What are the real guarantees of organic food?
The organic food market is growing exponentially. It increased by 15.7% between 2015 and 2018. A progression that raises many questions. An update on what to really expect from organically grown and grown produce.
The market for food from organic farming (known as "organic") has experienced a very important development in recent years. Numerous reasons have led consumers to take the step, in particular the desire to limit the consumption of residues of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides or fungicides, concern for the environment and / or animal welfare. But what is it really?
Are organic plants pesticide free?
Not necessarily. "In a world polluted since the beginning of the industrial age, pollution is still possible during cultivation, storage or transport, explains Frédéric Denhez. But it is very low." Thus, according to published studies, when residues are found in organic food, they are traces, that is, amounts less than 0.01 mg / kg. A ten-year follow-up of fruit and vegetables in Germany concluded in 2013 that the amounts of pesticide residues were 180 times lower in organic than in conventional ones. According to this study, 74% of conventional foods contained residues, 18% residual traces and 8% nothing. Only 5% of the biographies contained residues, 30% residual traces and 65% nothing.
What are the authorized pesticides?
The so-called natural, because the goal is to limit external inputs as much as possible. The authorized phytosanitary products must come from natural substances or derived from natural substances. Among them, copper, paraffin oil, sulfur, kaolin, potassium bicarbonate, vinegar, nettle, certain essential oils. Some are not exempt from toxicity to nature. "This is examined on a case-by-case basis, and farmers have to show that they cannot do without," explains Marie-Josèphe Amiot-Carlin, INRA's research director.
Organic plants cannot be grown out of the ground.
This is prohibited. It is not, for example, about producing organic tomatoes in glass wool as is allowed in conventional ones. "On the other hand, it is possible to grow in a greenhouse, as long as there is contact with the soil, specifies Frédéric Denhez. This can be questionable when we grow vegetables out of season."
Why buy organic meat?
Organic farming guarantees better animal welfare. The density and size of the buildings are limited and each animal must have a ventilated space, natural light, a minimum area covered with mulch indoors and have access to an outdoor field.
Does organic farming allow the use of antibiotics?
Rarely. Its use is restricted to curative treatments (sick animals), within the limit of 1 to 3 veterinary drugs per year, and the waiting period before marketing is doubled compared to conventional ones. Homeopathy or aromatherapy is preferred. In the end, the amount of antibiotics that the animal receives before consumption is much less.
Is it better to feed animals on an organic farm?
It is more natural. First, your food must be organic itself. Then, the breeding of herbivores is based on the maximum use of the pastures, according to their availability during the year, supplemented with other forages mainly from the farm. Finally, young mammals are fed natural milk, preferably maternal. And force feeding is prohibited.
Do processed organic products contain 100% organic ingredients?
No, but at least 95%. According to the regulations, they must contain 100% ingredients from organic farming. But since not all ingredients are available in an organic way, a margin of 5% of the conventional product is allowed.
"The real difference lies in the authorized additives, stresses Frédéric Denhez. Less than 50 in organic, compared to more than 300 in conventional, most are of natural origin with fewer potential risks to health".
Is the composition of processed organic products nutritionally more interesting?
Absolutely not. A processed organic product may contain, for example, palm oil, poor quality sugars, refined cereals. Even organic, an industrial product is still industrial, with nutritional contributions that can be poor.
Are organic foods richer in nutrients?
Yes, in the same category. Most of the studies carried out conclude in higher concentrations in organic foods. In fruits and vegetables, the most notable differences refer to vitamin C (from + 6% to + 12%) and polyphenols:phenolic acids, anthocyanins, etc. (from + 19% to + 69%). "The most plausible explanation is that, in the absence of pesticides, the plant develops its own means of defense", says Marie-Josèphe Amiot-Carlin.
As for organic meat, eggs and milk, they are up to 50% richer in omega-3 fatty acids beneficial to health. As for organic cereals, they are less rich in protein, therefore, in gluten and fiber than conventional ones.
Does eating organic mean eating healthy and balanced?
No. "We can eat in a balanced way in a conventional way and eat organic products very badly", explains Frédéric Denhez. However, according to one of the conclusions of a French study designed to evaluate the links between eating habits and chronic diseases, consumers of organic products have a more balanced diet and fewer weight problems.
In addition, "by eating organic food, we ingest less pesticides", emphasizes Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot. However, even if we do not yet have scientific evidence, ingesting cumulative doses of these substances could have an impact on human health."
Organic guarantees better protection of the environment
Crop rotation, green manures, recycling of organic matter, banning of synthetic and transgenic pesticides; organic farming helps preserve living and fertile soils, improve water quality and preserve biodiversity.
Organic Stays Worse?
No more no less. It all depends on the variety and, above all, on the course of the product. "Nothing prevents picking fruits and vegetables before they are ripe and refrigerating them," explains Frédéric Denhez. In this case, the food is well preserved, sometimes to the detriment of its nutritional value. "On the other hand, in small producers or resellers, organic fruits and vegetables are sold ripe. There, obviously, they must be consumed quickly."
Regarding mycotoxins -toxic substances produced by fungi in the absence of fungicides- "a summary of studies shows that there is no more contamination in organics than in conventional ones," says Marie-Josèphe Amiot. -Pug.