Today everyone is aware of the need to make economic and commercial choices that take into account the environmental impact.
Because of its very nature, agriculture is the human activity that is carried out in close contact with the soil and with the worlds of plants and animals.
In the last decades, industrial agriculture achieved enormous advances in quantitative yields, all the while interacting heavily and often in a negative way with the environmental balance.
The consumption of organic and biodynamic produce allows for an agricultural system that guarantees a natural balance in the interest not only of the current humanity but of all future generations.
In agriculture the organic farming method only uses natural fertilizers (manure, mineral substances and compounds) which avoids soil degradation and pollution of groundwater.
Instead of using pesticides, it uses agricultural techniques that improve soil fertility and the protection of our ecosystem, in the pursuit of a natural balance among the different plants and animal species.
During processing preservatives and colorings are banned, along with many other foreign chemical substances that have become staples of our everyday food intake.
This method sets itself apart from conventional “industrial” production, which aims at reducing costs while boosting yields, as it focuses on the quality of the products while safeguarding the environment and human health.
The word “natural” is often used in advertisement, often associated with poetic references to those old good times, and unspoilt things from a bygone era. Not with standing those beautiful images, the foods that are thus advertised are often far different from what they’re shown to us. What does it mean to be a “natural food”? There are no laws that define it and regulate its usage.
The adjective “ecological” is often used by manufacturers who wish to cast their products as “environmentally friendly”, but there’s no law that defines the specifications of these foods. In short, every manufacturer can use this term as he prefers, without offering any actual warranty to the consumer.
Whole generally means “not refined”. For example, a kernel of wheat is called whole if its external layers, among which the bran, have not been removed. Whole foods can be sourced either from organic farming or from conventional agriculture, and that’s why “whole” is an ambiguous description, as it doesn’t tell the origin and the farming method.
This is a method that allows for a reduction, but not the elimination, of the use of insecticides in farming, thanks to a more rational deployment and the usage of natural enemies of insect pests; traditional “chemical” fertilizers are allowed.
Currently there is no specific legislation or certification of the products obtained in this way.
As we saw earlier, organic foods are produced in compliance with Community rules which:
- forbid the use of synthetic chemical substances;
- only allow for organic or mineral fertilizers, natural drugs and low-impact processing techniques;
- require controls from specialized Bodies;
- allow for the use of the name “organic” only if the products pass these controls and meet the specified requirements.
These meet all the specifications of organic foods, as they are subject to the same control and certification processes.
Biodynamic farming, based on Rudolf Steiner’s teachings and supported by decades of experimentation, considers each farm as a living, self-sufficient organism and takes into account astronomical and lunar cycles in the working schedule. It still uses all of the techniques from organic farming, and several additional ones, such as biodynamic preparations, that don’t contrast with it.
Products from biodynamic farming are absolutely required to abide by the same regulations as organic ones, and are thus subject to the same control and certification system.
The inclusion of the “Demeter” brand on the label, guarantees that at least 90% of the ingredients be from organic farming, according to verifications carried out by each country’s Demeter Association.
This method has been defined in increasingly precise, and was ultimately regulated by Community Law.
Let’s review, in short, the main requirements that organic production must satisfy:
- in order to be classified as organic, products must be farmed on land where the usage of synthetic chemical products has been suspended for a period of time that depends on the crop. The transition period from conventional farming to organic farming is called the “conversion period”;
- the land must be clearly separated from plots that are not organically farmed;
- chemical fertilizers are banned. Soil fertility is retained through crop rotations, natural fertilizer and other organic materials which are approved;
- chemical pesticides are banned. Plant diseases and pests are dealt with by natural methods;
- animal health is protected by a healthy environment and predominantly with homeopathic remedies;
- particular procedures must be followed to avoid contamination of products during packaging, transportation and sale;
- every step in the production (farming, processing, packaging ecc.) is subject to control.
Manufacturers who believe in this method are ever dedicated to improving their work on the front line in the fight against genetic modifications.
Every control Body has its own code, that must be indicated on the label of the checked product.
Only certified products are allowed to write on the label: “from organic farming”. In products that are made of multiple ingredients, for the whole product to qualify for the usage of this description it must be made from at least 95% of ingredients certified from organic farming.
Labels must also carry:
- the organic farming logo;
- indication of origin;
- code of the controlling Body;
- code of the manufacturer;
- reference to the sales description;
- reference to the list of ingredients.