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The Difference Between Organic and Natural

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Organic is the new buzzword.

But there are differences between Certified Organic, Organic and Natural that you may be wondering about and should definitely know.

Everyone seems to be talking about it, the mothers at the school canteen, your boss on her “only green vegetables will enter my stratosphere” diet, and maybe even your teenage daughter in an attempt to get rid of the pimples she didn’t invite along on her puberty journey.

But like all buzzwords, there is a lot of misunderstanding around the word and some nasty conundrums as well. Believe it or not, the idea of organic is really quite simple, just like everything Mother Nature related. Basically, anything confusing and wrong with it is probably caused by mortals, and maybe some vampires… but that’s another story.

If keeping up with all the organic nuances is doing your head in, don’t worry. This guide should set you straight.

1. There really is a difference…

Between Certified Organic, Organic and Organic/Natural based products, that is. I don’t blame you for being a little iffy about this one because as someone immersed in this field of expertise, you would think I’d have this one down pat by now.

Seriously, I thought I did.

But as I spoke to a potential distributor in Thailand last week, I realised that maybe I only understood the difference in Australia. In all my naivety, I actually (rather stupidly, it appears) believed that maybe there would be a global definition for Organics. Silly me because that would make it, oh I don’t know, easy!

It turns out that in Australia at least, Certified Organic refers to products that are Organic and have been declared as such by an appropriate government/independent body. Companies that are manufacturing Certified Organic Products probably have CEOs that have lost all their hair by now. I’m not kidding; I’d actually be prepared to put a wager on it which is saying something considering my dismal betting record. Acquiring Organic Certification is not a small feat, it takes loads of time, lots of documentation, going back and forth a gazillion times and heaps of finance.

Organic is probably (don’t shoot me, I did say probably and even italicised it) exactly the same in terms of quality and processing as Certified Organic without the official badge of honour. What stops some people from purchasing organic however is that there’s no official proof. It’s like swearing that you saw a spaceship without the photograph to prove it. You may be wondering why I’ve italicised official twice before. It’s because the manufacturers of Organic Products should have some sort of documentation stating that the products have had no chemical and unnatural processing going on before it got to your fingertips. Should doesn’t always mean they do, which is wrong. Very wrong. At least in my book anyway but we all have different yardsticks… you get the picture.

Basically organic products are based on trusting the manufacture within reason. Though there’s no official certification, the document stating the above still means the manufacturer better be telling the truth or they’re likely to be in hot water if someone finds out otherwise.

Organic/Natural Based is often referred to as Organic by Default.

What this means is that an organic based product is likely to be exactly the way Mother Nature intended. It’s like growing your own tomatoes in your backyard and then selling them at your kids’ lemonade stand. They were grown exactly the way the environment wanted them grown, the naturally perfect way and you don’t have to have any documentation stating so because well, Mother Nature didn’t pass one along, did she? Because if she did why are you here reading this post? Go and tell someone now and get rich and famous.

2. Should you even bother or is Organics nothing more than a buzzword for my much richer neighbour?

Honestly, I’m going to put my foot in it because it is one of my top three skills on my resume.

Though I am pretty much in charge (when my dad isn’t watching) of a Certified Organic/Organic/Organic based sustainable organisation located in a small picturesque town that makes it hard not to be motivated to live as closely to nature, the fact is that there is no comprehensive proof that organic is actually better for you.

But… because you know there’s always a but, many people who swear by Organic Products will never tire of telling you that you can’t put a price on common sense, or as my mum say’s, common sense is not a commodity sold at the local vegetable market. You have no idea how much using that saying pained me because it was the quirky response I would often get when I came back home and told her about something stupid I did (which till this day, continues to be often).

It makes sense to use what Earth has created so bountifully for us seeing as we’re just one of the many creations of Mother Nature. It’s interesting how every continent has managed to come up with something useful naturally for its inhabitants. India has Neem (The Tree of the 21st Century as declared by the United Nations), Australia has Tea Tree Oil, the United States has Echinacea while Europe has Geranium… you get it. Nature’s made it so there’s something for everyone.

What this signals to Organic enthusiasts is that the environment knows best. There’s a reason why certain plants and herbs are native to the areas that they are, they’re made up of stuff that your body needs because of where you live. Ineloquent, I know, but you’ve got it down-pat.

What does this mean for Natural Product lovers? They’re willing to put their buck where their mouth is and pay for what they believe is going to keep them and their families healthy because it’s only going to save them a lot of moolah and heartache on hospital bills later on in life. Just saying.

3. Okay, whatever. But why are Organic Products so much more expensive?

I get it. They really are.

And while it doesn’t really cost you an arm and a leg to live organically (no some of our customers, it really doesn’t), they do cost more than their non-organic, chemical filled substitutes.

People can’t often wrap their head around why this is exactly so I thought I’d give you my two cents, naturally!

I can’t tell you how hard it is to acquire Certified Organic Products status because this is a PG article and my keyboard is likely to break after I get through all the swear words… from every language on the planet and Uranus. Basically, it’s as hard as um, nails.

As you can imagine, it is difficult to ensure that your field of produce is completely, 100% natural. This is because mostly, fields are often clumped together and not all fields in an area are proclaiming to be organic. Which means that pesticides used on one field can very understandably (due to weather conditions such as wind changes and rain) land up on a “Certified Organic” field.

Certified Organic farmers are often extremely stressed obviously. Imagine having to ensure that the weather listened to your whims and fancies. Don’t believe me, check out this (what some would refer to as ludicrous) news article. It is becoming increasingly expensive for growers of natural produce (not to mention difficult) to fulfil the requirements of organic certification which is proving to be a massive burden on farmers who (for the most part) are trying in earnest to do the right thing.

