Understanding Organic Food Consumption

By: Sanjida Amin

Our food choices have a significant impact on our health and the health of the planet. Buying organic and locally grown produce, when possible, is a great way to reduce the impact our food choices can have on the environment.  According to research, support for organic food has grown recently not only for its perceived health advantages over conventional agriculture, but also for the ethical production process, which considers the sustainable usage of resources and integrates techniques that preserve the ecological balance of natural systems. Let us explore what organically grown produce is, what the benefits are, and how we can identify organic products. 

What is organic? 

Since the 1970s, intensive agricultural production techniques and unsustainable consumption habits have been increasing at an unprecedented rate, causing pollution of the air, water, and soil, as well as significantly accelerating climate change and the extinction of species (IPCC, 2022). The current overuse of fertilisers, herbicides, and antibiotics in livestock and aquaculture threatens the environment and human health and has significant socioeconomic consequences. In contrast to this, organic food practices, restricts the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilisers and adheres to high standards for animal care to reduce the suffering of livestock due to their detrimental effects on the environment. Canada organic standards requires that organic food meets a specific set of requirements, such as avoidance of genetic engineering, minimum use of chemicals in pesticides and soil management techniques, and regulated livestock diet and care. Any agricultural product with an organic label is subject to these standards, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggs, meat, fish, rice, cereals, and even some natural fabrics.  

Benefits of having organic produce in your diet 

  • Foods that are organic are often fresher that non-organic produce, especially if purchased from a local produce stand or farmer’s market. Organic options will also often provide a better cooking and dining experience, as they tend to have more flavour. Check out this post to learn more about buying locally. 
  • Organic foods contain lower levels of potentially toxic substances. When you choose organic, you are opting out of using chemical pesticides and mineral fertilizers for your food, which is harmful both for the environment and your health. It depletes the soil nutrition required for fruits and vegetables.  
  • Organic produce may even be healthier, since it carries more of certain antioxidants and nutritional properties. Certain nutrients may be more abundant in some organic food items, like organic meat and milk. According to the findings of this study, the amounts of several nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, were up to 50% higher in organic meat and milk than in conventionally farmed versions. 

Recognizing the right product 

Unfortunately, certified organic produce may not be readily available in all areas and stores, and they also tend to be more expensive. To be certified as organic in Canada, the food must include 95% or more, organic ingredients. Organic items are regulated under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR). Therefore, when you want to buy organic, you can look for the Canada organic logo and know that your food has been regulated properly and all organic standards have been met. Additionally, you can check out the shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce to learn which produces contains the highest or lowest level of pesticides. Lastly, if organic food is not readily available, look for foods with additional labels that indicate sustainability and/or ethical production.   

By taking steps to improve our food choices, we can not only enhance our personal health, but also play a significant role in influencing our agricultural practices towards greater sustainability. It is important to recognize that not everyone may have access or the means to purchase organic foods. While it is beneficial to support practices that improve the sustainability of our food systems, it is more important to know that even taking small steps such as informing yourself about these practices makes a difference! No matter how big or small your actions may seem, every action towards greater sustainability is a step in the right direction.

Categories: Food, Student Contributor