So, what is organic anyway?

I’ve mentioned ‘organic’ a lot here before, and everywhere you look you can see it on labels in the shops. But what does it mean, and how important is it when you’re choosing what to eat or wear?

Organic means products that have been grown without pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilizers, and have been processed without additives (if they need any processing at all). If the word is applied to meat or dairy products, it means that the animals involved have been fed organic food, and have not been given antibiotics or growth hormones. The Wikipedia entry on organic food is quite good.

There are many environmental benefits to growing crops and raising animals this way:

  • it reduces pollution: organic farms don’t release pesticides and herbicides into our soil and waterways, where they can harm animals (including us!) or accumulate over the years.
  • it creates healthier eco-systems, as organic farming methods allow a more diverse population of insects, small animals, and non-crop plants, when compared to the monoculture you get when you spray chemicals intended to kill any plants and animals except the crop.
  • it’s a less energy-intensive method, with less need for processing and packaging for chemicals.
  • it reduces our reliance on fossil-fuels by using natural fertilizers, since artificial fertilizers are petroleum-based.

The jury still seems to be out on whether there are any health benefits to eating organic food. It’s the kind of research that will take decades, as we wait to see long-term effects on people, but so far the results look good. A large study by the European Union showed that organic foods had larger quantities of anti-oxidants and other micro-nutrients. Personally, I prefer to reduce the amount of pesticides going into and onto my body wherever possible. With clothes the cotton is actually a higher quality softer fiber, that's just a fact. My philosophy is if you can do better, then why not?