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It used to be the case that organic food could only be found at health food stores and farmer's markets but now there is an abundance of organic foods in local supermarkets.
But is it really better for you?
We look at some of the facts behind organic farming and find out why opting for the natural version is better for your health.
What is organic food?
Any fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy produce that is organic is grown, harvested and processed without any chemical interference. Organic farmers do not use chemical fertilizers or weed killers or prevent livestock disease with chemical means. Practices such as crop rotations and mulch or manure fertilizers are said to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution.
Does organic food have more vitamins and minerals?
With hundreds of studies being published on the topic, there is some evidence that organic food is nutritionally better and more importantly, contains less nitrates. The Soil Association reviewed over 400 published papers comparing the nutritional value of organic and non-organic foods and found that organic crops have higher levels of essential minerals, phytonutrients and vitamin C.
Similarly, a University of Missouri study in the US found that organically grown oranges, although they were smaller than their conventionally grown counterparts has up to 30% more vitamin C.
Is it more humane for animals?
Organic farmers promise to provide meat that is free from any hormones and antibiotics, which means that their livestock are naturally healthier and were not fed on any genetically modified feeds. For chicken farmers, they must ensure their hens are free to roam meaning all eggs and chicken products will be free-range and organic.
Why is it better for the environment?
By choosing organic produce, you are promoting healthier and more sustainable use of the earth's natural resources. The majority of modern farming methods uses excessive amounts of chemicals to treat the land while the produce is growing or to preserve the food itself once it if harvested. It is these harsh chemicals that destroys soil's fertility levels and lead to spikes of algae blooms in waterways. Organic farming opts for natural fertilizers like animal manure and physical weed control which has little impact on the environment.
How can I tell if food is organic?
Organic food production within the EU is strictly regulated to ensure that all organic crops and produce met the same standards. Farmers are also asked to submit annual reports and are open for random inspections at any time. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is responsible for organic farming regulations across the UK. While shopping, look out for the Soil Association badge on food packaging. The Soil Association carries out checks and inspections and only awards an organic certification to farmers and businesses that have met their rigorous standards and testing. Organic Farmers and Growers is another organisation that monitors organic produce production, and like the Soil Association, they follow the same strict guidelines the Deftra laid out to guarantee organic status.