What Does Organic Mean?
When faced with the Soil Association organic symbol or aisles of supermarket organic fruit and vegetables, most of us have mentally asked the question – what does organic mean?
As it’s Organic September, there’s no better time to find out the truth about organic. If you’ve ever wondered what is organic food, who actually benefits from organic farming, or what difference it really makes when you buy organic – you’ve come to the right place.
What is organic food?
Organic food is food as it should be. All organic food is fully traceable from farm to fork, so you can be sure of what you’re eating. Organic standards are part of European law, so any food bearing the Soil Association’s organic symbol must meet strict criteria.
When compared to non-organic, organic food is produced using less energy, only natural fertilisers derived from plants, and with better standards of care for any animals involved in the process. Organic farming isn’t easy, and takes real commitment and attention to detail, every step of the way.
Organic always means:
- No synthetic pesticides – Almost 300 common pesticides can be routinely used in non-organic farming, and Government testing in 2017 found pesticide residues in 47% of British food. Organic farming doesn’t allow any synthetic pesticides or herbicides, and farmers only use a limited number of pesticides, derived from natural ingredients like clove oil and citronella.
- No artificial colours or preservatives – Organic standards don’t allow any artificial food colours, preservatives, or hydrogenated fats.
- Always free range – Organic means the highest standards of animal welfare, which includes livestock living on a diet that’s as natural as possible, having plenty of space, and having the freedom to graze and forage naturally on organic pasture.
- No routine use of antibiotics – Did you know that farm animals account for almost two thirds of all antibiotics used in the EU? These antibiotics pass to us down the food chain. Organic means farm animals are never routinely given antibiotics.
- No GM ingredients – Organic always means no genetically modified ingredients are added to organic food, or are fed to organic farm animals.
Who does organic benefit?
Put simply, organic is better for people, animals, and the planet.
Organic means reduced levels of pesticides and antibiotics in the food we eat, and reduced chemical exposure for farmers and growers too. When we choose an organic product, we know exactly what we’re getting. No hidden nasties.
Organic benefits animals and wildlife too. Organic farms must adhere to strict standards of animal welfare, and the animals’ natural diets, access to space, and freedom to forage on organic pastures means that animals lead more natural, healthier lifestyles with lower levels of stress.
And finally, organic food is better for the environment. Organic farms use environmentally sustainable land management methods and work in harmony with nature, protecting natural resources like water and soil. On average, organic farms support up to 50% more wildlife as a result!
Why buy organic?
Choose to buy organic food and you’ll be directly contributing to changing our food and farming systems forever. If more people buy organic, there will be more organic farms – and this is turn will be better for farmers, animals, and all of us foodies. A world with fewer pesticides, more wildlife, and happier soils can only be a good thing.
If eating is everyday activism, the power is in our hands. So now you know the definition of organic, what will you try?
We source organic food and ingredients from farmers all around the world every day. And while not all of our food carries the Soil Association’s official organic symbol, it IS all fair trade – and being fair trade means that our farmers make efforts to be as fair to the planet as they are to people.
Some fair trade farmers use natural farming methods such as intercropping and growing traditional, indigenous varieties of plants which are more resistant to climate change. A few fair trade farmers are also progressive and innovative in their approach, such as the suppliers of ingredients to Black Mamba, who are all trained in permaculture!