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When buying organic products, how can I differentiate them from conventional products?
When products are marked as being organically produced, the name of the body that certified them should appear on their packaging. Moreover, when a product bears the term "organic" on the main panel of its packaging (except when integrated within its trademark), consumers are assured that at least 95% of its ingredients are organic.
Does the consumption of organic products increase the risk of contamination?
Food safety standards
Although a risk of microorganic contamination has been sometimes associated with organic products, studies have never established any proof to that allegation. It should be noted however that all organic products must meet the same quality and safety standards as those applying to non organic products. The standards form part of CODEX Standards, whose general provisions covering general food hygiene and quality programs and are based on the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point System (HACCP), when national regulatory requirements dictate. Meanwhile, standards established to certify products resulting from organic farming are often stricter.
Risks of contamination might occur at various steps along the food chain - packaging, processing, transport and storage - yet this would apply regardless of whether they are organic or non organic agriculture. When conditioning food, the goal is to guarantee microorganic stability during a specific period, which for organic foods is a goal that has been met. Only a limited number of non-organic ingredients may be used when processing products, and products to control parasites or irradiation to alter them is prohibited. While the organic label does not constitute an absolute guarantee of healthy and harmless products, organic production methods are undoubtedly known to be influential on the quality of foods.
For further information on organic agriculture, please consult the Food Safety and Quality document published by the FAO.
For what reasons are organic products more expensive than traditional products?
Certified products resulting from organic farming generally are more expensive than equivalent conventional products (whose prices have dropped) for several reasons:
- The supply of organic products is low relative to their demand
- The cost of producing organic foods is generally higher and economies of scale difficult to achieve, given the greater amount of work required per unit produced and the greater variety of operations required.
- Post-harvest handling of relatively small quantities of organic food products results in increased costs, given the obligatory separation of organic and non-organic products, particularly at the levels of processing and transport
- Marketing and distributing organic products tend to be less efficient and more expensive due to relatively low volumes.
An increase in demand for organic foods and products should result in technological innovations and economies of scale, and thus should allow for reductions in their production, processing, distribution and marketing costs.
What are the advantages of organic agriculture as compared to the conventional agriculture?
The consumption of organic foods allows for a sustainable agriculture that results in the following advantages:
- Reclaiming and protecting the environment (plus the fact that fewer expenses will be incurred in the future should reduce the effects of pollution). Also for example, the higher prices paid for organic crops compensate for low financial gains resulting from crop rotation required to maintain soil fertility.
- Rigorous standards applied to livestock for their well-being.
- Health risks for farmers are lower because they do not improperly use pesticides (and thus medical expenses will be avoided in the future)
- Rural development would improve due to the creation of additional agricultural employment and producers would be guaranteed of equitable and adequate incomes.
Are organic products better for our health?
It is uncertain at this time whether organic products have greater nutritional value than conventional agricultural foods. The presence of vitamins and minerals in food is influenced by many factors, such as minerals found in soils, soil types, growing conditions for crops and also the variety and vitality of seeds. Certain trends do however indicate that organic products have a positive impact on our general health although they contain higher levels of micronutrient elements, but more studies are needed before scientific conclusions can be made regarding the positive impact of organic foods on our health.
How do organic operators preserve the integrity of their products?
Organic operators developing updated operational systems and procedures will provide precise codes and means of production application descriptions. For example before a final product can be certified organic, all ingredients used in its recipe must be verified as being organic, either in part or in whole. All locations at which there may be a risk of contamination or mix must be identified in order that any necessary preventive measures can be taken. Written protocols are developed and their implementation is monitored in a manner that will best ensure the protection and organic integrity of ingredients and final products in the supply chain and the distribution of organic products. Radiation and the voluntary use of GMOs as well as preservatives and synthetic ingredients are expressly forbidden.
When I buy organic foods, how can I be assured that these products do not contain any genetically modified organisms?
Organic standards forbid the voluntary use of genetically modified organisms in all operations linked to organic crop productions, to organic livestock production from which animal by-products originate and to preparation of prepackaged organic products.
However, due to the fact that genetically modified organisms are widely use in agriculture, possible contamination can occur, in soils and by air, thus affecting the organic crop productions. When contamination occurs, it is often only minimal traces.