“What counts as organic?” you may wonder. Organic food, by definition, is produced without the use of any chemicals especially in fertilizers or pesticides. But it isn’t enough for food to be grown with only manure-based fertilizer or natural pesticides. In order for it to be organic, it has to meet exacting international standards, and then be regulated and certified by an internationally recognized body.
Other terms you may see are ‘natural’ and “GMO-free” but these aren’t the same thing. Organic does imply that the farming methods are sustainable and crops are not grown from genetically modified seeds or stock, but that’s not always the case. Similarly, natural and GMO-free foods are not always organically grown.
“But, is it really healthier?” you ask. There are those who vehemently assert that organic food is much healthier than other foods available commercially. If you really are what you eat, then eating commercially farmed food means you’re in danger of becoming at least part insect-repellent and part fertilizer. Now, insect repellents and fertilizers in themselves are not bad things, but synthetically manufactured ones are, by definition, toxic. They’re designed to keep insects and pests at bay, but the problem is one of scope. Farmers overdose their crops, and while the plant needs to be protected, the thin skins of vegetables and fruit absorb the chemicals as well. In extreme cases, ingestion can lead to food poisoning. So, yes, avoiding the chemicals is a much safer, healthier, more nutritious option.
“And it’s so expensive,” I hear you whine. Indeed, organic foods are more expensive. It’s partly a demand-supply problem. The more you and your neighbours and neighbours’ neighbours buy organic, the cheaper it will eventually become. But, sadly not yet. It’s also costlier to grow. By overturning the monopoly of the pharmaceutical companies that control pesticide and fertilizer, farmers have to procure more expensive natural insect-repellents. If they’re doing organic right, they’re practicing crop rotation that balances out the nutrients in the soil. This also means that no organic crop will yield such vast quantities as to flood the market. Bonus point: organic farmers return to growing crops seasonally, something that we, in big cities, barely remember. Carrots used to be a winter vegetable when I was a kid. Now I get them all year round. And this constant yield is a heavy burden on our land. Organic food is better for the overall food chain.
“Ugly, too,” you demur. Erm, yes. I can’t argue with that. They’re misshapen, they’re smaller, they’re not glossy or big. But, hey, think about the people in your life. Would you trade your crazy, normal, big, small and extra large friends for photo-shopped versions of themselves? C’mon, organic veggies have more soul, they have more character. They’re helping make the world a more (bio)diverse place. Get to know them better. You won’t regret it.
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