by Ashley Smith

Over the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the practice of “organic” lifestyles. Even though we have a rough idea of what this entails—are we really informed? The term “organic” holds a very loose meaning. It is defined by the holistic farming techniques involved and required for certification.

To summarise, organic foods are those that are produced using environmentally supportive methods that don’t involve synthetic products such as pesticides and chemicals. They also don’t contain genetically modified organisms and aren’t produced using chemical additives. The basic idea is that only natural methods and product are used throughout the harvest, preparation, and maintenance stages. Basically, a Big Mac from McDonald’s can safely be regarded as the antithesis of organic foods.

Supermarkets have been overflowing with “certified organic” products at an international level. There are even niche grocery markets alongside the streets that are “wholly organic”. People shop around, spending nearly 50% extra on their grocery bill just to ensure a healthy “organic diet”. It is hard to determine what struck up this sudden obsession with food sustainability. Is it just another trend among the many others that float along with following a “Green lifestyle”? Maybe it has something to do with the recent media explosion of food awareness. Big screen documentaries such as “Super Size Me” and “Food Inc.” have certainly left an impression upon the public, and maybe a legitimate explanation for the organic revolution.

Organic is a term that isn’t just found in grocery stores anymore. Now you can buy organic cosmetics, stationery, handbags, and clothing. This means that the material that the item is made out of resources that came from an organically certified farm. These farms are assessed annually to ensure that they follow proper sustainable and non-toxic production practices.

MYTH-BUSTING THE ORGANIC FOOD RUMOURS:

Fact or Fiction: Organic food tastes better.
FICTION! Years worth of studies has proven that people can not tell the difference between organic and inorganic produce in a blind taste test. Apples are the only produce that has somewhat consistently been identified.

Fact or Fiction: Organic Food is better for the environment
FACT! Because organic products do not require any toxic additives, the pollution of the soil and air is dramatically reduced.

Fact or Fiction: You don’t have to wash organic food as carefully
FICTION! Although not exposed to toxic chemicals, organic food is still food. It is grown in soil which can contain natural bacteria itself. Manure is a commonly used natural fertiliser which makes organic produce susceptible to E.Coli.

Fact or Fiction: There are more nutrients in organic foods
FACT! Although, only by a small margin. Studies have found that organically produced food retains more of its nutritional value than those exposed to chemical preservatives.

Fact or Fiction: By purchasing organic food I am supporting small farmer’s business
FICTION! Unfortunately, not necessarily. Organic farming is becoming a very popular market for consumers and the big business suppliers are jumping on the bandwagon. For example, 70% of organic milk comes from just ONE milk producer. Big business is hard to avoid.
FACT! To ensure that your organic purchase is, in fact, supporting a small farmer’s business, shop at a farmers market so you know exactly who you are buying from.

Westernised cultures have consistently followed consumer patterns that display a preference for quantity and price. Buying organically follows neither of these patterns and puts its weight on heavily in the quality category. Why the monetary change of heart? Are we really revolutionising the way that we eat?

The major question is: how does one justify the added cost involved in an organic lifestyle? For some, the benefits clearly outweigh the price tag. For those of you whom the jury is still out for determination, here are some answers to the question: “What am I really paying for?”

The added cost of organic products is used to maintain the sustainable practices for the organic farmers. It is more expensive to naturally produce and upkeep crops than it is to purchase chemical preservation methods. Alongside the production costs, other benefits include:

  • Care for animals due to free-range standards and antibiotic bans.
  • Organic production reduces the number of allergens contained in food
  • The relief of knowing that you are not ingesting pesticides, fertilisers, or added hormones

Maybe the organic lifestyle is a trend that will come and go like “Big Hair” in the 80’s. It may be blissfully hopeful to think that an international population is switching gears to worry more about acute health habits than economic concerns. Either way, the organic wave has definitely grabbed the attention of millions and begun to revolutionise the way we think about food.