Have you been toying with the idea of going organic? Maybe you know a bit about it already and want to find out more? Or maybe you’ve heard of it, but aren’t too sure what it involves.
Keep reading for an overview of some organic basics, including the pros and the cons of going organic.
What does organic mean?
The phrase ‘organic’ is applied to food, cosmetics, clothing and many more things.1 But what does it mean if something’s organic?
When something carries an organic label, it’s a symbol of the fact that the product, or products, have been produced in a way that’s better for people, animals and wildlife, and the natural environment as a whole.
According to the Soil Association’s Organic Market Report 2020, £200 million a month is currently spent on organic food and drink, with the UK organic market expected to be worth £2.5 billion by the end of 2020.2
In terms of organic food, this means that food, be it veg, bread, eggs, milk, meat, has been produced using:
- Fewer pesticides
- Zero artificial fertilisers
- Higher welfare standards
- No antibiotics, genetic modification, artificial colours or preservatives3
Demand for organic beauty products is also on the rise, with the Soil Association reporting that sales have risen by 23% compared to last year.4
While we can’t consume them, organic beauty products that are Soil Association certified are produced in a certain way by saying no to:
- Animal testing
- Genetic modification
- Controversial chemicals
- Parabens and phthalates
- Synthetic colours, dyes or fragrances
- Nano particles5
It’s also possible for clothes and textiles to be produced organically too, which is also an area that’s risen in popularity (by 10% compared to last year).6 This means the items have been manufactured with organic fibres and in line with environmental and social standards.
Take organic cotton, for instance. It’s said to me much kinder to the planet than non-organic materials because it:
- Helps to create healthier soil – due to the fact organic farmers use natural methods, such as composting, to create healthy soil, which absorbs flood water and stays moist during droughts
- Involves no hazardous pesticides – synthetic pesticides have been banned from organic farming, helping reduce the risk of dangerous chemicals entering our waterways
- Isn’t a drain on natural water supplies – because most organic cotton is grown using land that uses the rainwater to its full advantage7
What’s the difference between organic and non-organic?
Still pondering the differences between organic and non-organic? Take a look at the table below for an at-a-glance explanation of organic vs. non-organic food, cosmetics and clothing principles:
|Fruit and vegetables8|
|Natural fertilisers are used (e.g. manure and compost)||Synthetic or chemical fertilisers are used|
|Weeds are controlled naturally (crop rotation, hand weeding, mulching)||Chemical herbicides are used for weed control|
|Pests are controlled naturally (birds, insects, traps) and by using naturally-derived pesticides||Synthetic pesticides are used to control pests|
|Meat, dairy and eggs9|
|Organic, hormone- and GMO-free feed is used||Growth hormones are given|
|Diseases are prevented with natural methods (e.g. clean housing, rotational grazing)||Antibiotics and medications are used to prevent livestock disease.|
|Livestock can go outside||Livestock may or not be able to go outside|
|Minimally-processed ingredients are used||Made from artificially manufactured ingredients|
|Natural materials are used||Materials aren’t sourced from nature|
|Clothing and textiles (cotton)11|
|Grown without harmful chemicals||Artificial chemicals that can contaminate soil, air and water are used|
|Rain water is used for the manufacturing processes||Involves non-natural water sources are used|
|Insects are used for pest control||Involves the use of chemicals|
|Safe working processes are followed||Working conditions may be unsafe|
What are pros and cons of eating organic food?
Organic coconut oil, organic apple cider vinegar, organic honey, organic wine, organic peanut butter, organic coffee…the list of organic food products that are available these days is vast, to say the least.
But what are the benefits of following an organic diet and what’s the downside to it? Let’s take a look at some of the main pros and cons:
Organic food – the advantages
Organic food is:12
- Often fresher – because it doesn’t contain preservatives that make it last longer
- Better for the planet – organic food production is geared towards reducing pollution, conserving water, increasing soil fertility and using less energy, alongside many more things
- Richer in certain nutrients (in relation to milk and meat) – European research has shown that levels of certain nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, were 50% higher in organic meat and milk compared to conventionally-raised meat and milk
- Free from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) – which means what ends up on your plate isn’t natural because it’s DNA has been tampered with to grow in a certain way
Organic food – the disadvantages
Organic food is:
- More likely to go off quicker – because it doesn’t contain any artificial preservatives13
- More expensive – compared to non-organic food14
- Not always more nutritious – studies have found that organic foods contain more nutrients, while many others have found there’s not enough evidence to recommend organic over non-organic food15
- Not always healthy – it’s still possible for processed foods that are high in calories, sugar and salt to be organic16
Where to find organic products
You can buy organic products online and in food shops. If you’re unsure if something’s organic, look for EU organic green leaf logo. Certain products also carry the Soil Association’s logo too, which is a sign that the EU Organic Regulations, as well as the Soil Associations standards, have been met.17
In the meantime, here are some organic food products to get you started:
10 organic food and drink products to try…
- Holland & Barrett Organic Cranberries
- Heath & Heather Organic Echinacea and Cranberry Tea Bags
- Golden Greens Organic Spirulina Powder
- Mr Organic Cocoa Biscuits
- Biona Organic Blackcurrant Spread
- Cafédirect Congo Organic Ground Coffee
- Clearspring Organic Tamari Roasted Sicilian Almonds Snack
- Holland & Barrett Organic Gluten Free Jumbo Oats
- Emile Noel Organic Mild Olive Oil
- Bobs Red Mill Organic Coconut Flour
Last updated: 20 August 2020