In a fascinating experiment carried out on himself in 2008, Dr. Alan Greene, a paediatrician and author based in California, decided to find out. Dr. Greene said he was inspired to go all-organic after talking to a dairy farmer who noted that livestock got sick less after a switch to organic practices. He wondered if becoming 100 percent organic might improve his own health. For last three years, Dr. Greene ate nothing but organic foods. He chose three years as a goal because that was the amount of time it took to have a breeding animal certified as “organic” by the Department of Agriculture in the United States. Three years later, he noticed that his energy levels were higher and that his waking time was earlier. As a paediatrician regularly exposed to sick children, he was accustomed to several illnesses a year. Following the experiment, he was rarely ill.
Our standards here in Australia
Here in Australia, “Certified Organic” is a registered trademark which has its own strict standards that have been approved by the government. It means the food or 100% of the ingredients in the product are organic. Certification ensure compliance with national production standards and allows trace back of all products to their origin. However, to simply label a food “organic”, there is no certification or standards required to be met. This means that foods can feature the word “organic” in their title and not contain a single organic ingredient. To put it simply, “Certified Organic” is the only way to go if you are looking for organically farmed produce or manufactured organic products.
The cost of eating organically
Organic farmers don’t use conventional methods to fertilize the soil, control weeds and pests, or prevent disease in livestock. Organic methods often lead to higher costs, and consumers can pay twice as much for organic foods as for conventional products.
Due to the loose definition of “organic” here in Australia, trying to source “Certified Organic” produce and food products can also be challenging. You may find that your journey to consume 100% “Certified Organic” involves extensive time in researching your options, and also purchasing from a few different providers rather than shopping for all of your food needs from one central location.
My decisions around eating organically
Based on the above, I have made a decision not to eat exclusively “Certified Organic”. For me, it is a choice that involves not only ethics, but also budget considerations as well as a time commitment to source my food.
Based on my understanding, in Australia, “Certified Organic” fresh produce can be sprayed at the end of the growing process. Whether organic or non-organic, these are still sprays – they are designed to keep the pests off at the end of the growing process and to delay deterioration of the product due to temperature variations, transportation conditions etc.
Accordingly, I have decided to source spray-free produce for my family, meaning that we don’t have to worry about whether we are ingesting spray residue. My fruit and vegetable co-op sources produce from farmers who have chosen not to spray their end produce.
I prefer to source my eggs, meat and fish ethically, and love knowing the back story of where my protein has come from. The truth is- going up the food chain increases the cost of any diet. In our home, meat has become more of a side dish than a centrepiece, which allows us to spend more on our other produce items.
I also love honouring my produce – eating it as freshly and naturally as possible. We eat simply, and really minimize the use of manufactured sauces and condiments.
A couple of tips
Eating entirely organically, or “Certified Organically” here in Australia, may not be within the time and budget constraints of all families. I would encourage you to have a good look at your budget and always purchase the best fresh food and food products that you can afford. After all – this is what is feeding and powering your body!
There is a concept called “the halo effect” hovering around organic food products in the health food aisle of your local supermarket. The halo effect is an inaccurate assumption that all organic foods contain a lower number of calories and a higher nutritional content than regular, non-organic food. The take home message- read the labels- don’t assume because something is on the “Health Food” aisle it is automatically good for you.
So team, make sure you keep reading labels and being conscious of your choices. Use your common sense – most people know in their head and in their heart whether the food choices they are making are in fact the best ones. Buy the best food that you can afford, and keep it real in your kitchen! Much love!