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.
There are a number of reasons to buy certified organic products. Take a look at the chart below.
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.
I leave you with one last infographic that displays the benefits of choosing organically grown products.