In almost every grocery store you’ll find two apples sold for very different prices. One’s organic, one’s not. What makes a product truly organic? And is it really worth paying extra for?
UBC Farm recently began transitioning to a certified organic farm. Mel Sylvestre, an organic verification officer and the perennial and biodiversity coordinator at UBC Farm, explains why organic may be worth the extra money.
What makes a fruit or vegetable organic?
Based on the Canadian Organic Regime, organic production is based on principles that support healthy practice, such as crop rotation, cover cropping (where a crop is planted to improve the health of the soil and to prevent soil erosion over winter) and the use of renewable resources. These practices aim to increase the quality and durability of the environment. They also focus on ensuring the humane treatment of animals.
Are all organic products the same?
In Canada, all organic products are practically the same as organic operations follow the same standard set by the Canadian Organic Regime, which is monitored by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Products shipped beyond provincial or national borders will all carry the Canadian organic logo. Products that are only available in a provincial market carry provincially approved logos such as the B.C. organic check mark.
Who benefits from organic certification?
Consumers benefit greatly from certification. Although we would like as consumers to be connected directly to where our food comes from, it is impossible to verify growing and management practices of all farmers. The organic system allows a third party verification to take place every year to assure that the principles of organic agriculture are respected on all operations. Farmers also benefit by having the opportunity to alleviate the extra cost of organic agriculture (weeding without herbicides, higher cost of seeds, for example) to the consumers. However, the biggest winner of organic certification is nature; our soil, watershed, living organisms and clean air.
Why buy organic?
To support a more sustainable food system that cares for the environment. Also, a recent analysis by Newcastle University found organic food had between 19% and 69% higher antioxidants level than conventional food. Another study from Stanford University did not find that organic food was more nutritious than conventional but did conclude that conventional fruits and vegetables were found to be more likely to carry pesticide residues.