Frequently Asked Questions:
Our frequently asked questions
are subdivided into the following categories to facilitate searching:
Organic food in general
What does "organic" mean?
Organic produce is made without
artificial chemical fertilisers or pesticides, and is grown with the well-being
of the farm and the environment in mind. See our
Archive introduction to the Organic Ethos for more information.
How can meat be organic?
Organic meat and dairy products
come from animals reared on organic feed and without antibiotics. Organical animals
can expect to live about three times as long as the conventionally-reared.
What if an animal gets
ill - can they be given antibiotics then?
Yes - but they can't be classed
as 'organic' for some time afterwards.
What makes organic cotton
Organic cotton is simply
cotton grown to organic standards - i.e. without artificial chemicals. There is,
however, no certification available for non-food products in the UK.
Can you grow organic crops
from GM seeds?
No. GM concentrates on one
aspect of the organism and not the whole, which entirely contradicts the principles
How do I know it's organic?
Organic produce will have
a certifier's symbol on it somewhere (see
here). The certifiers have a stringent set of standards which determine whether
produce is organic or not. Of course, if your organic food comes with one of our
trace codes, you can run it through our Consumer
Trace system and find out everything about it!
Is there an organic "watchdog"?
At present, the certifiers
perform the task, However, in October of 2002 the federally mandated National
Organic Standards Act will go into effect. This Act will essentially certify the
Certifiers by setting the basic criteria for Organic Certification throughout
What does a certifier
The certifier ensures that
farms are really organic, by carrying out regular and surprise inspections. They
also provide advice and help to farmers. See also our
How popular is organic
It's difficult to say. A
surprisingly large percentage of consumers say they would buy organic food if
the price was the same as conventional produce. Organics now represent about 2%
of the U.S. retail dollars spent on produce. This may seem small, but it represents
a phenomenal growth rate in the last 10 years; it is estimated that this percentage
with climb to 10% within the next 10 years. It remains to be seen, however, whether
organic food will ever become the norm.
How is organic farming
better for the environment?
By working in harmony with
the earth, conventional farming encourages biodiversity; there is also less pollution
since there are no artificial chemicals to wash into rivers. (See our article
Is it less efficient than
Yes, at least in the short
term. But once an organic farms reaches its full potential, it can often be more
profitable than a conventional farm (see a
WIRS report.) One of the main tenets of organic farming is to use everything
- thus, for example, an organic dairy farmer might supply manure to an organic
crop grower in his co-operative.
Why should I eat organic?
Organic food is often thought
to be more flavorful and nutritious; it benefits the environment. It is especially
popular with parents of young children.
Why does the selection
of organic produce change in my supermarket?
Like all produce, organic
is subject to weather conditions and seasonal rotation of varieties. However,
improvements in transportation and communications now allow marketers to globally
source many popular items in order to keep them on the grocery shelves year-round.
The organic community is lagging slightly behind its conventional counterparts
in this effort, but catching up rapidly. The local strawberries of summer can
now be replaced with certified fruit fresh from the Southern Hemisphere in winter.
Is organic food shaped
differently from conventional food?
No! It is a common misconception
that Organic food is often mis-shapen due to the lack of artificial growth methods,
but universal grade standards have been put in place regarding shape and color,
to ensure that consumers receive the quality they deserve. There are no lower
standards for organic food in the marketplace, and nor should there be!
Do I have to store organic
Organic food, because it
cannot contain any artificial preservatives, tends not to last as long as conventional
food. It should be used as quickly as possible, and it should be washed before
use, like all other produce.
Buying organic produce
Why does organic food
There are two main reasons
for the price discrepancy between organic and conventional food. These include
demand for Organics outstripping supply, and the increased production costs inherent
in growing organically because the materials allowed must be very labor intensive
to be efficient. It is estimated that an organic farmers costs are 25-40% higher
than those of conventional growing practices.
How did organic farming
Organic farming has always
been around! 'Conventional' has only been in its current state for fifty or so
years, when intensive techniques were introduced to feed the wartime population.
Some farmers rejected the reasoning behind artificial chemicals, and continued
with the old method, which is now called 'organic'.
How do I start an organic
Good resources are available
at our links page.
What is a co-operative?
A co-operative is a group
of farms who pool their produce and financial resources to improve post-harvest
packing facilities and position in the marketplace, usually packing their produce
under a common label. The profits are shared proportionally equally.
What is transitional and
how is it funded?
Transitional is the
process of converting a crop over from conventional to organic. This takes at
least three years. This represents an increase in real costs to a farmer who must
grow this crop organically, but still sell it at conventional produce prices.
In the long run, the grower hopes that, when certification is granted, the resulting
profits realized will offset his three-year investment.