Know the Difference: Understanding Organic

  • Impact
  • April 14, 2020

Choosing between products classified as ‘organic’, ‘certified organic’ or stamped with an organic classification sticker can be confusing. We spoke to Niki Ford, CEO of Australian Organic Ltd, to help us understand what organic vs. non organic really means. 

Whether you’re navigating the supermarket aisle, shopping online or visiting your favourite farmer’s market, chances are you’ll have plenty of ‘organic’ options to choose from. As a proudly Australian Certified Organic (ACO) brand, we’re heartened to see so many other brands making the shift to producing organic products – but as there’s no regulation on using the term ‘organic’ in Australia, sometimes a product that claims to be organic may be anything but. 

To clear up the confusion and better understand Australian certified organic products, we spoke with Australian Organic’s CEO Niki Ford, an expert in organic certification and production.

So what does Australian Certified Organic mean? 

It’s a certification mark that demonstrates the product has been rigorously tested to comply with the Australian Certified Organic Standard and the National Organic and Biodynamic Standard. Products classified as Australian Certified Organic are free-range, cruelty-free, non-GM, socially responsible, sustainably sourced and use no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, hormones or antibiotics.

Currently, there’s no regulation in Australia for the term ‘organic’, unfortunately, any company can use this on a product – though we are working hard to change this! Certification logos like ours are the only way that consumers can be assured a product is truly organic. 

What are some of the benefits for individuals in choosing certified organic?

Being synthetic and chemical-free is a key difference in organic cotton vs. non organic cotton. The Australian Certified Organic standard prohibits the use of synthetic agricultural chemicals like pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, instead requiring producers to use natural cotton seeds and produce without any harmful chemicals. 

The chemicals used in conventional cotton production can irritate the skin and aggravate allergies. You want to ensure your little people and yourself – particularly in your most vulnerable areas – are getting the most natural version of a product because the level of blood vessels and mucous membranes, all of which are incredibly efficient at carrying chemicals and other materials throughout the body. When you have little ones, putting them in something that’s natural is also giving them the best possible beginning. It’s so important to have access to the best quality organic products for the first years of your children’s life, particularly while they’re building immunity.

 

What about the environment and the broader community? 

Certified organic farming practices conserve more water, use less CO2e and encourage far more biodiversity than conventional farming practices. This is because organic agriculture is aligned to the natural rhythm of agriculture. 

Soil is at the core of the organic production process – getting the right type of nutrients and bacteria in a soil to create high quality and nutrient-rich produce. Instead of farming the same soil year after year and pumping it with synthetic fertilisers to continue production, organic agriculture rotates the crops farmed on soil and weeding is done by hand or animal.

Because of this approach, there’s an additional labour force required for organic agriculture, leading to more jobs in this space and more ethical and fair trade practices being used.

 

Any tips for navigating the organic vs. non organic confusion on the go? 

The certification mark is key, as that will tell you whether the product has gone through the rigorous certification process. For example, you could check if a tampon is made with organic cotton vs. cotton by checking for the ACO certification mark. Just make sure it’s the right certification mark – the Australian Certified Organic bud logo is recognised by more than 50% of organic consumers.  Be careful when choosing as it can get confusing, particularly with the practice of ‘greenwashing’, where brands claim to be environmentally friendly using unsubstantiated claims

The other easy way to check is to look at the ingredients for a product – if the ingredients are long words, you can be assured that they’re not organic, even if the product has the word ‘organic’ in its brand name. Personal care products can be the worst – watch out for asterisks, as if the ingredients have an asterisk where only some are certified organic and they’re at the end of the ingredients list, they might only make up 0.1% of the recipe but it’s a selling point for the product. 

Interested to find out more about organic cotton tampons vs. conventional tampons? Learn about our products and how they’re made on our FAQ page