Organic Food - What is it?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Posted by Meeta K. Wolff

As the sales of organic foods boom around the world, many of us must be asking ourselves:
  • Is it really "healthier" or "better" for us?
  • What does "organic" really mean?
  • Is it just another "trend"?
As a parent I do often turn to organic fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat products. As a matter of fact when Soeren first started eating solids (boy that seems like light years ago!) I only turned to produce and products of the organic, or as it is called here in Germany "Bio", type. I prepared all his baby food using fresh organic fruits and vegetables, turning to bottled foods only when we were traveling, and even those were organic.

I do not have a study to prove it, but my experience and comparison to a few friends who had babies of the same age showed me that there was a difference. Today, those same friends complain that their children suffer from neurodermatitis, various allergies and are often ill. In comparison Soeren was a rather healthy baby and even now, besides a runny nose every now and then, has enjoyed the best of health.

So, does this come from organic food? Probably not entirely, but I do believe it has played a role in keeping us all a little fitter, healthier, happier and environmentally friendlier.

I still buy a lot of organic products. Although I do not blindly buy everything organic, I do pay close attention to things like fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk (and milk products), meat, poultry and other products we eat often at home. These are 95% of the time organic.

When I started the Daily Tiffin, I often mentioned that I used organic foodstuff in Soeren's lunch boxes. I got a few mails asking me the questions I posed at the beginning of this post.

I have noticed that in Germany the grocery stores offer a larger variety of organic foodstuff and as I decided to do a little research I found that the same was happening in the US, UK and other parts of the world. Funnily enough, parents in particular are turning to organic produce: almost half of all baby food sold is now organic.

That's fine but before everyone runs out and decides to nourish themselves and their families only with organic foodstuff it might be a good idea to really see what all the fuss is about and to answer a few of the questions we all have.

In my next few posts I will be doing a short series about organic foods and products, answering a few frequently asked questions and if it is wise to only buy organic foods. Today I'll tackle the first question:

What is organic food?

Organic food is produced according to several principles and standards set by the governments and looked after by a main accreditation association or body. These standards and principle concern such issues as pesticides, additives, animal welfare and sustainability. Each country has a different set of standards for organic products, some stricter than others.

"Organic" is actually a legally defined term, regulated by the relevant government or union.

In the US it is the US National Organic Program (NOP) that sets the US organic standards. Europe has similar organic standards but separate
certification requirements that must be met in order to gain access to the
European organic market. In the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS) is designated as the competent authority.

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, based in Germany, regulates the organic market on a global scale.

Organic is referred to being an environmental friendly or "earth-friendly" method of farming or processing food.

Organic farmers do not use chemicals, like fertilizers or pesticides, in an environmentally dangerous manner. Weeds and pests are controlled by utilizing a mixture of old and new practices that sustain our personal health and the health of our planet.

For example farmers will rotate their crops between fields to keep pests from building up and improves soil fertility. Or planting certain plants and flowers, which attract beneficial insects to keep unwanted pests away.
Farmers keeping livestock must ensure that animals are kept and slaughtered in a humane manner.

The ultimate organic farm is a "closed cycle", which means the fields are fertilized using manure from the farm's livestock, which are in turn fed with feed grown on the farm.

What are your opinions on Organic foodstuff? Do you regularly buy Organic products? If you do, what kinds of products are most important to you?

Next week I'll be posting more about organic foods: is it healthier for you and if it makes sense to buy only organic products.

Hope you'll join me then!


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educative writeup on organic food.
unfortunately in Mumbai/Pune it's not available at all places, and at times costiler.

February 5, 2007 at 5:02:00 PM GMT+1  

Hi Meeta - very informative post! I try and buy organic as much as I can, however, it's not always available in my area. I do what I can. I like the idea that you made alot of Soeren's food for him as a baby. I think that is definitely the healthiest way to go!

Anonymous said...
February 5, 2007 at 5:25:00 PM GMT+1  

I am not convinced that everything labeled organic is "safer" or necessarily "healthier". I probably should read the guidelines closely! What I like to do is to shop for fresh fruit and vegetables at the local farmers market where most growers are organic. Even if not, at least I am not feeding the big evil corporations. Plus the taste is unbeatable! Safeway's organic brand is becoming very prevalent (and cheap) here.

Anonymous said...
February 5, 2007 at 7:26:00 PM GMT+1  

First let me apologize for my late response.

HAREKRISHNAJI - I am sure in India buying produce from your local markets should be just fine. As far as I know many farmers in India still farm in a traditional way.

Gilly - Thank you! What ever you can do always plays a role. It was easier for me to cook for Soeren because I just knew in my head what was going in the food. I also noticed that Soeren has grown up with a completely different attitude to food. He is more experimental than many of his peers and approached food in a very natural way.

ANON - Shopping at the local Farmer's Market is also a great way to support the environment. You are buying products from your area and not apples that have been flown in from China! It does not always make sense to buy organic products but for things like fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products and meat/poultry I find it is sensible to go for Organic

Meeta K. Wolff said...
February 20, 2007 at 8:45:00 AM GMT+1  

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