What does organic mean? Organic foods such as vegetables, fruits, milk, eggs and meats are grown or produced without:
- Synthetic (man-made) fertilizers or pesticides
- Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- Growth Hormones
- Medications (like antibiotics)
Organic farmers can choose to utilize approved natural pesticides through Health Canada. Conventional farmers can choose to incorporate organic practices into their farming operations and some farmers produce both conventional and organic crops. Regardless of production style, sustainability is fundamental with all farmers always being mindful of soil health, natural pest control, crop rotation and building local and export markets.
In Canada, you can recognize a food as organic through the label certifying that the food meets the Canadian Organic Standards. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency monitors adherence to these standards.
Since 2007, the number of organic farms has increased in Canada and the retail sales of organic foods has grown by 13.6 percent annually to a current value of approximately $4.7 billion dollars in Canada. Choosing to buy organic foods generally will cost more. A report by Consumer Reports in 2015 looked at 8 retailers and compared the cost of organic vs conventional foods. Organic items were 24 – 60% more than conventional but if you watch weekly promotions at the larger grocery chains, you can find organic foods for similar, and sometimes less money, than their conventional counterparts. More importantly, wash your produce—conventional and organic—in running water. Researchers have shown that water alone is as effective as any of the washes or soap. Rubbing produce with soft skins, like peaches, or using a vegetable brush on harder items like potatoes or carrots will help remove residues, dirt and germs.
Nutritionally, organic and conventional foods are virtually the same. There is no consistent evidence to support additional health benefits or significant improvement in nutrient composition between organic and conventional foods. Researchers have found higher levels of various nutrients in both organic and conventionally grown foods. Pesticide residues, natural or synthetic, can be found on both organic and conventional foods, although both must meet the strict food safety standards in Canada. Health Canada regulations limit residues to levels far below the amount that could possibly pose a health concern.
People choose organic foods for many reasons. Innovation in plant science here in Canada positively impacts food costs, food safety, greenhouse gas emissions and allows farmers to grow crops and produce food more efficiently. Whether choosing conventional or organic, our food system is amazing offering many nutritious and safe food options for consumers to choose from.
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