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What does it mean to be organic?
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Most food trends come and go, but like Fair Trade organic products have been available for decades. However, when a trend becomes widely accepted as a classification it can lose some of its impact. Today organic is often perceived as the 'expensive' or 'hippy' option, suggesting its significance has become opaque to consumers. So why are organic products important and what will those extra pennies buy you?

The term organic first gained popularity in the 1970s when inorganic processes started entering the food chain en masse. Simply a more traditional method of farming, organic food is produced using fewer chemicals. 320 pesticides and artificial fertilisers are banned and animals are reared completely free range, without heavy use of antibiotics. Instead of these environmentally damaging chemicals, organic farmers use natural methods to cultivate disease-less crops, such as crop rotation, and substituting pesticides for organic matter like manure. This means organic food is usually grown more slowly, tending to the seasons, which has positive impacts on the food chain. Organic farming has been shown to promote sustainable ecosystems, boosting plant life by 75%and increasing bird species by 22%

Organic is also a mark of quality. Farms are subject to annual inspections to ensure food has traceability from farm to fork. To become certified organic in the UK, products must be made to rigorous standards upheld by DEFRA, with general rules outlined in EU law. For example, since GM seeds are banned even manure used to grow crops must come from animals that haven't eaten anything genetically modified. 

So that extra cost which is passed onto the consumer pays for a way of producing goods that's better for the planet, today and tomorrow. If you're worried about the expense, remember the age old adage 'quality, not quantity.' Take small steps by substituting a few key items in your weekly shop with a handful of organic goods. As many organic farms tend to be smaller enterprises, buying organic often supports local business too. 

How do you know if what you're buying is certified organic? Simply look for the Soil Association logo. In Edinburgh we're fortunate to have many organic food producers and suppliers, including Real Foods, Earthy, Phantassie, Whitmuir, East Coast Organics, Peelham Farm and Hugh Grierson. Remember organic isn't just confined to food either - look out for certified clothing and beauty products too. (A. Brewer)


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