At Planet Organic, we’re passionate about organic practices and products. That’s why all fruits and vegetables sold in our produce section are 100% certified organic. We believe that organic produce is better for the earth, better for you, and just tastes better.
We regularly receive questions from our customers about the differences between organic produce and other alternatives. To help feed your mind, we’ve compiled this list of frequently asked questions about organic produce and practices. As you’ll see, organic is more than an environmentally-sound way to grow and produce food. It’s a state of mind.
Why go organic?
Organic foods are spared the application of potentially harmful, long-lasting insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers. Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Currently the EPA considers 60% of all herbicides, 90% of all fungicides, and 30% of all insecticides to be potentially cancer-causing. Many studies have compared the nutritional value of organic foods to conventional foods with most reports favouring organic. At Planet Organic Market, we believe our customers should be informed about the potential impact of long-term exposure to pesticides, antibiotics, additives and irradiated food, as well as GMOs. Taste is an individual matter, but many gourmet chefs across Canada are choosing to use organic foods in their recipes, due to the superior flavour and quality of these products. A growing number of consumers are also claiming that organic food tastes better. It makes sense that foods grown naturally in well-balanced soils and ripened by the sun will be healthier and tastier than products raised on a diet of chemicals, only to be sprayed with preservatives that allow them to sit for months in storage. Try organic food for yourself and see what you think!
What is organic agriculture?
Organic agriculture is a holistic system of production that takes farming back to basics. Organic farmers strive to incorporate practices that are mindful of their effect on the earth to create a minimal adverse effect on the environment. Organic practices generally include growing food in harmony with nature, without the use of pesticides to create a community within soil organisms, plants, livestock and people. According to the National Standard of Canada, Organic Agriculture:
- Prohibits synthetically-compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed antibiotics
- Prohibits use of ionizing radiation in the preservation of food
- Prohibits use of feed additives such as growth hormones
- Prohibits use of genetically-engineered or modified organisms
- Encourages maximum use of recycling
What is organic vs certified organic?
Many small local food growers and suppliers choose not to have their products and operations certified, while still sourcing mostly organic ingredients. Gaining organic certification can be costly, and many small producers do not see it as a smart investment. In such cases it’s common to see products listed as ‘organic’ or ‘made with organic ingredients.’ Due to Federal regulations, large-scale commercial growers and producers must have their products and operations certified to label their product as ‘Certified Organic.’ This prevents misuse of the term ‘organic’ and helps protect consumers. After all, you want to know what you’re buying is what it says it is!
Are all organic products completely free of pesticide residues?
Certified organic products have been grown and handled according to strict standards, without toxic and persistent chemical inputs. However, organic crops may be inadvertently exposed to agricultural chemicals that are now pervasive in rain and ground water due to historical overuse, as well as through drift via wind. Because of this, we encourage all our staff and customers to thoroughly wash all produce before cooking or consuming.
How can I be sure that if a label says ‘organic’, it really is organic?
Agriculture Canada is currently working on mandatory standards for organic products. Compliance with this standard is now voluntary; however most Canadian producers of organic products are eager to enjoy the consumer benefits of having their products certified and labeled accordingly. Because there isn’t a national process in place, organic farmers receive their certification through a government approved third-party agency, like the Global Organic Alliance. In order to receive certification, a grower or producer must prove that all growing and food preparation practices in their operation meet a strict set of standards and guidelines. Once approved, their operation will be subject to annual inspections and random checks. There are currently three categories of labeling for organic products in Canada, as determined by USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) organic standards. 1. 100% Organic: made with 100% organic ingredients 2. Organic: made with at least 95% organic ingredients 3. Made with Organic Ingredients: made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients, with strict restrictions on the remaining 30%, including no genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list organically-produced ingredients on the side panel of the package.
What is meant by ‘Voluntary Standard’ VS a ‘Mandatory Standard’?
With a ‘Voluntary Standard’ the food producer/grower/supplier is responsible for setting up and maintaining a system for production and inspection. Organic certification is granted by a third-party agency. A ‘Mandatory Standard’ means that the government has set legal requirements and standards for the production and certification of organic products. At the moment the only Canadian province with a mandatory standard is Quebec; however plans are underway to create a national mandatory standard.
What are GMO’s?
