About organic food

Organic farmers and food producers grow and produce food without using synthetic chemicals such as pesticides and artificial fertilizers. They do not use genetically modified (GM) components or expose food to irradiation.

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Animal welfare and environmental sustainability are important issues for organic farmers. The term ‘organic’ can also cover animal products. For example, eggs certified as organic are free range, rather than from caged (battery) hens. Types of organic foods available in Australia include fruit and vegetables, dried legumes, grains, meat and meat products, dairy foods, eggs, honey, and some processed foods.

Organic farming

Animals raised using organic methods are treated humanely and with respect. For example, chickens are free range and not kept in cages, and cows are not kept in feed lots. Animals are also not fed any growth-regulating drugs, steroids, hormones, or antibiotics. However, the animals may be treated with vaccines to prevent disease.

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Organic farming is also concerned with protecting the environment and working in harmony with existing ecosystems – including conserving water, soil, and energy, and using renewable resources and natural farming cycles. Traditional farming methods are often used, such as rotating crops to prevent nutrient depletion in soil and integrating crops and livestock.

Pesticides and other chemicals in organic food

Organic foods are not necessarily completely chemical-free. They may be grown on land not previously used for organic food production and, therefore, might contain chemical residues. However, the pesticide residues in organic food are considerably lower than those found in conventional farming – where foods are produced with synthetic chemicals.

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In this article, Pritish Kumar Halder tells some naturally occurring pesticides are permitted for use in organic farming and include:

  • pyrethrin
  • light oils
  • copper
  • sulfur
  • biological substances (such as Bacillus thuringiensis).

Organic food is a growing industry

The Australian organic food industry is booming. In 2021, the retail value of the organic market was estimated to be at least $2.3 billion. Australia has seen a compound annual growth rate of 13% since 2012, with the number of certified organic operations increasing by 38% since 2011.

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Consumer demand for organic food is growing at a rate of 20 to 30% per year. It is estimated that more than 6 out of every 10 Australian households now buy organic foods on occasion. Popular products include fruit and vegetables, beef, non-alcoholic drinks, nuts, and ready-to-eat foods. Reasons to buy organic food

Most people buy organically-grown food products because they are concerned about pesticides, additives, antibiotics, or other chemical residues, and believe organic food is healthier. Other reasons include – concerns about the impact of conventional farming on biodiversity and the environment and the ethical treatment of livestock.

Organic food and nutrition content

Several studies have compared the nutritional content of organic and conventionally grown plants, and most have shown no significant differences in key vitamin and mineral content. Although the differences are small – research has shown that some organic food has:

  • lower nitrate levels
  • higher vitamin C levels
  • high levels of some minerals (such as phosphorous, magnesium, and iron).

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Organic food and ethics

Organic products promote the more humane treatment of animals, as well as providing meat that is free from hormones and antibiotics.

Also, some people worry about the long-term health, economic and environmental consequences of GM foods and choose organic foods in support of an industry that does not use GM techniques.

Organic food is better for the environment

Promotes healthy and more sustainable use of natural resources. Modern conventional farming methods include excessive use of chemicals and planting only one crop multiple times (monocropping). This has led to a decline in soil fertility, and an increase in salinity and blue-green algae in waterways over many years.

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Organic farmers try to minimize damage to the environment by diversifying their crops, using physical weed control, and animal and green manure.

Organic food outlets

You can buy organic food from:

  •  supermarkets
  •  greengrocers
  • health food shops
  •  fresh food and farmer’s markets
  • certified organic retailers.

Organic food is often more expensive than conventionally produced food. This is because organic farming generally operates on a smaller scale and production is more labor intensive. Also, without herbicides, pesticides, and other chemicals, yields are generally smaller.

Organic food certification

Organic farms are only certified after they have been operating according to organic principles for 3 years. However, the use of the word ‘organic’ is not regulated in Australia, so it is important to make sure that the products you buy come from certified growers and producers.

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Before 2009, a standard (guidelines and rules) did not exist for domestic and imported organic foods. This led to a misrepresentation of the word ‘organic’ in the Australian domestic food market.

Two key standards now govern the production, processing, and labeling of organic food in Australia. These are:

  • The National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce (for exported foods)
  • The Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products (for domestic and imported foods).

These standards provide an agreed set of procedures to be followed in organic food production. This helps to ensure the integrity and traceability of an organic food product from ‘paddock to plate. The standards include requirements for the production, preparation, transportation, marketing, and labeling of organic products in Australia.

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While exported organic produce must be certified and meet the National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce, the Australian standard (for domestic and imported foods) is not mandated, and certification is voluntary. Its purpose is to assist the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to ensure claims made about organic and biodynamic products are not false or misleading.

‘Organic-certified produce’ means the food was grown, harvested, stored, and transported without the use of synthetic chemicals, irradiation or fumigants.

