Your Guide to Organics

Before I started writing for 1MW, I didn't get why people would bother buying organic.

It seemed like the more expensive option, and I, being the broke and malnourished student I was, didn't really get what made organic food organic in the first place. We use the term 'organic' on the daily in our office and in our writing. Sometimes we forget that this shuts a lot of people out. Some readers don't know why people prefer organic food – and for all we know they might prefer it too, if they knew what exactly it was. So here's a breakdown of what it means to be eating organic.

[Thanks to Post Consumers for the great tips]

What does it mean when food is labelled 'organic'?

'Organic' means that the food was grown in a specific way. The food must be grown in safe soil, have no genetic modifications, must remain separate from "conventional" produce and must not be exposed to pesticides or petroleum-based fertilizers. If it doesn't do all of these things, it doesn't get the label slapped on it in the supermarket. The livestock feed has to be qualified as organic before certain meats can be labelled as organic. The animals must also have access to outdoors, not be exposed to antibiotics, growth hormones or other animal by-products. Keep in mind, most organic food is exposed to pesticide, it's just that these pesticides are organic themselves.

How do you tell if the food is organic?

Going organic is trendy nowadays, that means there are a lot of companies that are a little too liberal with the term when labelling their product. The best way to tell if something is organic is the official, regulated organic labels. The most common is the 'Australia Certified Organic' label. If you're at your local farmers market it's a great idea to speak to the farmers selling their produce, they will be happy to tell you where it came from, and whether or not it's organic.

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is something to be very careful of. Our food market is riddled with labels that claim to be organic produce, when really the company just slaps a sticker on because 'organic' is in. This makes it hard for organic shoppers to trust buying anywhere other than a farmers market. Here are some labels you might see in commercial supermarkets:

Made with organic ingredients: It's pretty obvious here that there aren't that many organic components to this product. It's also illegal for these products to claim that they are organic if they aren't. The food needs to be at least 70% organic, and must be 100% GMO free. Take time to read the ingredients before you buy.

100% Organic: Probably your best bet for organic produce, since the label is fairly obviously claiming it's all organic. It's always good to do a quick Google search of the company name on your phone if you're not too sure.

Organic: If it just says this, there is room for nonorganic material to make its way in there. The food must be at least 95% organic quality, which is pretty close to perfect. Again, there is a bit of wiggle room for nonorganic materials, but at least not too much.

For labels to even claim they are organic, they need to have an organic system plan, and they must have records to show that they comply with that plan. They get in a lot of trouble if they don't follow these rules.

Sometimes you'll find that organic products are heavily over-packaged. So what's better? Buying organic and increasing waste, or lowering waste and shopping nonorganic? The answer is: neither. Buy as local as possible, and if you can, shop at your local farmers markets. They will use as little packaging as possible, and you'll get the most assurance that your product is 100% organic.

Hope this helped!

What you can do

Buy local, fresh and in-season when you shop for fruit and veg

When you buy fruit and veg do the following: choose locally produced, in-season and fresh rather than frozen, don't use plastic bags and avoid any overpackaged items. Do this for a month then try to keep going.

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