Just a few generations ago almost all of the food we ate was fresh and locally grown, most produce was organic, people ate whatever was in season and available locally. Nowadays we can have a variety of produce all year round from all round the world, shiny attractive and unblemished. But do we consider when we eat for example, a grape in the darkest of winter, what treatments are involved to supply us with such a choice?
Would we knowingly eat an apple that had been sprayed 15-20 times before harvesting, picked whilst still green and hard, dipped in post harvest fungicides, stored for months in carbon dioxide, ripened with ethylene gas then waxed with insect secretion to improve its appearance and extend its shelf life?
It's Only a Caterpiller
We can pick a caterpillar off a lettuce leaf but to remove the unseen pesticide residues that penetrate the cell structure is not so easy. Pesticides are poisons designed to kill living organisms and are harmful to humans. Sample testings of conventionally grown fruit and vegetables have found residues of pesticides known to be carcinogenic and having significant detrimental effects on the immune, hormonal and nervous systems with children being particularly at risk. New Zealand is one of the largest users of synthetic chemicals on produce, using products that have been banned overseas.
Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals - the fresher the fruit the more nutritional value. Scientific study has shown that fruit and vegetables grown relying on natural biological processes have more nutritional value with a higher vitamin and mineral level than those grown using synthetic pesticides etc.
Organic foods are grown and harvested in accordance with the rhythms of the seasons, with the assistance of prepared manures, herbs and minerals to stimulate the soil biology and plant growth. Unlike conventionally grown fruit and vegetables, organic foods are not treated with fungicides or post harvest pesticides to prolong the shelf life, nor with ripening agents or waxes. For these reasons organic produce can be blemished and only available in the season it is grown.
Check the Labels
Spray-free, certified organic, in transition and bio-dynamic are all terms you will encounter on product labels. The word ‘organic’ is not yet protected under NZ law so anyone can use it. This allows producers to make such claims which can be misleading and should be reflected in the price. An independent certificate Bio-Gro or Demeter is a guarantee. These trademarks by regular inspection assure the produce grown is free from artificial or synthetic fertilisers, herbicides, fungicides or pesticides.
The cost of organic foods can be a stumbling block, but cheap is not necessarily good when we consider the effect of pesticides on our land, our water and our health. Eating organic food with it’s high nutritional value can be seen as a form of health insurance. Many health practitioners are now recommending organic food as a helpful support for the immune system, for chemical poisoning, allergies and cancer.
Whether we choose to eat organic food as a result of ill health, out of concern for the environment and our well-being or just nostalgia for the good taste of food we remember as children, we know that we can trust organic farming to nourish the soil which nourishes the plants and in turn nourishes us.