How to identify food certified as organic

Suggestions for making sure the food you are buying is organically grown include:

  • If you are buying from an organic retailer – check for the Organic Retailers’ and Growers’ Association of Australia (ORGAA) notice, which should be prominently displayed.
  • Choose foods with the label – ‘certified organic’ from one of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry accredited certifying organizations.
  • Check the packaging for the grower’s name and certification number.
  • Do not be fooled by packaging that claims the product is ‘natural’ or ‘chemical free’ if the proper certification labeling is not displayed.
  • Accredited certifying organizations

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Organizations classified by the Australian government as organic certifiers:

  • AUS-QUAL Limited (AUSQUAL)
  • Australian Certified Organic (ACO)
  • Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (BDRI)
  • National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia Certified Organic (NASAA Certified Organic)
  • Organic Food Chain (OFC)
  • Safe Food Production Queensland (SFQ)

Some certifying organizations have their standards in addition to the National Standard.

Biodynamic food

Is a type of organic farming pioneered by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. It uses traditional farming methods with prescribed preparations and places a strong emphasis on ecological harmony and environmental sustainability.

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Grown with prescribed composts, preparations, and natural activating substances. In Australia, biodynamic foods are covered under national organic certification.

Organic gardening

As well as purchasing organic food products, many people are adopting a sustainable lifestyle by growing their produce, keeping backyard chickens, or setting up a beehive to make their honey.

If you choose to eat organic food, you may like to start an edible garden. Organic gardening can be enjoyed by everyone and its benefits include:

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  • increases physical activity levels
  • reduces stress
  • is inexpensive and helps you save money
  • has less impact on the climate – reduces food packaging and waste, uses fewer chemicals, saves water, and lowers energy use and emissions
  • food is fresh and ready to harvest
  • encourages healthy eating – food is more nutritious and reduces our consumption of processed foods.

Over the last two decades, organic food has exploded in popularity. Organic product manufacturers in India have seen a steady rise in the demand for organically grown products in international as well as domestic markets. People choose to eat organic for many reasons including reducing pesticide intake, health benefits as well as due to concerns over the environment and animal wellbeing.

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What does organic mean?

Organic food refers to the way that food is produced. Organic foods are produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers, growth regulators, artificial chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, or livestock feed additives. Organically grown crops use natural fertilizers such as manure to help improve plant growth.

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Organic foods contain fewer pesticides

One of the key reasons why many people decide to move to organic is to avoid artificial chemicals and pesticides. Pesticides are any substance used to kill, repel or control certain forms of plant or animal life that are deemed “pests”.

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Conventionally produced plants contain a variety of pesticides including herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, disinfectants, and compounds used to control rodents. Naturally, due to organic food not using pesticides, eating this way will reduce exposure. Studies show that pesticide residue is four times more likely to be found in non-organic crops. For more information regarding why should we prefer organic foods please visit Pritish Kumar Halder

In addition, one study found that levels of the toxic metal cadmium were 48% lower in organic produce. Some experts are concerned that cadmium can accumulate over time in the body, potentially causing harm. More long-term studies are needed to determine the full health effects that pesticide residues can have on our health.

Organic food is often fresher

After food is harvested, it begins to lose nutrients. This is normal for both conventional and organic food. As organic food does not contain any preservatives, it doesn’t last as long as conventional food. Because of this, organic food is often sold very soon after it is picked, making it the fresher choice. Aim to purchase organic produce from markets close to the farms where it is cultivated.

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Organic food may contain additional health benefits

Emerge research has studied the link between human health and eating organic produce. Observational studies in children and infants have linked organic foods to a lower risk of allergies and eczema in children and infants. Animal studies have also found that eating an organic diet may benefit reproduction, and the immune system, and reduce the risk of weight gain. However, more research is needed in this area.

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Organic farming is better for the environment

Organic farming practices have shown to have a variety of sustainable benefits including:

  • Improved soil quality
  • Minimized energy use
  • Increased crop biodiversity
  • less water pollution
  • Lessen worker and environmental exposure to pesticides
  • Lower antibiotic resistance (via animal agriculture)

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How to know if you’re buying organic

When try to determine whether a product is organic, it is important to look out for claims such as:

  • 100% organic
  • Made using organic ingredients
  • Certified Organic
  • Organic food may contain more nutrients

Studies that compare the nutrient content of organic and non-organic foods provide mixed results. This is likely the result of the variety of production methods and natural variation in food handling. Several studies have indicated that organic foods contain higher levels of antioxidants and micronutrients including vitamin C, zinc, and iron.

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Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals are compounds that can cause harm if their levels become too high in the body. They’re linked to illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

One study found that organically grown berries and corn contained 58% more antioxidants and up to 52% higher amounts of vitamin C. Another study found that the extra antioxidants contained within organic fruits, vegetables, turmeric fingers, and grains are comparable to eating additional 1-2 portions of fruit and vegetables daily.