It seems that organic is on everyone’s lips these days, but what does “organic” really mean?
Organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed; organic food is produced using environmentally and animal friendly farming methods. Organic certification lets consumers know that every step along the supply chain has protected and maintained the organic integrity that begins on the farm.
In Canada, this system is governed by government organic standards and regulations, and applies to both domestic and imported products. Canada’s organic standards are among the most recognized in the world, and place strict limits and prohibitions on the use of toxic and persistent pesticides; synthetic fertilizers; the routine use of drugs, antibiotics or synthetic hormones; animal cloning; genetic engineering (“GMOs”); sewage sludge (“biosolids”); and irradiation. Organic standards also forbid the use of artificial food colours, flavours, sweeteners, preservatives and many other processing aids and ingredients in processed foods.
Guided by these and other standards, organic is now the most heavily regulated and scrutinized food system in Canada, letting you help our environment while also choosing great-tasting, healthy food for you and your family.
“Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic Agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.”
—The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
Organic farmers cultivate their soil’s fertility and produce healthy food by:
Organic farming methods offer the best current model for promoting climate-friendly food production. This is because it is less dependent on fossil-fuel-based fertilizers and pesticides and builds resilience in the face of climatic extremes. Organic farming also stores higher levels of carbon in the soil, promotes wildlife diversity, reduces pest outbreaks, protects soil from erosion, helps prevent contamination of water, and uses far less energy than conventional farming methods.
Is organic food pesticide-free?
Most organic products test free of chemical pesticide residues, but this is not always the case. Sadly, chemical residues already contaminate much of our water, air and soil, and residues can sometimes show up in our food—even organic food. Organic agriculture is a response to this pollution but it doesn’t mean organic products will always be 100% residue “free”, since no one can make that guarantee 100% of the time (at least not until more farmers go organic!). However, many studies and experts have verified that if you want to reduce your exposure to chemical residues, the best way to do this is to choose organic products.
It’s important to remember that organic is about more than simply not using chemicals: it’s about rotating crops and building healthy soil for the future, it’s about treating animals well, and many other things you can’t “test” for (which is why we have organic inspectors out in the fields!).
What is the difference between “organic” and “natural”?
A lot! In Canada, organic is regulated by the government and must follow national standards, while “natural” is a marketing term used by companies based on their own definition of what “natural” is. That means anyone can use the word “natural” on their products, and consumers have to trust them. “Organic” on the other hand, is the gold standard for “eco-labels”—inspected and overseen by the government. Make sure you Think Before You Eat and look for the “Canada Organic” logo!
It’s as easy as choosing only organic foods! Here are a few extra tips:
Did you know that Canada has a wide variety of organic products, all to be found at a store near you?
Organic products are getting easier and easier to find. Check out your local:
If you can’t find great Canadian organic products at your favourite spot, it doesn’t hurt to ask the manager to bring some in… we’re still growing organic in Canada so we appreciate the help!
And remember: always look for the “Canada Organic” logo!
There are over 3780 organic farms in Canada covering 953 thousand hectares of land. Each producing fresh home-grown food that’s nutritious, tastes great and that’s good for our environment and communities. Click here to meet the Canadians that grow your food.