Nowadays it is common to go to the supermarket and find that some of the food is more expensive.arcades such as “organic”, “bio” or “ecological”.. The meaning of these terms is not usually known, but their association with the natural makes us have more confidence in this type of products, which are treated as if they were of higher quality.
In this article we will talk about the differences that exist between foods catalogued as organic and those that are not, so that we know exactly what we are buying.
What are organic foods?
Organic foods are those that adhere to a greater or lesser extent to specific production practices, so-called organic agriculture. It is a type of agriculture that appeared in the early twentieth century, in response to the rapid development and implementation of technology in the agricultural sector.
In the European Union, products containing more than 95% of organically obtained ingredients can carry the “organic product” mark on their packaging, always together with an indication of the place of origin of these products.
Organic agriculture denies the use of most synthetic substances, such as pesticides or herbicides (or in the case of organic farming, antibiotics). Nor do they use synthetic compounds to fertilize or nitrogen their fields, for example.
Organic food of plant and animal origin meet quality standards in terms of production and quality.They are intended to be a sustainable production, with local resources and that produces the least possible ecological disruption. Even so, today we have no evidence that organic food represents a health benefit.
The main differences between organic and “normal” foods
The production of organic food is carried out following strict guidelines .These are the species that can be used, their diet, care, waste management and even the ecological sustainability of the production activity. This becomes apparent when we see the differences with the more usual production of food:
1. Organic food only uses natural fertilizers
Fertilization is a fundamental part of agriculture. As the plants grow in the same field, they deplete part of the nutrients that are deposited in the soil.
Organic crops only use natural fertilizer, such as manure. In order to achieve this, it is often essential that, in addition to the agricultural operation, a parallel livestock operation is also carried out, from which the fertilizer can be used to recover nutrients from the field.
2. Prohibit most synthetic substances
In organic food production the use of synthetic compounds is not welcome. In plants, this means not being able to use the most effective fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. With animals, this means banning the use of hormones, growth factors or antibiotics in feed production.
Some synthetic compounds are allowed in some organic crops. The European Union allows the use of copper sulfate, an effective anti-parasitic agent to fight fungal infections in plants, or elemental sulfur for fertilizing fields. Still, the less of these are used, the better.
3. Crop planning and architecture
Losing access to some of the most cutting-edge agricultural technologies makes the agricultural production model used on most modern farms nonviable for a variety of reasons. Among them, we can highlight the “wear and tear” on arable land as well as vulnerability to attacks by parasites or infectious diseases. They are problems that can be solved with technology, but organic agriculture also takes them into account.
To improve the productive capacity of organic farms, traditional cultivation techniques are used, left behind because they represent added difficulties to food production. For example, crop rotation .This is an agricultural technique that allows better use of soil nutrients by changing the type of plant used in the same piece of land.
Other techniques, such as mixed farming protect the plantation from diseases that consume the entire production. Mixed crops add a certain degree of “ecological protection”, as well as attracting more pollinating insects and other useful animals, such as insect predators that parasite plants.
4. Management of production wastes
Wastes that occur during the food procurement process are a problem. Today’s agricultural industry has difficulty handling environmentally polluting substances, such as pesticides or slurry, which seep into groundwater contaminating large water systems.
Organic production should take into account as much as possible that any waste produced should ideally be recycled for the benefit of the holding. This is facilitated by having a livestock farm and an agricultural farm in the same area, since vegetable waste can serve as feed, while animal waste can function as manure.
5. Cannot contain genetically modified organisms – GMOs –
One of the most important characteristics of organic products is that under no circumstances can they contain genetically modified organisms. Organic agriculture renounces state-of-the-art food production technologies, and genetically modified organisms are part of these technologies.
6. Increased incidence of pests and diseases
Unfortunately, not everything is an advantage in organic fields. Especially if one does not take great care in choosing compatible species, from which certain synergistic effects are obtained for the health of the agricultural production, it is habitual that this type of plantations and cattle exploitation suffer from a greater number of diseases and pests.
Not to use pesticides or antibiotics has as an implicit risk the greater incidence of diseases and various plagues in the organic exploitation. This can be remedied in multiple ways(e.g. insect predators), as well as using the mixed cropping technique, which to some extent protects against the spread of disease.
Ready for a snack?
If this article made you hungry, then you can enjoy a delicious snack without feeling guilty.
- Smith-Spangler, C., Brandeau, M., Hunter, G., Bavinger, J., Pearson, M., & Eschbach, P. et al. (2012). Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives? Annals Of Internal Medicine, 157(5), 348. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-157-5-201209040-00007,
- Dangour, A., Lock, K., Hayter, A., Aikenhead, A., Allen, E., & Uauy, R. (2010). Nutrition-related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review. The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, 92(1), 203-210. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.29269.