What Does Organic Mean?

Many people think that buying Organic is not a big deal, that it's a lie or a falsity caused by marketer. I used to be one of these people, one of the people that didn't truly believe that organic was a good thing, so I began to dig a little deeper and decided to share with you what I found.


When we buy food we are buying not only the food item, but we are buying which country the food came from, how it was grown, where it was grown, when it was grown. Canada does not have a year-round growing season like other countries, so we import much of our fruit and vegetables from our neighbors to the south (USA and Mexico) or we purchase from overseas such as from Europe or Asia. All of this got me asking, what does organic truly mean because each country has it's own standards and rules.


Organic as defined by a Google search found that organic means (of food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents.


Let's dig a little deeper to find out what it means in each country and on each continent. (This is geared towards Canadian imports. Though the below definitions do not give exact details, it does represent what each country defines as organic.)


In Canada - In Canada, this system is governed by government organic standards and regulations, and applies to both domestic and imported products. Canada’s organic standards are among the most recognized in the world, and place strict limits and prohibitions on the use of toxic and persistent pesticides; synthetic fertilizers; the routine use of drugs, antibiotics or synthetic hormones; animal cloning; genetic engineering (“GMOs”); sewage sludge (“biosolids”); and irradiation. Organic standards also forbid the use of artificial food colours, flavours, sweeteners, preservatives and many other processing aids and ingredients in processed foods. From https://choosecanadaorganic.ca/organic101/



In the USA - USDA certified organic foods are grown and processed according to federal guidelines addressing, among many factors, soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives. Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible. Find out more: Organic Production and Handling PDF and Organic 101: USDA Orcanic Label


In Europe - Organic production means a sustainable agricultural system respecting the environment and animal welfare, but also includes all other stages of the food supply chain. Find out more with The Eu's Organic Food Market Facts and Rules









In Asia - To be inclusive of all or most countries in the East, South-East and South Asia regions and be based on common regional requirements. The standard can be adopted or adapted as a national standard, particularly by countries that have not yet developed and promulgated their own standard. To facilitate intra and inter-regional market access of organic products in the Asian region; To promote regional cooperation and exchange of information and enhance private and public sector dialogues; To promote the global recognition of the regional standards as a long-term goal.


The organic food market has growing in awareness, but it has become more difficult for the consumer to differentiate what is a proper organic food item is and why it is truly better.

Traveling allows for the most opportunity to taste local foods and to understand why those food were different and why they were better or worse. In Germany for example, they pride themselves on supporting local companies and communities, they base a cultural importance on family and make food fresh daily. In Paris, many homes do not have large freezers because they do not 'stock' pile food like we do in North America, they cook their food fresh daily. When traveling in Asia, you can try the fruit local to the region and would discover how differently it tastes simply because it was grown there and not picked early and shipped across the ocean as it ripened. If you have been to Mexico, Hawaii or South America, you know that the fruit just tastes better there because it was grown there, because it was fresh.


All that being said, having a locally grown product doesn't necessarily mean the produce was grown organically. When countries mass produce fruits and vegetables for themselves or for other countries, they are less concerned about well being and more concerned about having enough to supply the large marketplaces. This means that producers sometimes rely on genetically modifying the plants to grow bigger and faster and they will want as many viable pieces as possible meaning they will spray for pests and rodents.


As Canadians, our produce options are very limited in the summer which is why we should put more emphasis on buying organic produce to ensure that they are not genetically modified to grow bigger or have pesticides sprayed on them. Eating organic can have positive effects on our ecosystem and our digestion. Though, this was an overview of what organic means for each country/continent and how organic plants are grown, you can dive a little deeper with the links above to truly understand what it means and why it is beneficial.