Natural ingredients and organic food appear on packaging all over the place. But, what’s the difference between the two?
Well for starters, while both are commonly found on labels, “natural” refers to ingredients, while “organic” refers to ingredients and the way they’re farmed.
In the immediate aftermath of the war, concerns about food shortages ran high, and self-sufficiency in food production was deemed an important national goal.
To support domestic economic recovery and maintain competitiveness in the export market, food prices were kept low. In the post-war years, the USA and USSR had become international food exporting powers and the UK was struggling to compete.
Lowering prices comes at a cost and in this story, the crunch came down on the farmers. Pushed off their land by costs, factory farming became the most efficient means of production.
Factory farming continued into the 1960s and was supported by Government and EEC grants. The widespread use of chemicals and pharmaceuticals was encouraged by the Common Agricultural Policy’s sole focus on production.
What does Organic mean?
Organic food is food that meets strict EU regulations that ensure that it is farmed in a way that is sensitive to the environment.
Organic production respects natural systems and cycles. Biological and mechanical production processes and land-related production should be used to achieve sustainability, without having recourse to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The Organic Movement
The organic movement arose as part of a wave of environmentalism during the post-war years. The term “organic farming” was coined by Lord Northbourne, in his 1940 book, Look to the Land.
But, the catalyst for the organic movement was the 1943 book, The Living Soil, by Lady Eva Balfour, which detailed the Haughey Experiment, the UK’s first scientific side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional farming.
The Soil Association was founded in 1946 by a group of farmers and agricultural scientists. They posited direct connections between farming practice and plant, animal, human and environmental health.
1962 saw the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, which detailed the harmful impact of DDT and similar chemicals on the environment. The social unrest of the late 1960s, leading up to the oil crisis of 1973, were central to the development of the “back to nature” philosophy of the modern environmental movement.
Demand for strict regulation of organic farming standards got a boost in the 1980s, following the formation of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM).
In 1991, the EU passed Council Regulation EEC 2092/91, which sets the standards that all EU organic producers are required to meet. In the UK, the majority of the Regulation’s stipulations are implemented under the Organic Products Regulation (2001).
In 2002, the Government produced an Organic Action Plan as part of its Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food, drawn up in response to the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic.
During the early 2000s, food scares, such as the BSE outbreak led to further demand for reassurance in food standards. Some considered organic food to be the answer.
Regulation and best practices continued to be refined and in 2007, the EU created a law that outlined the standard for what qualifies as organic.
Meanwhile, “natural” remained a good-faith term that meant a given product was free of synthetic additives. “Natural” is essentially a marketing term. According to The Washington Post, the word “natural” is the most money-making label on the market, helping sell over $40bn of food annually in the USA.
The presence of natural ingredients in foods gives no indication of farming practices or use of chemicals. It means that the food contains real ingredients, rather than processed ones.
The Food Standards Agency explains this further, providing us with the following definition:
“Natural means essentially that the product is comprised of natural ingredients, e.g. ingredients produced by nature, not the work of man or interfered with by man.”
Organic vs. Natural
So, while natural products ensure you’re enjoying the fruits of nature, organic products must adhere to a strict set of regulations to ensure quality standards.
That’s why Campbell’s has 9 plants equipped to handle organic certified production while also continuing to develop conventional agriculture methods that support less waste, greater biodiversity, and higher overall sustainability.