Organic – a definition
‘Organic food is the product of a farming system which avoids the use of man-made fertilisers, pesticides; growth regulators and livestock feed additives. Irradiation and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or products produced from or by GMOs are generally prohibited by organic legislation.
Organic agriculture is a systems approach to production that is working towards environmentally, socially and economically sustainable production. Instead, the agricultural systems rely on crop rotation, animal and plant manures, some hand weeding and biological pest control’
Organic agriculture is about a way of farming that pays close attention to nature. It means fewer chemicals on the land such as artificial fertilizers, which can pollute waterways. It means more wildlife and biodiversity, the absence of veterinary medicines such as antibiotics in rearing livestock and the avoidance of genetic modification. Organic farming can also offer benefits for animal welfare, as animals are required to be kept in more natural, free conditions.
For composite foods to be labelled as organic, at least 95% of the ingredients must come from organically produced plants or animals. EU-wide rules require organic foods to be approved by an organic certification body, which carries out regular inspections to ensure the food meets a strict set of detailed regulations, relating to production methods and labeling.
Look for labels like the Soil Association. This is the gold standard of organic labelling. Because some ingredients are not available organically, a list of non-organic food ingredients are allowed however, all artificial colourings and sweeteners are banned in organic food.
What the research says
With many people believing that organic foods have a higher nutrient content, are kinder to the environment and livestock and are healthier than conventionally produced foods, demand for organic produce is on the rise. However, scientists have not been wholly convinced that health claims are completely justified, as the research conducted has not shown consistent results with regards to nutrient density.
There is plenty of evidence that there are more vitamins, minerals and omega-3s in organic produce - albeit sometimes just a small difference. A systematic review showed higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants in some (though not all) organic fruit and vegetables as well as lower levels of pesticide residues and heavy metals.