As a consumer you may have heard dubious or conflicting statements about organic farming and wondered whether they were true. Read on to find out the answers to some frequently asked questions.
Organic production methods differ from conventional ones – but the aim is nonetheless to produce top-quality food and drink. Organic produce has to meet the same safety standards as other foods and complies with EU General Food law . The difference is that instead of using chemical compounds to combat pests or weeds, organic farmers use multi-annual crop rotations and resistant varieties to prevent such problems from occurring in the first place. And rather than using artificial preservatives and flavour enhancers, organic processors keep products as fresh as possible by focusing on seasonality and local markets.
Some consumers claim that organic food tastes better, but studies in the EU have so far failed to find any conclusive evidence to back this up. However, organic ingredients are increasingly finding favour with leading chefs, and organic farming offers consumers different varieties of vegetables, fruit and meat. Organic producers do not claim that their products taste better, just that they have an authentic taste because they have been produced in a natural way.
Organic products often take longer to produce, sometimes need more work, and have to be separated from conventional products. They are processed and distributed on a smaller scale, and are subject to specific controls and certifications. These extra production costs often have to be passed on to consumers for organic operations to be financially viable. However, the higher cost may be viewed as a premium for quality food produced with environmental protection, animal welfare and social and economic benefits in mind.
Case studies suggest that with respect to land use, conventional farms tend to have a higher production per surface unit. However, this difference is highly contextual and can partly be attributed to the fact that organic farms in Europe are often located in less favourable environments. Organic production requires more labour than conventional production as well as equal amounts of fossil fuels. Considering several other types of inputs, as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, organic farming aims at being a low input type of farming.
It's true that there are quite a few different organic farming logos on food and drink packaging across the EU, including the EU organic logo and the logos used by various EU countries. These highlight organic products and guarantee that they comply with strict EU rules. Although there is an EU-wide system for the regulation of organic farming, well-established national and private logos can continue to be used on product labels.