Mucho Guide to Organics!

Navigating the natural…

Organic food seems to have the world in a tizzy. What is it? How much of it should we be eating? How much of our weekly budget should we dedicate to eating organic? If you’re reading this, we’re presuming you’re interested in these questions. Perhaps you couldn’t give a rat’s chuff — and we’ve just lured you in by the pretty purple picture, but stick with us. It’s worth it — we promise.

The Lowdown

Organic food is no new concept — but what exactly is it?! Well, organic food is produced to standards that are designed to keep the production of food products more “natural”, using environmentally and animal-friendly farming methods. The growth is generally slower, and at a lesser quantity, so they have enough time to synthesise essential components.

Various bodies in the U.K, including the Soil Association, certify food and producers as organic, gauging the certification on a number of factors. Fewer, if any, chemicals are used in organics, and most pesticides are banned or very carefully controlled. Additionally, organic food is not allowed to contain any genetically modified ingredients.

So why buy organic products? Well, according to a recent survey done by The Soil Association, shoppers in the U.K. are going for organic produce for three reasons:

  • It contains fewer chemicals and pesticides
  • It’s natural and unprocessed
  • The consumer believes that it’s healthier for them and their family

The same report says that consumers who choose organic produce are much more interested in food quality, provenance and buying local than the average shopper, and more than twice as likely to buy Fairtrade products. Another key reason cited by shoppers for buying organic foods is to avoid the chemical pesticides and fertilizers that can be ingested through conventional products. This is in line with how much U.K. shoppers (59% of the total U.K. shoppers and 67% of Londoners) are concerned about the obsessive use of chemical pesticides in our food production.

So it should come as no surprise that many Londoners are making the change to organic foods, as in our everyday lives, we absorb pesticide residues through food, breathe polluted air, drink polluted water, and use house and personal care products that contain other toxic substances. Okay — so the pesticides on our food are a little different because they are highly regulated, but eating organic definitely reduces exposures to a cocktail of dangerous chemicals.

The Catch

Of course, a large part of the reason that many people don’t always choose to buy organic, despite understanding the benefits, is due to the price. But the fact of the matter is — you do get what you pay for. It sounds cliché, but the premium price you pay for organic produce in developed countries simply reflects the high production costs that go into the food — costs that go towards higher animal welfare standards, restricted use of chemicals, and soil fertility enhancement.

Still not convinced? The price you pay for conventional products is often manually lowered by subsidises and other public support schemes, with the annual subsidy going towards mainly non-organic agriculture from the EU at a casual 40 billion euros — a fair whack more than what smaller-scale organic farmers are receiving.

There is also the argument that the health benefits of organic products aren’t strong enough to justify the extra cost. In the years from 2009 to 2012, a number of scientific studies concluded that there is a lack of strong evidence to support the belief that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than generic produce.

Additionally, the heart of organic farming may be to ensure animal welfare and consumers health at the expense of productivity, but as with everything, it’s not without it’s fair share of controversy. Many people argue that the fundamental principles of good farming are compromised with the production of organic food. Why? Well in some cases, sick animals are unable to be treated using effective treatment such as steroids, antibiotics, hormones, and the like…

With the rising level of food poverty in the U.K and London, buying organic food is not currently a priority for many consumers who are trying to save a buck where they can — but planning your weekly shopping ahead is usually a good place to start working on the budget.

The Cheat Sheet

Can’t afford to deck your entire fridge out with organic products? We get it. Instead, stick to The Clean 18 — a list of 18 products that you don’t really have to buy organic because they absord the fewest pesticides.

  • Sweetcorn
  • Leeks
  • Aubergine
  • Onion
  • Chillis
  • Potatoes
  • Peppers
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Starfruit
  • Plums
  • Exotic Fruit
  • Kiwis
  • Bananas
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Melon

Still worried about your health? Say hello to The Mean 18 — a list of 18 products that you should always buy organic, as they test positive for a number of different pesticide residues and showed higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce.

  • Tomatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Cucumber
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Beans in pods
  • Peas in pods
  • Sweet potato
  • Courgettes
  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Pineapples
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Apricots