Making a commitment to healthy eating is a great start towards a healthy and long life. Beyond eating more fruits, vegetables, there is the question of food safety, nutrition, and sustainability. How foods are grown can impact both your health and the environment. This brings up a few questions:
What is the difference between organic foods and non organic foods?
Foods certified as organic in Canada must meet certain requirements found in the Canadian Organic Standards Document. These standards are geared around sustainable crop production with minimal impact on the environment. To summarize these requirements food must be produced in a way which protects the environment, minimizes soil degradation and erosion, decreases pollution, optimize biological productivity and promotes a sound state of health. This means crops must not be genetically modified organisms, or treated with pesticides which way harm the environment or consumer. They must also be grown in a way which recycles materials and resources to the greatest extent possible.
Is “organic” more healthful, or worth the added expense?
While is great to purchase foods which are grown by methods which protect the environment and conserve resources, it is important to note that certified organic foods are not necessarily more healthful than their non-certified counterparts. The Canadian Organic Standards document specifically states “Neither this standard nor organic products in accordance with this standard represent specific claims about the health, safety and nutrition of such organic products.” This means that the quality of food grown organically does not necessarily surpass the quality of non-organically certified foods.
Can non-certified organic foods be just as healthful as certified organic products?
Yes! Assuming the food was not treated with pesticides or grown from GMO genetics, it should be just as healthful as food produced according to the organic standards listed above. It is worth noting that organic fertilizers such as manure and guanos are not available to plants as a food source until they are broken down via the soil food web. Once this process has been completed, the organic inputs are chemically identical to the synthetically derived nutrients often used in non organic gardening. In soil based gardens synthetically derived nutrients can affect long-term soil fertility by impacting conditions for biological activity within the soil. However, in a hydroponic application these nutrients are recycled, therefore never making their way into the ground or affecting the quality of ground water.
Can you grow organic food hydroponically?
Yes! Hydroponic gardens can produce non GMO food by using organically derived nutrients with the absence of pesticides while recycling and conserving water and thus having a minimal impact on the environment. Hydroponically produced food can be grown with 1/5 the water and can also many times more productive per square foot of garden space without the risk of leaching nutrients into ground water sources.
This means the home gardener should focus not on labels but on growing quality proven genetics, through sustainable gardening methods while avoiding the use of pesticides. When growing outdoors in the ground, organically derived nutrients can be used to minimize soil degradation. When hydroponically the home gardener has the flexibility to use either organically or synthetically derived nutrients to produce high quality food in their hydroponic gardens.