Organic Food - What does that mean?

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We hear a lot about organic food and the health benefits of eating it, but what does eating organic actually mean?
Chemicals:
The most well known benefit of eating organic food is avoiding eating fruit and vegetables laced with harmful chemicals. Organic food is often higher in nutrition and is free from artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides meaning a lower toxic load on the body. It also means more micro nutrition available for the body to utilise.  The scary thing is that there are few long term studies out there to tell us the health risks of consuming these chemicals on a daily basis.
Some of the most heavily sprayed fruits and vegetables are as follows:
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Grapes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Kale/Collard Greens
  • Summer Squash
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Hot Peppers
Sustainability:
Perhaps the most significant benefit of producing organic food is that it is sustainable farming, and it has a positive impact on the planet. Organic agriculture supports and replenishes the environment rather then exploiting it. Stock rotation is how they manage to maintain sustainability. Both livestock and crops are rotated to avoid exhausting all the nutrition in the soil thus not needing to use artificial fertilisers. This mean livestock are healthier as they are fed better quality food, and the crop is healthier due to the biodiversity in the soil meaning they don't need to be sprayed to prevent disease. Given that agriculture is the world's largest industry and takes place on every populated land mass, if agriculture is not sustainable it will make very little difference whether we recycle our plastics bags or not.
In New Zealand there is no regulation of the use of the term 'Organic' and so the only guarantee of integrity is a third party certificate from bodies such as Biogrow, Agri-Sure, OFNZ or Demeter, to name the four biggest. So look out for these to ensure you are supporting a true organic provider.