The main reasons why people prefer organic foods is that they think they will be free of pesticides. Organic foods are also said to be healthier, tastier, traditionally harvested and better for the environment. However, many of those ideas are myths.
I’m not saying organic farming is bad. Preferring organic foods will do not harm you at all, but they might not be either as good as you think.
#1: Organic food does not have pesticides
When the Soil Association, a major organic accreditation body in the UK, asked consumers why they buy organic food, 95% of them said their top reason was to avoid pesticides. They, like many people, believe that organic farming involves little to no pesticide use. Unfortunately, this is not true.
Although it’s true, organic farming does restrict the use of some pesticides, however, it does allow others. Therefore, this does not make organic food particularly better than food grown on a “conventional” farm. Especially as long as European standards mean that pesticides are used so far before the harvest that no residues remain when they reach shoppers.
#2: Organic food is traditionally grown by small farmers
Julia Fuentes from Omedoil tells us about this myth. “All our trees are grown the same. We give them all the same care, we use the same water to water the olive trees. The make compost out of the branches after pruning time and we use them as fertilizer. We also add some copper, that is also admitted as a fertilizer in organic farming, and this is it. But if something happens and there is any disease affecting the trees or the fruits, we can´t take the risk of losing the whole harvest. This would affect our own families survival and is a risk we can´t afford. That´s why only a part of our land has been certified as organic while the rest is not”.
Sometimes the most traditional and small farms are just the ones that are not certified as organic. Getting that certification involves a lot of paperwork and tasks that not all the farmers can afford.
#3: Organic food is better for the environment
In the same line, it is a common belief that organic farming is better for the environment. This could not be more wrong. On one hand, organic farmers waste land by not using fertilisers which boost crops. This means that you need more land to produce the same yield. As organic foods demand is growing, more areas deforested to be turned into farming lands, and more ecosystems are damaged or destroyed.
#4: Organic food is healthier
There is no evidence that the nutritional composition of organic foods is better than conventional foods. Actually, the fact that more compost is needed increases the risk of contamination with bacteria, when the composting process is not properly carried. Those bacteria can infect the plants and stay on the fruits and vegetables until they reach you.
#5: Organic food is tastier
Fruits are nice when they are harvest at their right point of ripening, regardless it is biologic or conventional. But ripe fruits does not last long. If you want a Spanish tomato to reach your market in the UK still fresh, it needs to be harvested still green, and then to be matured in chambers. And this is allowed for conventional farming as well as for biologic farming since 2008. In other words: an imported biologic tomato can be tasteless, while a conventional tomato locally harvested can be full of taste. Sadly, British weather is not the best for tomato growing (but British apples are great).
Choosing organic foods will not damage you. However, there is little or no proof that proves that they are healthier, better for the environment, or with a better taste. If this is what you are looking for, you probably will be more successful purchasing foods locally grown. Alternatively, frozen or canned foods can help you too. For example, our Spanish gazpacho or our tined pisto are made in Spain with Spanish vegetables that have all the taste of locally grown products. You can even look for additive-free products that have been preserved in origin to keep all the taste and nutritive qualities.