What Does Organic REALLY mean?


Today we hear this word all too often, but what does organic really mean?

How do you know if something is truly organic?

Contrary to food ‘naturally’ or ‘conventionally’ grown, Organic Agriculture is subjected to specific regulations for farming practices that a farmer is to use. Below is a list of the key organic food-related regulations.

Organic fruits and vegetables are grown without:

  • Toxic persistent pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and chemicals
  • Synthetic fertilizers
  • Sewage sludge
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
  • Irradiation

Organic farm animals are raised generally without:

  • Antibiotics
  • Growth hormones
  • Insecticides
  • Non-organic, GMO feed

Different from natural produce, Organic produce requires:

  • Animal welfare requirements
  • Lower levels of environmental pollution
  • Audit trail from farm to table
  • Certificate required, including inspections
  • Cows required to be on pasture for pasture season
  • Legal restrictions on allowable material

Is organic food healthier?

Definitely. Since farmers do not use the above chemicals, the food has less of these chemicals in and on the surface when you go to buy and eat the food.  However, keep in mind that our daily environment is full of these chemicals and therefore, organic produce is likely exposed to some of these unwanted substances at some point between the time the seed is planted and the moment you are putting the food in your mouth.  Also, organic produce has likely been exposed to natural fertilizers, such as manure or fish emulsion during cultivation, therefore, washing organic produce is still very important. Washing helps to remove or decrease some of these toxic substances, therefore minimizing your exposure and keeping what is going on your plate clean.

How do you know if something is certified organic?
A 5-digit number starting with 9 for fresh fruit and vegetables.

A 5-digit number starting with 9 for fresh fruit and vegetables.

:ook for one of these logos.

Look for one of these logos.


Why does organic food cost more?

For your body, for everybody, and for the environment.

  • Eat higher quality food
  • Decrease the amount of chemical exposure and intake
  • Decrease the negative impact on the environment from conventional agriculture (ie. soil depletion, soil erosion, water contamination)
  • Support real farmers working with nature and not agri-corporations
  • Save energy
  • Support true economy
  • Promote biodiversity
  • Taste and nutrition is greater
  • Protect future generations

Organic and on a budget?

If your budget only permits a certain amount of your groceries to be bought organic, I recommend that you buy produce from the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen™ list to minimize your pesticide consumption.  Whereas, you can save money by buying the Clean Fifteen™ produce non-organic because they have less pesticide contamination.  If your diet is comprised of any animal products, eating meat, dairy, or eggs organic is highly suggested since toxins are stored in the tissues of these animals and their by-products.

The Dirty Dozen™

(Listed in order of highest pesticides)

    1. Strawberries
    2. Spinach
    3. Nectarines
    4. Apples
    5. Peaches
    6. Pears
    7. Cherries
    8. Grapes
    9. Celery
    10. Tomatoes
    11. Sweet Bell Peppers
    12. Potatoes
    The Clean Fifteen™

    (Listed in order of least pesticides)

    1. Sweet Corn

    2. Avocados

    3. Pineapples

    4. Cabbage

    5. Onions

    6. Sweet Peas

    7. Papayas

    8. Asparagus

    9. Mangoes

    10. Eggplant

    11. Honeydew Melon

    12. Kiwi

    13. Cantaloupe

    14. Cauliflower

    15. Grapefruit


    You can also print off the EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ here to have the lists with you when you are grocery shopping.

    Hope this helps you in your food shopping choices,

    - Breanne



    Breanne Gibson, MSc., DHN, ROHP, RNCP

    As a leading holistic nutritionist, lifestyle mentor, and permaculture designer, Breanne empowers high achieving and sustainably-driven leaders and entrepreneurs optimize their health and performance and design a resilient life they love so they can be living their full potential as they share their gifts with the world. Read her inspiring story, “From Peachland girl to military officer to a worldwide permaculture exploration” that lead her to where she is today.


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