A sustainable garden in the Philippines

The Difference Between Organic and Sustainable Food

Often, when looking for healthy food that is good for us and the environment we look for the “ORGANIC” label. Organic is better for your health in many ways. However it is not always sustainably produced. It is important we learn to make a distinction between the two, as we cannot always assume that they come hand in hand.

This article written by Jennifer Chait back in 2019 attempts to make the distinction. She starts by noting that in order to get an organic certification, one simply needs to follow the guidelines set by government and certifying agencies. However many of these requirements are in regard to agricultural inputs only and may not include guidelines that take into account environmental effects, seed choice or moral considerations.

The article mentions that sustainable farms emphasize diversity and quality over size, which contributes to more balanced ecosystems, healthier soil and less use of inputs in general.

She also mentions that sustainable farms are more environmentally friendly, taking into account water and energy conservation through specialized methods and technologies.

Sustainable farms also go beyond the production in their quest for minimizing ecological impacts. They strive to sell produce locally, meaning less carbon emissions created, and ensure that they used biodegradable packaging.

Finally it was mentioned that a part of sustainable agriculture are the values, attitudes and morals of the farmer. By constantly making conscious choices, treating others fairly and extending the idea of sustainability beyond the farm are all factors in a business’ footprint.

True sustainability extends beyond basic farming goals into management and individual goals and lifestyle choices. Organic policy doesn’t cover much in terms of full-company or full-farm sustainability, but a truly sustainable business attempts to be eco-friendly in many ways, not simply in how it grows food. “

Editor’s Note:

This article makes some very good points that are important to remember next time we are choosing what food to purchase. Many organic farms are simply conventional farms that used organic inputs. Some of them still create pollutants and use excessive resources. A few even use GMO seeds. Also worth considering is that those fancy USDA organic products on the grocery shelves (in plastic packaging) have a significant carbon footprint due to the long travel.

Some of the companies do what is now being called greenwashing to make their products seem eco-friendly. Purchasing organic products of multi-national corporations only serves to support their other operations.

Truly sustainable farms practice one or more of the many proven SA methods available. Permaculture, Biodynamics, Natural, Jaddam, SRI and Regenerative Farming are all technologies which have been tried, tested and proven to grow food successfully and sustainably

It is also great that she mentioned the farmer as a factor in sustainability. That is why in ESSA we place an emphasis on Inner Conditioning. The more a farmer understands the important role they play in healing the earth, as well as how re-connecting with nature and the spirit is key to their success, the more they see that sustainable agriculture is the only way. This inner condition extends to the quality of work and relationships with other people, resulting in beautiful results. Remember the 7 dimensions of Sustainable Agriculture:

Economy, Ecological, Social Spirituality, Cultural, Political & Development of Full Human Potential (To be Developed more fully in a following article)

The very best food you can purchase is grown nearby, by a farmer who takes into account the health of the ecosystem around him as well. Buying locally ensures that the food did not have to travel far and if you can buy directly from the farmer, you ensure they get a fair exchange for their efforts.

Of course, the freshest food you can ever have is the food you grow yourself. So start planting your own organic food! Start simple, with an alugbati, kangkong or basil plant maybe. You’ll be surprised how easy it can be.

So the next time you think about picking up some organic products, think to yourself: Is this really sustainable? Would my money be better spent elsewhere?

Make the sustainable choice.

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