GMOs are ‘made with techniques that alter the molecular or cell biology of an organism by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes.’ (Source: National Organic Standards Board). A GMO, or ‘Genetically-Modified Organism’ is a plant, seed or animal that has been modified by the intentional insertion of DNA. All living things contain DNA (strands of proteins that contain the genetic code, or blueprint, for creating an organism). In order to create products that aren’t privy to certain weaknesses (short shelf-life, insects), scientists can manipulate the genetic code of certain foods by splicing in sections of DNA from other organisms, or sequences created in a laboratory. Thanks to genetic modification we have tomatoes that do not rot, insect-proof corn and various grains that are resistant to common herbicides.
That doesn’t sound too bad. Doesn’t everyone want their tomatoes to stay fresh?
First of all, recent studies show that GMO crop production incorporates just as many toxic pesticides and herbicides as conventional farming. In addition, genetically-altered pollen from GMO field crops is polluting the DNA of products grown on other organic and non-organic farms. Finally, GMOs may present serious health hazards to some consumers of the modified products; the NEJM warns that ‘allergenic potential of GMOs is unpredictable, uncertain and untestable.’
What is irradiation?
Irradiation entails exposing food products to high doses of radiation in order to kill any insects or pests that may infest them. Irradiation reduces levels of salmonella, e-coli and listeria, and delays ripening and rotting so that foods can be completely sterilized and kept for longer periods.
Why is irradiation bad?
Irradiation damages foods by breaking up molecules and releasing tiny pieces of them, known as free radicals. These substances damage vitamins and enzymes, and also combine with existing chemicals (eg: pesticides) to form new free radicals, some of which may be toxic. The long-term effects of these toxins have not as yet been studied. Also, irradiation destroys 5 to 80% of the health benefits of many vitamins and weakens or destroys the digestive enzymes in many foods.
All these types of eggs are confusing! What’s the difference between ‘Free-range’, ‘Grain-fed’ and ‘Veggie-fed’?
Free-range animals have been allowed to roam freely over an area of land that is covered with at least 80% vegetation. In the case of chickens, the animals are not generally kept in wire cages, are not given drugs, hormones, or antibiotics, and are not fed animal by-products. However, since free-range production does not require certification and is not regulated by the government, it’s best to buy from producers you know and trust.
Which types of food are available as organic?
Planet Organic Market is pleased to carry a wide range of organic and certified organic foods including produce, dairy, poultry, meat, juice, frozen meals, cereals, soups, pastas and baked goods to name a few.
Are all of your foods organic?
We take pride in the fact that 100% of our fresh produce is organic. Our grocery selection is stocked with numerous organic foods as well; however we also carry a wide variety of natural, non-allergenic and ethnic foods.
What do you mean by ‘Natural’?
Generally speaking, natural foods are free of artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. They are not regulated, though, so always check the label to see what’s in it if you have allergies or concerns about specific ingredients. At Planet Organic, we only buy products from vendors and suppliers we trust.
What do you mean by ‘Natural Living’ products?
Natural Living products include vitamins, minerals, herbal supplements and all types of personal and body care products that are made without harmful preservatives. In our Natural Living section you’ll find organic cosmetics and body lotions, eco-friendly cleansers and other products for your health and home.
Why does organic food cost more?
Organic food doesn’t always cost more. Some items, such as coffee, cereal and bread may cost the same as (or even less) than their conventional counterparts. Current prices for organic foods reflect many of the same costs as conventional items in terms of growing, harvesting, transportation and storage. Since organic operations must be stricter governing all of these steps, the process is often more intensive in terms of labour and management. In addition, organic farmers operate on a smaller scale, and don’t benefit from the federal subsidies received by conventional producers. Nevertheless, many experts believe that if all the indirect costs of conventional production (eg: clean-up of polluted water, replacement of eroded soils and provision of health care for ailing farmers and their workers) were factored into the price of food, organic products would be found to cost less than conventional products.
Do organic farmers ever use pesticides?
Prevention is the organic farmer’s primary strategy for disease, weed and insect control. By building healthy soils, organic farmers who produce healthy plants are better able to resist diseases and insects. Organic producers often select species that are well-adapted for the prevailing climate and therefore resist disease and pests. When a pest population gets out of balance, growers will choose from a variety of options such as insect predators, mating disruption, traps and barriers. If these fail, permission may be granted by the certifier to apply botanical or other non-persistent pest controls under restricted conditions. Derived from plants, botanicals are quickly broken down by oxygen and sunlight.