What Is Organic?
Organic food and products are characterised by the following features:
Organic farming uses sustainable agricultural principle which builds up the soil fertility and prevents top soil degradation and erosion. Keeping the soil in good condition and preventing its erosion is vital in achieving a natural balance with the environment in which a farm exists and to be as self-sustaining as possible.
Free of chemicals
Organic food is grown without the use of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers.
In organic farming, diseases, weeds and pests are proactively and preventively managed through cultural methods such as good soil health for natural plant resistance, selection for physically stronger plants, crop rotation, companion planting, natural predators and beneficial insects.
Physical means such as crop covers, slashing, weeding, hand plucking beetles off plants are also used in organic farming. Organic farmers can use natural oils or plant derived, biodegradable pesticides as a second line of defence. These are strictly monitored and used under tight restriction.
Organic food products are processed without the use of synthetic food additives such as colourings, preservatives, flavourings, fillers, trans-fats, enhancers, stabilizers and sweeteners.
Organic food is not subjected to irradiation, a process in which food is exposed to high energy ionising radiation.
Not genetically modified
Organic food does not have artificial human intervention as genetic modification is not allowed in the production and processing of organic food and food products. The long term effects of genetically modified food on our health are unknown.
No antibiotics and growth hormones in livestock
Organic livestock are allowed to mature naturally without the use of growth promoting agents. Antibiotics are not routinely used to prevent diseases. Use of homeopathic and natural treatment is preferred when treating illnesses.
Humane treatment of livestock
In organic farming, livestock are treated humanely, given access to fields, clean water, daylight and adequate ventilation, allowed plenty of space to express their natural behaviour, given comfortable bedding and good shelter from prevailing winds. They eat their natural diet, supplemented by organic, not genetically modified grain. There are fewer animals stocked on every acre of field to prevent overgrazing.
Organic poultry can wander outdoors instead of spending their lives in a cage or packed in a shed. The practice of de-beaking where the beaks of all birds are seared off with a hot blade to prevent them from attacking each other in a confined cage is banned as it causes immense pain to the birds.
Organic poultry are not fed food that contains any animal wastes or growth enhancing agents or anything containing genetically modified ingredients. They are raised differently from battery hens, thus organic eggs are far less likely to contain salmonella. The cramped, unhygienic conditions in which battery hens are raised form a breeding ground for diseases such as this.
How To Tell Genuine Organic Products?
Organic certification is your guarantee that what you are eating and consuming has been grown or produced using rigorous organic standards. There is a very strict set of guidelines that governs any product that bears the label ‘certified organic’.
Organic standards are enforced by certification bodies around the world. Certification by a recognised organic body is a lengthy process, involving careful assessment to ensure that all of the strict criteria are satisfied.
Certified organic products contain (excluding water and salt) at least 95% organically produced agricultural ingredients. The remaining ingredients (up to 5%) can be non-agricultural substances or non-organically produced agricultural ingredients with strict criteria such as absolutely no synthetic chemicals or genetic modification.
Where organic ingredients comprise between 70% and 90% of a processed product, this can be labelled ‘contains certified organic ingredients’.
Single ingredient products or any products labelled as ‘100% organic’ must be 100% organically derived with the exception of any water or salt contained in the products.
When you are shopping for organic food and organic products, look for the certifier’s logo and the label ‘certified organic’ to ensure that you are buying genuine organic products.