5 things you are getting wrong about organic food

2014-10-08 08:55

Most of South Africa eats genetically modified food

2014-10-07 08:09

We speak to Kurt Ackermann, one of the co-founding volunteers at the Oranjezicht City Farm in Cape Town. The urban farm is committed to organic, sustainable produce. Watch to find out why.WATCH

Cape Town – So you’ve definitely heard your friends talking about going organic. Maybe you’ve thrown the word around yourself.

Maybe you’ve even been buying organic.

But what is organic really? What does the term mean?

Here are 5 things that most people think about organic food that are simply not true:

Organic food is the same as natural food:

False. Let’s keep it real simple. Organic food is produced without the use of chemical fertilisers or other artificial chemicals. So it’s the real deal.

But don’t confuse "natural" and "organic". Only foods that are grown and processed according to organic standards can be labeled organic.

The rules for what classifies a product as organic might vary slightly from country to country. There’s only one problem with these rules: in South Africa, they’re not law. (Read more here).

Any farm can produce organic food:

False. According to Organic Farming for Dummies organic food comes from organic farms.  "Organic farms are much friendlier for the earth and the local economy than massive corporate farming practices.

"Instead of using chemical-based fertilisers to create a high-yield soil, organic farming uses traditional methods of plowing the soil to break down soil compaction that can reduce water and air getting to the plants’ roots, rotating the crops to prevent crop-specific diseases or pests from building up in the soil, and growing cover crops that naturally add nutrients to the soil."

It's difficult to find organic products:

False. These days you can go organic at most supermarkets. Woolies for one is big on all things organic. Organic products usually have a label or sticker on them that clearly indicates that the content is organic.

You can also get your organic products straight from the farmers at local markets. To find out where there’s an organic market near you simple copy and paste this sentence into Google; "Organic Food Market (insert city name here)".

On the back (or front, or side) of any organic item – fresh or processed – there should be a tiny logo, in much the same way as food is certified Kosher or Halaal.

"Every label that is produced has to tell you who the certifier is," explains Paul Whittaker, who works with national advocacy body the South African Organic Sector Organisation (SAOSO). Typically an organic logo will give the name of the certifying agency (another acronym), and a certification code that can be traced back and verified on request. 

Organic doesn’t mean healthier:

False. The two main arguments for going organic are that organic food contain fewer pesticides and more nutrients. Pesticides can be absorbed into fruits and vegetables, and leave trace residues. Which is a bad thing.

In an article published on Eating Well, Marissa Lippert writes that a 2007 study out of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom reported that organic produce boasted up to 40% higher levels of some nutrients (including vitamin C, zinc and iron) than its conventional counterparts.

"Yes, organic plant-based foods are, on average, more nutritious," Lippert wrote.

Organic food is cheaper:

False.  Organic food is generally more expensive than intensively-farmed food. According to the American Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) organic food is more expensive because supply is limited as compared to demand.

Production costs for organic foods are also typically higher because of greater labour inputs per unit of output.

"Post-harvest handling of relatively small quantities of organic foods results in higher costs because of the mandatory segregation of organic and conventional produce, especially for processing and transportation.

"Marketing and the distribution chain for organic products is relatively inefficient and costs are higher because of relatively small volumes," the FAO reports.

So you’ll have to cough up more... But maybe it's worth it?

More about organics:

Pseudo organics con?

Survey: Test your organic buying power

Most of SA eats GM foods

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