Sure, organic produce is fast gaining popularity but the headaches surrounding the promotion and growth around it makes certified organic farming more of a labour of love than anything else. Organic farmers really do believe in the concept of working with Mother Nature rather than against it. They believe in allowing the Earth to take care of its produce the way it was always intended, with natural resistances to pests and allowing foods to grow when they’re supposed to.

Organic farmers have to pass a little bit of the expense of growing their produce onto the consumer to ensure that everyone is getting the best, most natural product possible.

4. Do I really need Organics?

Well, do you really need those new pair of Louis Vuitton shoes or that Versace suit you’ve had your eye on for the past six months. Chances are no. But that doesn’t change you wanting them, right?

It’s pretty much the same for Organic foods, except instead of evolving from our slightly (dare I say) vain place, the need for organic foods is probably coming from our gut and taste buds.

Your body wants organic and naturally made and grown produce and though there is no official proof that you need it, I would personally rather rely on my internal organs knowing what’s good for them than what some scientist (possibly financed or aligned to some large multinational) is preaching to me.

Though I am sceptical of my taste buds most of the time (particularly when they crave hot fries and some sour cream and chives dip so they don’t get lonely), when they tell me a certain organically grown tomato should be on the menu tonight, I listen a little more attentively (predominantly because they seem to be behaving themselves – which is rare).

So, to cut a long story (or in this case article) short, though I may not need organics, I definitely want them. Just like my next pair of Louis Vuitton’s so hands off!

5. Seasonal Foods are better for you?

Truly Organic Foods are seasonal by their very definition. Because they’re grown the way nature intends, they grow when they’re supposed to which often means that your body is getting the nutrients it’s meant to when it needs them the most.

They also have less of an impact on the environment which has got to be a good thing, right? Not only do consuming seasonal fruits ensure that local farmers have more of a chance when battling against large multinationals and cheaper prices from overseas, it also guarantees that the produce you consume is likely to be fresher and therefore healthier.

Organic produce that is also locally produced is the best option as it means that you’re helping to send your hard earned money back into your precious community which will only serve to make everyone around you happier and more financially stable, which has got to be a bonus, right? You’re happy, you’re neighbour’s happy, the dog’s happy… you understand. I bet you’re already feeling happier, am I right?

Unfortunately though, often local farmers can’t afford to become certified organic, however many local farmers may already be using organic methods (without the certificate to prove it). Visit your local farmers market and speak to the farmers selling their produce, you may just find that what they’re doing is already organic anyway. Want some more information on why everyone should be bonkers about locally grown food? We hear you.

6. There is an ongoing push for Organic Foods to be more Fairtrade

Organic produce is not guaranteed to be Fairtrade, let me just put that out there before you spam me with hate mail. I’m more of a lover, you see.

There is a general consensus that Organic and Fairtrade should be amalgamated to better serve the environment and community. After all, as harsh as it may sound, people tend to be less concerned about their environment when the more pressing matters of getting food on the table for their families is at the forefront of their mind which is why there is such a push for organic produce to also be Fairtrade, particularly in developing nations.

Let’s be completely honest here, it’s not rocket science, is it? Everyone’s (regardless of culture or territories) number one priority is providing for their families. Fairtrade practices ensure that farmers are able to sustain a decent lifestyle which makes it easier and profitable for them to ensure that the produce reaching your dining tables are as organic and natural as possible. It’s a win-win solution for everyone and considering how far and few in between they are in general life, I say grab it with both hands when we can.

7. Organic Foods last longer

Last year I was so shocked to see how fresh my organically grown plums (from my backyard) looked nearly four weeks after being picked. I guess I have my gorgeous plum tree (I’ve nicknamed her Plumpilicious) to thank for piquing my interest in the wonder of produce grown the way Mother Nature intended (not to mention the scrumptious fruit my neighbours, workmates and I got as well from Plumpilicious’s beautiful bounty).

As it turns out, organic produce really does last longer than their more conventionally grown peers.

Which makes you wonder, doesn’t it? What do un-organic products have in them, that even after all the preservatives and chemicals in them, they rot quicker? I have absolutely no idea but articles like this one definitely shed more light on the topic.

So, in the end, I would suggest that it depends on the type of produce with regards to whether organic or their non-organic counterparts last longer. Or it could just be that Plumpilicious is one of a kind, I always had an inkling.

To wrap this all up… Are you sold on Organics or not?

I hope that this fairly comprehensive guide has helped clear some of the misconceptions and confusion around the whole Organic concept for you. If nothing more, I hope it’s presented you with some good articles for you to sink your teeth into around the fast becoming popular Organic space.

Many of our customers are doubtful and unsure of what the purposes of Organic products are and whether they’re deserving of all the hype they’re getting at the moment. After working in an Organically geared organisation, I can’t tell you to go out and swap all your non-organic products with organic because that would look suspicious. But, I would strongly urge you to try the concept out after educating yourself on the whole shebang.

I can present you with countless facts and figures (as well as case studies and testimonials) on why you should go the Organic route but in the end, humans like to try before they buy. It’s this wonderful inquisitive mind we’ve all been gifted (or cursed – whatever you prefer) with.

So the only question that remains is, are you in or out? Let us know.

Nim-VĂ©da Australia is committed to manufacturing Organic Based Personal Care Products (around Neem & Ayurveda) and High Quality Gourmet Organic Raw Food Ingredients. We write extensively for a variety of reputable Organic and Health oriented blogs (including Leaders in Heels, Natural Beauty Expert, Mouths of Moms, and many more) and include tons of valuable information around the health space at http://www.nimveda.com/blog.

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