Organic food is not just no pesticide and fertilizer, it involves the whole process of food production and a longer chain.

 

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Daily foods (photo by author)

Are you an organic food consumer? What do you think about organic food compared with non-organic food, safer and healthier? Do you think you know enough about the meaning of “organic”?

Just no artificial chemical is not enough

In terms of “organic”,no synthetic chemical is a common sense for most of us. As an ordinary consumer, I had understood it like that for a long time, until I met and chatted with some local farmers in an organic market, I realized it’s not enough.

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In Beijing farmers market, consumers can buy organic food and learn about the process of food production.    (photo by author)

What’s “organic”?

Often regarded as safer, healthier and more environmentally friendly, “organic” is expanding in the world, meanwhile, similar but not standard regulations are accepted in different regions. However, the laws and regulations are too complex, I think most people prefer to accept the short and simple definition which claims the standard of organic food as no use of “man-made fertilizers, pesticides” ,”growth regulators and livestock feed additives”, “irradiation” and “genetically modified organisms (GMOs) “.

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Generally, these laws and regulations of “organic” mean closer to nature. Here, I try to explain more about organic food from several dimensions.

Some key points related to organic

Sustainable seeds

Can you image seeds can’t be saved for the following year and farmers have to pay money to buy new seeds from seeds companies every year? That’s the truth of seed slavery. Seed monopoly is a serious global problem. Data shows, 67% of global seeds are monopolized by 10 big multinational corporations.

Monsanto, which is famous for the genuine modification seeds, accounts for the largest percentage (23%). GMOs not only make farmers rely more on capital and specialists, but also destroy the biodiversity.

Organic inputs

This is mainly in the process of growth. As mentioned at the beginning, in an organic farm, artificial chemicals, including — but not limited to — herbicides, fertilizers, pesticides and additive, which may lead to cancer or other diseases, are refused. Instead, organic substances are always used as alternatives. In addition, making use of the interaction of different species in an ecological system is also a practical method.

Although it seems consumers pay most attention to the point of artificial chemicals, after I talked with some organic farmers, I learned that some issues here are still often ignored, i.e., do the so-called organic fertilizers come from plants or animals organic enough? Is there no pesticide residue in soil?

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Chinese cabbages without use of artificial chemicals were sold in an organic market in Beijing  (photo by author)

Healthy soil

Soil is an often- ignored issue. Healthy soil is always ignored by consumers but it’s really significant. Active biomass in healthy soil is good to ecosystem and improve food production in a natural way. However, synthetic chemical is a soil microorganism killer in conventional agriculture.

In some organic farms which I visited in China, farmers spend several years on improving the soil which needs not only money and time but also the respect of nature and enough patience.

 

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Organic fallen leaves are used for compost and soil improvement in a farm in Beijing. (photo by author)

Picking ripe

In general, local food is suggested as more natural and healthier because less nutrition would be lost, also, the farmers can harvest ripe food. As we know, some foods are picked before they are ripe enough, allowing for softening time, like banana and avocado, to make sure they are still fresh when transferred to the supermarkets of a far country. It’s hard to identify they are organic or not, but at least not natural.

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In Southeast Asia, bananas picked after ripe enough  have a better flavor. (photo by author)

Natural farming

Several years ago, I saw someone criticized a girl’s yard as a mass, because in her photo on Weibo, different kinds of plants and grasses grew together, looked not so tidy. But the girl responded that it was “natural farming”. It was the first time I heard about this term.

Natural farming started in Japan and is popular in Asia, also called “do nothing farming” ( even driving away insects is unnecessary), reducing the material inputs and labor work, making use of biodiversity to improve the yields.

I regard this ecological approach as another level of organic. Is that a lazy work? No, it’s science and philosophy.

Organic & Food safe and justice

Why organic? As Committee on World Food Security pointed out, today, the rise of world hunger is still a big issue. On one hand, it seems unreality to make sure all people access to organic food. On the other hand, organic approach is safer in the whole process of production and food chain.

In my opinion, some ideas should be taken into consideration.

  • organic food is safe for consumers;
  • the process of organic food production is justice to farmers and consumers;
  • organic production can promote sustainable (maybe not completely) safe and justice

The core of this factors is to keep the ecology safe, to keep the land safe, healthy and in good condition in the long run, which means it’s also justice to the successors.

Conclusion

In conclusion, when we talk about organic food, not only using no artificial chemicals should be considered, but also the long chain, from the very beginning — seeds and soil, to the very end— harvest and future,  is needed to think about.

It’s not to say everyone should choose organic food, currently, people still rely on the high production and low price of conventional food. However, it’s necessary for consumers to learn more about organic food and the truth of what we eat everyday, then make choices which suit for ourselves.