Working in an organic food store, we are often asked the question “Why is organic more expensive?” And while there are some price differences between organic and conventional foods, most people are surprised to learn that it is possible to buy organic items and not break the budget. However, for those organic items that are more costly, there are some good reasons for the difference in price. Organic farmers must keep extensive records that are required for keeping their certification. Also, growing organic means that farmers must rotate their crops regularly in order to keep the soil fertile. In contrast, conventional farmers are able to use chemical fertilizers to support planting entire fields with high paying crops. And speaking of fertilizers, chemical and synthetic options used by conventional farmers are far less expensive than the organic variety that is permitted under certification laws. Perhaps one of the most glaring differences between organic and conventional farming is the amount of government subsidies allocated to each side. As a percentage, organic farmers are only given 0.001% of the subsidies that are available to conventional growers. According to Simcha Weinstein, of Albert’s Organics, three quarters of these farm subsidies go to cash crops like corn, wheat, and cotton. Cheap corn allows conventional animal farmers to feed their livestock at a far lower cost than what an organic animal farmer is required to endure. This translates into higher costs for organic meat and dairy products. Unfortunately, most subsidies end up going to the largest ten percent of farms, meaning that huge factory style farms receive the most benefit and small, family farms receive next to nothing in governmental support.
Why choose organic products?
- Organic products meet strict national standards — The “Canada Organic” logo is the public’s assurance that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures and rules. Organic is the most heavily regulated and scrutinized food system in Canada.
- Cut back on chemicals! — Many herbicides and insecticides commonly used in agriculture have been found to be carcinogenic, hormone replicators, or negative for children’s development. Choosing organic has been shown to significantly reduce your exposure to chemical residues.
- Organic farms take water seriously — Organic farmers are required to manage the land and life around water systems very carefully, and are inspected annually. By not using synthetic fertilizers and persistent toxic chemicals, organic farming is also easy on our precious water reserves, while building good soils that fight erosion.
- Organic farmers work in harmony with nature — Organic agriculture builds healthy ecosystems, and organic farms have higher biodiversity on them and around them too: promoting sustainability and ecological balance.
- Organic methods reduce pollution and wasted energy— More energy is used to produce synthetic fossil-fuel-based fertilizers than to cultivate and harvest crops or to transport food. Canadian studies have shown that organic farming practices can use as little as half the energy of other farming methods, and help to sequester carbon back into the soil.
- Protect the health of farmers and children — Farmers exposed to pesticides can have a significantly higher risk of contracting cancer compared to non-farmers. And children are exposed to relatively more than an adult is when they eat residues on their food. Choosing organic reduces the exposure for children, and the farmers who grew their food.
- Organic farmers build healthy soil — Soil is the foundation of the food chain. Organic farming is focused on using sustainable practices that build healthy soil microbiology and prevent erosion, leaving fertile land that will provide for future generations.
- Organic farming is good for rural Canada — The Census of Agriculture has shown that, on average, organic farming families earn more from their farms than the typical Canadian farm does, and employ more people per farm too!
- Organic producers strive to preserve genetic diversity — The loss of a large variety of species (biodiversity) is one of the most pressing environmental concerns. The good news is that many organic farmers and gardeners have been collecting and preserving seeds, and growing heirloom varieties and rare breeds of livestock for decades.
- Organic food tastes great! — It’s common sense: healthy soils produce strong, healthy plants that become nourishing food for people and animals.
- Organic is the only non-GMO standard overseen by the Canadian government — organic standards forbid the use of GMOs in seeds, in animal feed, and in the ingredients of processed organic food and products. If you’re concerned about GMOs, Choose Canada Organic!
The benefit that organic farming has for the environment and for our bodies is substantial. While there is a hot debate surrounding the nutrient values of organic versus conventional produce, many reputable sources agree that there is greater vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content in organic fruits and vegetables. Additionally, eating organic means that you are not subjecting your body to the harmful effects of toxic chemical pesticides, some which have been shown to be carcinogens. Organic farming is kinder to our planet and is more sustainable in the long term. Conventional farming is exceptionally hard on soil and water quality and leads to serious degradation and pollution over time. In contrast, organic farming creates more fertile soil and doesn’t contribute to water toxicity.
I’m happy to report that British Columbia is changing the requirements for organic certification in the province. Currently, farmers are able to call their produce organic without certification provided they are not exporting their products outside of the province. This type of selling mainly occurs at farmer’s markets and fruit stands as the vast majority of retail chains require certification from their farmers. Nature’s Fare buys produce from local farmers as well as one large organic produce distributor. This distributor is a certified organic supplier, meaning that they have been third party verified by QAI International to guarantee that their practices and the produce they sell are in compliance with organic standards. Furthermore, all local, organic farmers that supply Nature’s Fare must provide their certification papers before their crops are sold in our stores. Most organic farmers in B.C. having been waiting for this legislation because, aside from providing greater industry regulation, the new laws will make it easier for small scale farmers to gain organic certification.