Many people believe that eating organic foods is healthier. Many among them believe that choosing 100 percent organic products ensures that these items do not contain any chemicals such as fertilizers. But to be sure that you are buying something that is called organic you have to look for the organic certification.
Addressing a Worldwide Demand
Organic certification addresses a growing worldwide demand for organic food. It is intended to protect the consumer who should not be tricked into buying something she does not intend to. The certification of organic food is done to protect the consumer in the growing market for organic foods. When you buy an organic certified product you can be sure of not breaking out in rashes after a highly enjoyable meal.
In the earlier days of the organic movement, organic farmers used to sell their produce directly to the consumer or through farmers’ markets. With the rising popularity of organic food, consumers now have to purchase from traditional channels like supermarkets. This called for an independent set of standards to ensure that farmers, processors and others in the production chain were complying with the rules and regulations laid down by the organic community.
Organic And Not So Organic
While ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ claims abound, the only way you can be sure that it is truly organic is by using a fully certified organic range of products. Some products may have a few organic ingredients in them and the rest synthetic. Some may have a lot of organic but still some synthetic. There are different references to the label “Organic” you may find on products:
• Organic - some or all of ingredients are organic
• 100% organic - all ingredients are meant to be organic
• All Natural - a broad definition, most ingredients may not necessarily be organic.
Only a label which says 100% certified organic implies that all ingredients have been certified as organic and have undergone stringent testing. ‘Certified Organic’ seal is displayed on products which contain 95 to 100 percent organic ingredients. Products that contain more than 70 percent, but less than 94 percent of organic ingredients are allowed to display a label stating that the item is made with organic ingredients. These products cannot use their country’s Certified-Organic seal.
To obtain organic certification for a product
• At least 95 percent of all ingredients must be organic.
• There are strict guidelines for the remaining 5 percent
• They cannot consist of synthetic chemicals or artificially processed ingredients
There are two levels or categories to certification:
• Farmers should be producing organic goods for a minimum of three years before certification
• Between completion of the first year and three years there is a transitionary certificate called ‘In Conversion to Organic’
Converting a farm to organic requires the development of a viable and sustainable farm-ecosystem over a period of time. In order to get his farm certified the farmer is required to do quite a bit of homework. Inspection of farms is done on an annual basis during which the farmer has to go through physical inspection of the farm, examination of papers and a personal interview.
• The farmer is required to study all the requirements of storage, transportation and sale.
• He may be required to modify facilities in his farm and production methods in accordance with standard requirements which may involve certain modifications in the areas of facilities, sourcing, suppliers etc.
• For farm certification extensive paperwork like detailed farm history, current set-up details, soil and water test results are required
• A detailed annual production plan covering seed sources, field and crop location, fertilization and pest control, harvest method, storage location etc are also required to be submitted
• Day-to-day record of activities has to be kept for inspection
What is Organic Food?
Demand for organic food is on the rise as they are perceived to be healthy, non-toxic and with longer shelf life. A healthy and balanced diet of organic fruit, vegetables and juices can considerably reduce exposure to harmful pesticides.
Production of organic food uses renewable resources and conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. No antibiotics or growth hormones are used on animals used for making organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Most conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers are avoided in the making of organic food.
In a test conducted by the University of Washington it was found that preschool children on regular diets had six times more metabolized organophosphate pesticides in their bodies than children who had been fed on organic diets.
A product can be labeled "organic," after inspection of the farm by a Government-approved certifier makes sure that all the necessary production procedures are adhered to. Similar process of certification is required for companies handling or processing organic food before it reaches local supermarkets or restaurants. Enlightened consumers gladly pay a fair price for the guarantee that the organic produce they purchase is made from ecologically sustainable practices.
According to the Organic Trade Association in the US, sales in organic pet foods have risen to three times the growth rate of organic products made for human consumption
Why Organic Products Cost More
Traditionally organic food is produced in small family-run farms, though large farms too are emerging. Being small-scale operations they do not have the cost cutting benefits of mass production. For this reason when you visit organic shops you will find prices of items are inflated. But considering the value one gets from organic food, most consumers willingly pay the higher price.
Also, instead of using chemical pesticides, pests are controlled by planting a diverse range of crops, by rotations, using natural biological and environment friendly applications, and conserving natural ecosystems.
Certification Vital to Commercial Success
Though it is not legally required to have organic certification for marketing in domestic markets, many retailers and wholesalers accept only certified products. This is because certification offers product credibility and greater acceptance among consumers.
Meeting consumer needs
Organic products market is still unexploited and there are tremendous opportunities for adapting to meet consumer needs. Today’s consumers are very demanding and hence, apart from health and related benefits, factors such as packaging, convenience, price, taste etc should be taken into account while developing products.
The Market for Organic Foods
The global market for organic foods is expected to go up to $26 billion in 2008 with the largest market in the European Union led by Germany, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom. Local consumer interest in organic food has primarily driven the growth in these markets. Japan accounts for the bulk of Asian organic market. Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are also registering high growth in the organic food market, though they are still much smaller than Japan.
Fresh produce comprises the largest market for organic products. Other popular organic foods include soy foods, meat, poultry, eggs, and meat and dairy alternatives.
Disadvantages of Organic Foods
• They cost more
• Manure or sewage, sometimes used for fertilization, may contain potentially harmful organisms.
• Appearances are sometimes undesirable
• Cross-contamination with chemicals from other farms possible. This is also possible with conventionally grown foods
• Gives lower crop yield
• Long-term crop sustainability is uncertain