Written by: Denise Morgan
Organic: healthy, tastier food right? Not necessarily. You may think you know what organic actually means, but many people are actually ill informed when it comes to knowing exactly what certifies food as organic. One thing we can all agree on is that when something is labelled as organic it appears to give producers the right to slap an extra zero on the price tag. So are organic products really over-priced hogwash or are they actually worth their weight in gold?
What exactly does organic mean?
Many people are under the mistaken notion that organic foods have not been treated with the pesticides or other potentially harmful chemicals that are associated with growing other produce. Yet this is incorrect as some chemicals are indeed used, including pesticides. However, there is less artificial intervention used when producing organic foods and to be certified as organic, products are required to meet EU standards in order to be correctly labelled as organic. Even when claiming animals such as chickens and cows ingest organic feed, their grains etc., can contain up to 20% non-organic substances. Another misconception is that organic foods are produced locally and have a decreased carbon footprint, yet this perception can at times be completely wrong: a mere 5% of organic food consumed in Britain is actually grown in the UK with the remaining amount, on some occasions, having been transported from many thousands of miles.
What is the difference?
So if this is the case, what are the actually positive differences between organic and non-organic products and why should consumers be prepared to pay more for when buying organic? Even though a minimal amount of chemicals are used to grow organic food and to protect crops, the fact that fewer chemicals are used is definitely a positive aspect. However the repercussions of this are that fewer crops are harvested and therefore producers must increase their prices to make up for the shortfall. Other factors that result in higher prices are: less demand for organic products means less can be invested in production and so ultimately consumers literally pay the price; organic animal feed is more expensive and again this affects the retail price of meat; organic farming methods often involve increased labour and therefore more wages must be paid.
The main differences between organic and conventional farming appears to be price and use of chemicals and although scientists insist there is marginal difference in taste and quality, consumers continue to purchase organic products, with many insisting they can determine a palpable difference in texture and taste. Thanks to local greengrocers and environmentally aware shops, the eco-conscious among us can also combine the buying of organic produce with local farming, which is most certainly a positive step towards minimising our personal carbon footprint.
The main concern at the moment seems to be the lack of labelling present on organic foods, informing the customer of what amount of chemicals and what actual chemicals are used. Without informed choice, many consumers feel cheated by paying for goods which are touted as healthier due their organic status. Without this information we are left to research individual products by ourselves and this is only if we can be bothered to do so. Companies will soon have to realise that many people will not be prepared, or simply do not have the time to discover why they should buy organic and this will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on the organic industries.