Australia’s organic food industry is booming, with an estimated retail market of $ 2.6 billion and demand growing at over 20% per year.
Walk into any supermarket and be surrounded by evidence. But what does buying organic really mean?
While consumers have been conditioned to believe this is all about stocking up on hormone and pesticide-free products, food and health expert Jayashree Arcot warns that this is not quite the way to go. case.
The University of NSW lead researcher says organic farms are only certified as such after operating on organic principles for three years.
They must also pass a strict audit and review process.
While organic foods are generally grown and processed without synthetic chemicals, what is labeled “organic” may not always be strictly.
“There are pesticides approved for organic farming and these are believed to be low in toxicity compared to pesticides used in conventional farming,” Professor Arcot said.
“Just because you sell it as organic doesn’t mean it’s not really pesticide free. “
While food labeling should help consumers make an informed choice, it can often leave them confused.
Australia does not have a mandatory certification requirement for organic products, with the process being owned and managed by private organizations approved by the Australian Biosecurity and Inspection.
According to industry body Australian Organic, Australia is not aligned with global standards and is officially the last developed country in the world not to have a mandatory national standard for the use of the word ‘organic’.
“Many products carry a symbol or logo to show that they are certified organic, but this is not always the case,” said Professor Arcot.
“Unless it is certified by one of these organizations, there is no way to guarantee the authenticity of organic products sold to consumers.
“It’s up to us as consumers to do our research. “
With around six in ten Australian households buying organic food occasionally, that’s a lot of Google searches.
Professor Arcot says that even though pesticides are used in conventional agriculture, the levels in fresh produce are not high enough to be harmful.
The bottom line: “people shouldn’t be alarmed if they don’t buy organic products”.
Even so, there are good health reasons for buying organic food.
A major study funded by the European Union in 2014 found that they may reduce the risk of allergic disease and obesity, although the evidence is inconclusive as consumers of organic food tend to have a fad healthier life.
Spanish researchers claim that consuming organic foods is associated with stronger reasoning and short-term memory retention in school-aged children.
Although they still contain pesticides, organic foods are generally more expensive because agriculture is labor intensive.
However, Professor Arcot says the biggest winner when consumers choose organic is the environment.
“While organic farming generally has lower yields, it has a lower carbon footprint compared to conventional farming which is a large emitter of greenhouse gases,” she said.
While organic farming has its economic limits, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud is keen to develop Australia’s potential and has decided to create the Organics Industry Advisory Group.
“With a huge amount of organic farmland, Australia is well positioned to take advantage of the global organic market, which is already worth over US $ 97 billion (A $ 129 billion),” he said recently. .
“This will only grow due to increasing consumer demand.”