In this day and age, the importance of food and its production is becoming more and more talked about and relied upon. Society is slowly becoming more health conscious which in turn leads them to seek out certain products. Here in lies the problem for we know little about what it is we are buying and the true benefits of those products. This is where the discussion of organic and natural foods comes into play.
What is organic food? By definition, organic foods are made in a way that limits the use of synthetic materials during production. The thing of it is that for the majority of human history, agriculture can be described as organic; only during the 20th century was a large supply of new synthetic chemicals introduced to the food supply. Under organic production, the use of conventional non-organic pesticides, insecticides and herbicides is greatly restricted and saved as a last resort. However, contrary to popular belief, certain non-organic fertilizers are still used. Genetic modification, for the most part, is not allowed in most countries in terms of organic produce. So what is the benefit then? The benefit comes into play for the producers rather than the consumer. The producer, with the organic label behind his product, can charge distributors more money, which then gets passed along to the consumer and there is what some consider to be the major differential, the cost. To determine what is allowed to be organic, the government has implemented standards, controlled by the National Organic Program. Within their guidelines, to use the organic label, all products must have 95% organic ingredients. Interestingly enough, under the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards, organic food is defined by how it cannot be made, rather than by how it can be made.
So then what is natural food? “Natural foods” or “all natural foods” are vaguely defined to be foods that are minimally processed and do not contain any hormones, antibiotics, sweeteners, food colors, or flavorings that were not originally in the food. Unlike organic foods, neither the FDA nor the USDA has any guidelines or rules for “natural” food. In fact, these organizations discourage producers from using the term “natural” because of its vague guideline and definition. Although the demand for “natural” foods is not equivalent to that of organic products, it is increasing worldwide. People tend to favor “natural” food products because they feel that the lack of processing helps keep the foods natural health benefits in place. The only problem is that because they are not processed foods, items which have higher water content have a shorter shelf life. This makes the draw to organic foods more desirable because they will last longer and their perceived health benefits are still there.
When you compare the two types of foods side by side, there really is not difference. They are both more expensive than processed foods because of their implied benefits. They are both grown in similar fashion, as natural as possible. The only glaring difference is that organic foods can still have up to 5% of product in it that is not organic and still be considered as such. So if you want to eat healthy, and green, buy organic or buy natural for that matter, just remember there’s only a 5% difference to what you are consuming.