Health nuts and foodies all over the world seem to agree that organic equals better. But why is that? Why do we trust food with a Bio label more than non-biological food and what exactly sets Bio products apart from their non-Bio counterparts? Today we are taking a closer look at what organic food really is and shedding some light on whether biological products really are better for you and if so, why.
The Swiss federal government has a list of specific requirements that a product must meet in order to earn the Swiss Bio food label. The full list is quite extensive, but some of the most important requirements are that the product must come from an organic farm that supports natural diversity, that it cannot be treated with chemically synthesized pesticides or fertilizers nor be genetically engineered and that it cannot contain any unnecessary additives or undergo aggressive processing. Furthermore all organic animal produce must come from livestock that is kept and fed ecologically. And organic farmers need to be available for announced and unannounced inspections at all times. This closely monitored production process ensures pure, clean products.
But does being ‘pure’ and ‘clean’ make organic food better than non-organic food in terms of quality? Many people who buy Bio food believe that it does and say that it tastes better, is healthier for you and stays fresh for longer. But is that really true? In a blind taste test performed on 50 volunteers over 70% could not tell the difference between an organic apple and a non-organic apple. Taste is subjective of course, but what can be objectively measured is freshness and there is no proof that Bio products keep their freshness longer than non-Bio products. On top of that there is also no evidence whatsoever that Bio food has better nutritional value than non-bio food and is therefore better for your health. As long as you make sure to properly wash that non-organic apple before taking a bite there is no reason at all to worry about the chemical residue from pesticides and fertilizers.
So what really sets Bio products apart from non-bio products then? The most obvious difference is in the cost. Bio products can cost up to twice as much as non-bio products, especially when it comes to vegetables and fruit. One of Switzerland’s biggest supermarket chains currently sells one kilogram of regular carrots for 2.30 CHF while one kilogram of organic carrots is priced at 4.20 CHF, making the organic version over 1.5 times more expensive than the non-organic version. For animal products the price difference is slightly less significant, but the fact of the matter remains, organic produce is more expensive than non-organic produce. And there is a reason for that of course. Stricter rules and regulations make the production process of Bio food considerably more expensive which leads to farmers and stores increasing their prices.
So does this mean that you are wasting your money by buying bio? No. You may not be gaining anything personally from eating organic, but buying bio does have some considerable benefits for the environment and the economy. By choosing organic food you are actively supporting sustainable agriculture and environmentally sound farming methods and since many Bio products come from local farms you are also supporting local business and strengthening the local economy. Plus let’s not forget that animals on organic farms often have a much better quality of life, so if you care about animal welfare and the humane treatment of farm animals organic is definitely your best choice.
Bottom line? If your goal is to get healthier, cleaner and fresher food on your plate then buying bio unfortunately isn’t the answer. But if you care about the environment, want to support the local economy and want to help promote ethical production methods organic is the way to go. You may not get any healthier nibbling on that expensive Bio carrot, but at least you will know that your money is being put to good use.
Melissa Van Roosbroeck is a style and fashion writer and owner of Kiss & Make-up. Read more on her blog: Kiss & Make-up