The Truth And Myth Of Organic

Kathleen O’Keefe, CSJ

Over the past two years, I have been blessed to live at Villa St. Joseph Retreat and Ecology Centre in Cobourg, ON; and, most recently, I spent the summer months at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, ON.  Experiencing earth to table eating has allowed me to enjoy the wonderful sensory delight of organic food.  Nettie and Susan, two gifted cooks, skillfully prepared delicious meals that were nourishing for both body and soul!  I learned that persons in Cobourg and in Guelph have the opportunity to rent community garden plots if they wish to grow their own food organically. Community Shared Agriculture in Guelph provides freshly harvested organic products for persons to take home for family meals.  Also, it has been a real joy visiting farmers’ markets and connecting with the people who grow our food. Local food is not necessarily organic, and organic food is not always local.  So we need to keep an eye out for the perfect combination:  local food grown using organic or ecological practices. Look for such opportunities in your own community!

“Why Your Food Choices Matter:  A Guide to Buying Local and Ecologically Grown Food” is an informative pamphlet produced by Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Ecological Farmers of Ontario, and the National Farmers Union Ontario. “Organic farmers only use the ecological approach and follow the specific organic practices stipulated in Canada’s National Organic Standard.  Among other requirements, the organic standard makes sure that certified organic farmers do not use:

  • synthetic pesticides (including fungicides, insecticides and herbicides);
  • synthetic fertilizers; genetically engineered seeds or animal feed;
  • animal feed made with animal wastes or slaughter by-products;
  • synthetic hormones, antibiotics or other animal drugs to stimulate growth or production of livestock;
  • sewage sludge (recycled human waste) or waste from factory farms and bio-solids (water waste from industry) on their land.

To maximize profit, most farmers use chemicals to increase the size and quantity of their produce. Pesticides are poisonous and do harm to our bodies. While most research cannot prove beyond a doubt that organic food is more nutritious, it is much safer.  Organic farmers work with the diversity that nature already offers:  They save and exchange seeds and knowledge. Healthy soil that is rich in minerals and nutrients produces food that is also rich in those minerals and nutrients. The quality and taste of organic food are said to be superior.  Since they do not contain additives, organic foods have more natural flavor.

In Ontario stores, you will see the “Canada Organic” logo. The logo will also be put on organic food produced outside Canada. To be labelled “organic”, processed foods must have more than 95% organic ingredients. Check the ingredients list to see which ones actually are organic.  There are misleading labels out there, such as “organics,” “natural,” and “organically produced” without evidence of certification.

As the saying goes, “we are what we eat.”  It is important to know exactly what our bodies are digesting and how it came to be on our plate in the first place.  The wisdom of organic farming speaks for itself.  To sample some tried and true recipes, you can visit Susan Sprague’s blog at:  Bon Appetit!

Further resource material include:  Food Rules:  An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan; The Third Plate:  Field Notes On The Future of Food by Dan Barber; Organic Food on the Development and Peace website; and, .