What is Organic Food

In the first of our series of informative articles on Natural and Organic Food, we look at what exactly organic food is.

Organic food. It's a term bandied about all over the place these days. The shops that sell it charge a higher price for it, the people who pay that price argue that they're getting more than just their money's worth. So what exactly is organic food? How is it defined? More importantly, how is if different from all other food that is not labelled as organic? We delve into this conundrum and come up with some surprising answers!

Does it Pass the Test?

Firstly, organic food has to pass some fairly stringent tests before it can be labelled as organic. These tests vary from country to country, but one of the best rules of thumb and one of the most stringent is the UK body known as the Soil Association. This accreditation body sets the standards by which all other organic bodies follow.

The organic food movement generally aims for food that has been produced as naturally as possible. That food must be free from trans-fats, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and most artificial additives. The Soil Association encourages very high standards of animal welfare.

It also campaigns tirelessly against the misuse of antibiotics and additional hormones for growth promotion. Soil Association accreditation guarantees that farm animals are given more living space.

Superior Nutrition

As for superior nutritional value over non-organic produce, more research still needs to be done. In a 2001 review of 41 studies, it was found that organic crops all contained higher levels of Vitamin C, phosphorus and magnesium.

As far as environmental benefits go, organic farms promote a natural biodiversity due to the lack of herbicides and pesticides, which encourages wildlife to thrive. Green and animal manures and compost are always used to enrich and improve the soil, as opposed to some intensive farming methods which destroy the delicate soil balance and structure resulting in soil erosion.

One question that always arises when you talk about organic food is. "Does organic food taste better than non-organic food?"

Quality

The best organic food producers are totally committed to quality, so their food is naturally outstanding. This doesn't mean that carefully produced food grown conventionally doesn't also taste better than the mass-produced organic imports. It all comes down to freshness.

If you can pick your fruit or vegetable and eat it as soon afterwards as possible, you will experience the best flavour. This is because flavour starts to deteriorate as soon as the fruit or vegetable is picked, so mass produced methods of picking or harvesting while still unripe then transporting over large distances while artificially ripening results in bland tasting, vitamin and mineral deficient food.

However, that doesn't mean that commercially grown organic crops are completely free of pesticides. According to The Soil Association guidelines, up to four pesticides can be used on crops for specific purposes. These are copper, rotenone, soft soap and sulphur. The majority of these pesticides are used on potatoes while the remainder are used on orchard fruits.

This is a drop in the ocean compared to the four hundred or so permitted pesticides and herbicides in common use by conventional farming methods. Also, no herbicides whatsoever are allowed.

Stunning Statistica

The very best way to get your food fresh and guaranteed pesticide and herbicide free is to grow your own. That way you control how it's grown and can pick when it's at it's most ripe and enjoy the very best flavour of all.

So there you have it. The most natural and organic food is that which you grow yourself. After that, buying direct from organic farms is the next best thing followed by buying at supermarkets, which still have the transport issue to contend with, resulting in less freshness of the food. You pays your money and you takes your choice!