Organic offers benefits to us, to animals and to our planet. As this month marks Organic September, we have gathered experts to explain why you could be thinking about making the switch.
The importance of organic cannot be underestimated and is becoming ever more relevant as we place increased pressure on our planet. Organic is a more sustainable approach to farming, it cares for our environment, for animals, for nature, and it offers benefits to our health.
Ahead of the annual Organic September, a month-long initiative celebrating all things organic, we gathered experts to help explain why it’s worth making the switch.
Alex Smith, founder of the pioneering organic brand, Alara, explained: “We believe organic agriculture plays a key role in tackling climate change and sustainability has always been at the heart of our business. Organic is very important for us and this is also why we were the first cereal brand to be certified organic by the Soil Association back in 1988.”
Clare Marriage, founder of Doves Farm, also pointed out: “At Doves Farm, we have been certified by the Soil Association since we were founded in 1978. Organic food consumption is at an all-time high, with UK sales in the past year driving the biggest year-on-year sales increase in 15 years. This has been bought on by a rising awareness of environmental issues amongst consumers and a continued reappraisal of health and wellbeing. Organic flours have seen particularly rapid growth over the last year, at 84.2 per cent. This was boosted by the lockdown baking boom, but also reflects the drive to use products which are made from sustainably-grown ingredients.
“Interest in sustainability has grown since the start of the pandemic and people are increasingly seeking out organic food as an ethical and trusted choice, which offers a number of environmental benefits. The past year has also served to remind of the importance of good, wholesome nutrition – something many associate with organic food.”
And Rose Holmes, Nutritionist and Education and Training Manager at Rio Health, pointed out the health benefits: “As a company, Rio Health aim to provide high quality products for health benefit, with a care to reduce the risk to the environment. Choosing organic offers benefit to both the environment and the individual. Organic farming helps lower the risk of environmental pollution and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions by severely restricting the use of manufactured chemical fertilisers and pesticides (which come from burning fossil fuels). When plants are grown organically, fewer toxins are released into the air, drinking water and soil.
“And, for the individual, plants grown organically are not exposed to the same levels of pesticides and other chemicals as conventionally-grown plants are, and so are less likely to contribute to toxin burden; dietary toxins from non-organic foods have to be processed by detoxification systems alongside bacterial endotoxins, air pollutant toxins, pharmaceuticals and other toxins. Repeated exposure to toxins (such as via non-organic foods) adds to the body’s ‘toxic inflammatory burden’ and may contribute to, or even cause, ill health. Toxins damage enzymes affecting body function, displace structural minerals (for example, affecting bone density) and reduce the body’s capacity to prevent free radical damage (thus toxins can accelerate ageing).”
The organic difference
So, what does being organic actually entail, and why do the brands that are certified believe it is a better way of doing things?
Alex advised: “Organic companies must adhere to a different set of standards and practices that conventional manufactures are not obliged to follow. To mention a few, weed killers are banned, artificial fertilisers are restricted, antibiotics are only used as a last resort, no GM ingredients are allowed, and artificial colours and preservatives are also banned. These all restrictions make organic products more natural and free from artificial substances that could potentially leave unsafe residues on our food and have an impact on our health.
“Aside from being certified by the Soil Association, we also make sure all our suppliers of organic ingredients comply with all standards and have the relevant certifications up to date. We also try to source as much as possible from British suppliers to reduce the carbon footprint of our products. As you can see here at Alara ,we share the same objectives organic farming has.”
Rose went on: “All products labelled as organic must by law meet certain requirements. Labelling regulations apply and the ingredients listing should indicate which are organic ingredients. Products must contain at least 95 per cent organic ingredients of agricultural origin to be considered and must be certified organic by a recognised certification body such as the Organic Food Federation. Laws exist to protect the consumer. If a product is labelled as organic and is not certified through a recognised certification body, then that company is breaking the law.
“In theory, certification relates to all processes involved from growing to point of sale; growers need to be certified, and other parts of the chain including manufacturing, storing and importing need to be organically certified. There are various checks in this process.
“Rio Health organic products are certified organic by the Organic Food Federation, which look at whether all the checks are satisfied so that the integrity of our products are in place. Consumers can check the labelling for an indication of the organic certification for a product.”
So, how best to start making a switch to organic?
Alex suggested: “The simplest way to make sure the products we are buying are organic is looking for the organic logo in the packaging. Organic producers are audited every year by independent authorities, so this logo is an assurance they comply with all regulations. Also, local farmers markets are usually a great place to find organic food as sellers are usually small producers in the area who produce reduce quantities as they only use natural substances and techniques.”