I get asked this question more than any other.

Why buy organic?

Buying food and products for our homes has become incredibly expensive. Household budgets are stretched so thin, buying more expensive items is difficult to justify. I completely understand this struggle, and I know that organic products are often priced higher than other options.

But if it’s something that we can afford is it worth it?

I think so; I think the impact on our health and the health of our families is worth it. Let me explain.

Within Australia certified organic produce means it has been grown free from synthetic pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics. It is also sustainably fished, biodiversity-friendly, socially responsible, pasture fed, it’s not genetically modified, it’s cruelty-free and free range.

Simply put it’s the best produce you can buy!

Unfortunately, the word ‘organic’ is not regulated in Australia. I wish it were! This leads to inferior products being promoted as organic. The products may contain only a very small amount of organic ingredients, but the labelling is saying otherwise. So, you need to be very careful about what you buy. Only buy certified organic products. These products have met a very strict standard and have a minimum of 95% organic ingredients in them.

There are seven government-accredited organic certifying bodies in Australia. Certified organic producers in Australia must run their entire business according to the organic standards, or they will not receive certification for their produce. They must meet these standards, fulfil all the requirements and pass inspections for a minimum of three years to initially pass. Once they have passed and are certified, they will regularly be audited to ensure all the standards are being met. These producers have been permitted to use logos to identify their products as passing.

When you are looking at Australian organic produce, and you want to buy the certified 95%+ you need to check the label for the logo of a government-accredited organic certification group, i.e. Nasaa, Aus-Qual, ACO, Demeter and SFQ. This will allow you to easily identify what is quality and what is not. There are also numerous international certification logos such as the USDA Organic logo; this means that the produce has met all the American regulations required. Many products sold in Australia have this American certification; it’s likely to be the one you see the most.

So, we know that buying certified organic produce means we are buying the best, but it also means so much more. Let’s take a look at what else buying organic means:

Healthy Environment

Organic farming practices place an enormous emphasis on land regeneration and biodiversity protection. Toxic pesticides, herbicides and synthetic petroleum-based fertilisers used in conventional agriculture end up in our waterways and habits, damaging the delicate balance of biodiversity. Organic practices, on the other hand, combat climate change by using non-petroleum based natural composts, pesticides and fertilisers that enhance soil health and microbe diversity, rather than depleting the soil’s nutrients.

Biodiversity and Immunity

Just as with us, plants respond to their environments. Strengthening our innate immunity instead of relying on synthetic chemicals is a more sustainable way to ward off pathogens. Similarly, reducing the use of synthetic pesticides in agriculture allows crops to develop stronger resistance to pests and minimises the likelihood of “superbugs” forming and wiping out an entire crop or species. 

Organic farming methods include the use of practices like crop rotation to ward off pests. Insect-plant pests are often plant-specific. This means certain pests like certain crops and avoids others. Rotating crops year after year rather than planting the same thing in the same place every year confuses insect pests since insect pests lay their eggs in specific spots expecting the same crop to be there the next year. Also, crop rotation preserves and adds to soil nutrient-diversity. This is all part of the fascinating cycle of soil health, plant health, and our health!

Healthy soil created by healthy (organic) farming practices, is diverse in microbes, which means that food grown from that soil is also microbe-diverse. This translates to a healthy gut (micro biome) in those who eat the delicious, organically grown food. Healthy soil leads to healthy food, which boosts our health!

Nutrient Density

Organic growing practices yield fruits and vegetables that are more nutrient dense than conventionally grown produce. The homogenization of crops resulting from conventional agricultural practices diminishes the nutritional biodiversity of fruits and vegetables. If you can find local and organic produce, even better! Local produce usually has had more time to ripen on the vine and draw up more nutrients from the soil before it’s harvested. On the contrary, non-local produce is harvested prematurely so that it can withstand long transport periods. During weeks in storage, its nutritional value breaks down.

Chemicals and Our Health

You’ve probably heard about the dangers of pesticides in our food. Washing produce isn’t always enough. Many harmful chemicals used in conventional agriculture are systemic, meaning they’re absorbed by the plant, rather than sprayed on its surface. This is often the case with lettuce. That’s a scary fact considering that lettuce’s volume is mostly water, and contaminated chemical-laden water at that (if its conventional lettuce)!

Synthetic pesticides are known to increase the risk of cancer and be linked to other chronic neurodegenerative diseases. Thankfully, organic food is almost 50 per cent lower in carcinogenic toxic metal compounds otherwise found in conventional food. Also, organic veggies are almost 70 per cent higher in flavonoids than their non-organic counterparts (Zerbe, 2016). Flavonoids are essential in regulating our hormonal health (Gynn and Wright, 2007).

Moving Forward

Organic food may be a touch more expensive, but it does reflect the true cost of food production—good food production. Hidden costs of cheaper, conventional food choices include health costs later in life. Accessing and buying organic food is becoming more affordable than ever before because the demand for it is rising. The more we “vote” with our food dollars for organic, the more affordable and accessible it can become.

The easiest and most rewarding place to start is with your fresh fruit and vegetables. Thankfully large supermarkets are beginning to stock a small amount of organic produce, so on your weekly trip to the supermarket locate the organic section and see what is available. It’s a nice easy step. Next broaden your search to your local markets, farmers markets and health food stores in your area. Get the whole family involved; it’s a fabulous feeling when the hunter-gatherer instincts kick in.

Next, I would slowly convert dairy products, milk, cheese, and yoghurt. You will soon discover there are very high-quality brands of dairy available. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find great organic dairy in large supermarkets in my area. However, I have found them at markets, health food stores, on-line and other places such as organic cafes. The difference in drinking 100% milk from a small herd of loved cattle v the mass-produced and manufactured milk is insane! Once you try it, you will NEVER go back.

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