Have you noticed more people talking about cooking organically, or having their organic food home delivered?

The days when people looked sideways at imperfect organic produce are over.

The demand for organic food is soaring because many consumers have learned about the pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, antibiotics, growth promoting hormones and other chemicals that are uses in modern agriculture. (Many of these may remain as residues in your food).

Organics is now the fastest-growing food trend in Europe. Who really wants to eat genetically engineered foods anyway?

When you buy delicious looking unblemished fruit at the supermarket, do you realize it may have been sprayed 20 times while it was growing on the tree, picked while still green and hard, stored for months in carbon dioxide, treated with post-harvest fungicides, ripened with ethylene gas or waxed with an insect secretion?

Do you realize that that nicely wrapped meat you buy may have come from animals that have been reared on a bizarre diet? Chickens, for example, are feed antibiotic growth promotants every day of their short lives. Pigs are fed the ground-up remains of other animals, including pigs, in their compound feeds. And beef may have come from cattle that have had sex hormones implanted in their ears.

There’s nothing on a label to warn you that your food may contain residues of pesticides, fungicides, antibiotics, sex hormones or other drugs that are fed to animals. Yet pesticide and other residues are found in more than half the food you eat, according to Ministry of Health surveys.

As evidence accumulates that pesticides and other chemicals can cause everything from cancer, birth defects and immune system damage to reduced sperm counts, more and more consumers are now turning to organic food as a form of health insurance.

By eating organically, you avoid the cumulative, long-term health effects of eating residues of pesticide and other chemicals from your food. You are eating food that is high in nutrients (having been grown in soil that is rich in organic matter). You can be assured, too, that it has been grown or reared in an environmentally friendly way, from animals that have been well treated.

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What is organic produce?

Organic produce is vegetables and fruit grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or fungicides, growth-promoting sex hormones, antibiotic growth promotants or other chemicals.

It is not grown from genetically modified seed.

Organic farmers work in harmony with nature to use techniques that are better for the environment. Instead of using toxic chemicals to control weeds and insects, or synthetic fertilizers to make plants grow more quickly, organic growers rely on traditional practices such as feeding the soil with compost. They also rotate crops, encourage beneficial insects and use natural materials such as garlic, derris and pyrethrum to control pests.

Processed organic foods

An increasing number of processed organic foods – bread, muesli, biscuits, and pizzas – are now available. These are made with natural yeasts, unrefined sea salt and organic flour and do not contain artificial colourings, preservatives, bleaching agents, stabilizers and other synthetic additives. They are not chemically treated and are processed to the minimum extent possible.

No genetically engineered ingredients are permitted in organic food.

Organic Meat

Organic animals graze on land that has not been treated with any pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

They are not dipped or drenched with pesticides for lice or parasites.

Organic animals are not fed the ground-up remains of other animals, sex hormones, antibiotic growth promotants or other chemical treatments.

At leased 70 percent of an organic chicken or pig’s diet is organically grown.

How do I know it’s organic food?

If you buy food certified by either Bio-Gro or Demeter it is genuinely organic. These organisations set strict standards farmers must meet to obtain organic certification. They specify what products may be used on crops right down to methods of storage. It can take three years for a farm to be fully certified organic. Once certified, independent inspectors monitor farms regularly.