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Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don’t use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease.

Differences between conventional farming and organic farming are significant. Conventional farming may use chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth, spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease, use chemical herbicides to manage weeds, or give animals antibiotics and other medications to prevent disease and spur growth. On the other hand, in organic farming, farmers must apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants. To be certified organic, these farmers must use beneficial insects and birds, deploy mating disruption or traps (rather than insecticides) to reduce pests and disease, rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds. And they must give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors, and use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.

Canadian Organic Food Labelling Guidelines. Organic products can only be stamped with a logo after receiving approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. All produce must be completely organic to be stamped with the logo, while products with multiple ingredients must have 95% organic content. “Percent organic” product labels can only be applied to products that contain 70% to 95% organic content. These products cannot use the Canada Organic logo or the designations “Canada Organic” and “Biologique Canada.” Multi-ingredient products with less than 70% organic content may only show organic claims in the product’s ingredient list. Certified organic products must also bear the name of the certification body that certified the product.

Tips on when to consider organic shopping. Whether you’re already a fan of organic foods or you just want to shop wisely and handle your food safely, here are some useful ways to decide when and why to consider organic choices:

  • Buy fruits and vegetables in season to ensure the highest quality. Also, try to buy your produce the day it’s delivered to market to ensure that you’re buying the freshest food possible. Ask your grocer what day new produce arrives.
  • Read food labels carefully. Just because a product says it’s organic or contains organic ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthier alternative. Some organic products may still be high in sugar, salt, fat or calories.
  • Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly with running water to reduce the amount of bacteria. If appropriate, use a small scrub brush — for example, before eating apples, potatoes, cucumbers or other produce in which you eat the outer skin. A simple wash of 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar and 1 cup water in a spray bottle or bucket can also be used to wash produce.
  • Peel your fruits and vegetables and trim outer leaves of leafy vegetables. Remember though, that peeling your fruits and vegetables may also reduce the amount of nutrients and fibre, so consider which fruits and veggies you decide to peel.
  • Some pesticide residue can also collect in fat. Remove fat from meat and the skin from poultry and fish if not organic, and consider buying organic for any high-fat dairy choices.


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