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Does 'Organic' Always Mean Better?

August 27, 2019

Does 'Organic' Always Mean Better?

Does “Organic” Always Mean Better?

I’ll come clean.

As the founder of Nadarra Cosmetics, I have a passion for natural products, and for helping my customers benefit from my organic skin and bodycare range. After all, my company name – Nadarra – means “natural” in Celtic. You could say that the organic theme is a bit of a mantra in the business.

Why? Because having suffered for years from allergic reactions to eye-wateringly expensive skin and body creams (I guess I thought the more I paid the better it would be), it was time for a bit of DIY in my kitchen.

Facial oils, skin balms and body butters without water, preservatives or fillers. All formulated and created by yours truly. None of those bizarre-looking ingredients on the back of the tube.

It works for me. It works for the people who buy my products, too.

But it’s got me thinking. Is organic always better? Is food, for example, intrinsically superior just because it’s got the “organic” label? We certainly pay more for wonky vegetables. Some would say there’s even a bit of virtue signalling going on here. And what exactly does organic mean?

Although I’m in the skincare business, most of the organic vs. non-organic argument is about food and food production, so I’ll start with that.

Let’s Start with the Definition of the word “Organic”:

Wikipedia refers to organic as being related to or derived from living matter. I like this. It tells it like it is. They also refer to food produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or other artificial chemicals. Yep, this also.

Organic is about avoiding genetically-modified organisms and being as sustainable as possible. You know, things like crop rotation, animal and plant manures, biological pest control – all that sort of thing.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? However, as I understand it, it’s quite a complex issue and rather than have you lose the will to live, I’ll summarise what I know. Or rather, what I think I know. Opinions change all the time, not least as we find out more about this important subject.

Here’s a counter-argument to start:

People have been modifying and mucking about with agriculture for ever. It’s how we got our modern food production system.

We’ve cultivated and genetically changed what we’ve grown for a long, long time now. So, you could say that there’s no such thing as non-genetically modified produce, since we’ve been doing it from day dot. (In my opinion, it’s pesticides that are the problem, but there’s some debate on that one, too)

Here’s another thing. Nutrition.

It would seem that vitamins and minerals in food are a little unstable. All food, whether it’s organic or non-organic. The variation comes about in how it’s grown, the ripening stage, harvest, weather conditions and here’s the main thing – how it’s stored and how long it’s in storage.  

For example, the longer you keep a carrot in the dark (you don’t keep secrets from carrots – see what I did there) the less its nutrients degrade.

As soon as produce is harvested, it loses large proportions of its vitamins. This is lost further with transport and storage. This applies especially to fruit and veg with Vitamin C benefits. That pesky Vitamin C is a bit fragile and doesn’t like being moved around.

And the thing is, as I said, this applies to organic and non-organic vegetables. You could be paying over a third more for not-particularly-healthy knackered-looking broccoli.

The really healthy stuff? Frozen vegetables. Yes, really. They’re harvested and preserved within hours.

Yes, But…

No Pesticides. This Works for Me.

The absence of pesticides in organic food supports the “better safe than sorry” argument. Back to skincare for a moment: did you know that your body literally ingests what you put on it? If your moisturiser contains parabens, artificial preservatives and strange chemical names you’ve never heard of you WILL absorb some of it.

That’s not right.

In my opinion, the challenge here is with legislation and labelling. The terms “natural” and “organic” can be used when just 5% of the ingredients are in fact organic. How sad is that?

It’s the same with food. Although pesticide levels in non-organic farming are deemed to be at negligible and therefore safe levels, it would appear that studies linking pesticides in our food to everything from headaches to cancer are starting to gain ground.

To those with less-developed immune systems (children and babies), this could be a problem.

Better for the Environment

Now this is one thing you simply can’t argue against. Organic farming reduces pollutants in groundwater and creates richer soil. This aids plant growth and reduces erosion. Not forgetting that more natural farming methods use far less energy.

What else?

Taste. Yes, organic food does taste better, without a doubt. Apples taste like apples – they even smell like apples; tomatoes, well – just try your own taste test one day.

So, where do I stand?

From experience, being as organic as I can suits me. Not only regarding skincare but also in all the key areas of my life. I love animals so I don’t eat them. I’m quite partial to the idea of preserving our environment, so I do what I can to reuse and re-cycle, not only at home but with a strong ethical approach in my business, too.

So, is organic better? The jury is still out, but this jury member has made up her mind.

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