Like many other words, ORGANIC is widely misused by eager marketers and companies trying to tap into health-conscious or eco-friendly people like you and me. But what exactly does ORGANIC mean?
In a snapshot
ORGANIC means that a product originates from living matter (aka animals and plants). For example, wood is organic (because it was once a living tree) and metal is not. In food terms, ORGANIC should mean that the food was produced without the use of chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides and the like. Easy, right? Yeah, but it's not always that straight forward...
For the avid reader
The global organic food market is worth over 80 billion euros as of 2016, of which about 80% is in Europe and the USA. So it's no wonder that every food label is fighting to have their product branded as organic, since they can usually sell these at more than twice the price of their ordinary equivalent.
However, organic can be a loose term. In theory the label should be given only to animal and plant food that didn't have any chemical in their production chain. These include not only pesticides, but fertilisers in the soil and it also applies to the plant-based food given to farmed animals. These animals should also be free from antibiotics and hormones. But in practice, there is some leeway that allow the use of some artificial resources even by the arguably higher European standards which allow their use under certain conditions* and depending on which chemicals are authorised within each Member State. There are literally thousands of pages of regulation and certainly many gray areas that can be exploited!
Across the world, many NGO's advocate the principles of HEALTH, ECOLOGY, FAIRNESS and CARE to recognise organic farming (these are detailed here: www.ifoam-eu.org). Luckily for us, these organisations keep pressure on government and economic agents to apply transparency and high standards when it comes to the food labeled organic that ends up on our table.
But why should we care?
I must confess I wasn't too bothered about eating organic food myself until a few years ago. One day my father gave me a copy of Anticancer: A New Way of Life written by a doctor who was diagnosed with a brain tumour and only six months to live. Long story short, he went on a journey to discover everything about cancer and realised that the disease is strongly linked to our western lifestyle.
So what's the link between cancer and organic food? Put simply, the biggest defence we have from cancer is a healthy balanced body. Our natural immune system is the perfect machine to keep cancer at bay, but to run at its best this machine needs a well-balanced diet, with all the right combination of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids that our body needs. And where do we get that from? You guessed, our food!
The problem with non-organic food is that they are massively affected by the chemicals used in their production. One of the main effects scientifically observed is the balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 in animal products. These fatty acids are essential because our body does not produce them so we need to ingest and absorb them from our food. In organic food, this balance is usually 1 to 1, but as natural production methods get "tampered" with (by the addition of chemicals, fertilisers, and as the soil itself gets depleted of minerals due to intensive farming), this can go as high as 1 to 15 and beyond in some products. When we ingest these foods, our body then becomes saturated with Omega 6 which promotes inflammation, coagulation and growth of fatty and cancerous cells. Needless to say, we always prefer organic now!
The good news is that our body is a fantastic machine with an amazing regenerative power. So, if you start adopting a better lifestyle right now, you can stop harming your health and look forward to a happier future with the people you love. Wouldn't that be nice?