There can be a lot of labels to keep track of when buying food. So many that sometimes it gets hard to keep everything straight! Here’s a few of the labels you might find on our products, what they mean, and why they matter:
Perhaps the most common label you'll find in our store! This is a method of agricultural production that aims to produce in a more natural way, while respecting the natural environment. What primarily sets organic farming apart from conventional farming is that no synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), or growth hormones are permitted in organics.
In order to be labelled ‘organic,’ products must be certified organic by an approved regulating body. The idea of organic agriculture has been around since the 1920’s, and continues to develop under various agricultural organizations today.
Within organic farming there is a focus on preserving biodiversity, promoting animal welfare, preserving soil integrity, and preserving ecological standards. Fertilizers of organic origin such as compost, manure, or bone meal are used for crop production, and techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting are encouraged.
While synthetic substances are strictly limited, naturally occurring pesticides can be used - at the discretion of the regulating body. Biological pest control is encouraged as a natural alternative to pesticides and herbicides.
More information on organic farming here in Alberta can be found here.
Biodynamic agriculture was the first of the organic agriculture movements. It was developed in the 1920’s basing its system on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. Steiner's philosophy is also the basis for the Waldorf education system.
Soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care are considered ecologically interrelated within biodynamics, and the aim is to work with nature, using natural relationships to enhance agriculture.
Biodynamic agriculture is governed primarily by Demeter International which certifies farms that meet international biodynamic standards.
There are many similarities between organic and biodynamic farming: no synthetic pesticides or herbicides are permitted, and the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, or GMO’s are also prohibited.
Biodynamics must also foster and enhance the soil fertility, biodiversity, and plant and animal health of the farm. Within biodynamic philosophy, the farm itself is thought of as a single, self-sustaining organism.
There are also important astrological, spiritual, and mystical aspects of biodynamics.
You can learn more about biodynamic farming through one of our favourite local farms, Blue Mountain Biodynamics, here.
A product will be labelled ‘non-GMO’ or state ‘GMO Free’ if it does not contain any genetically modified ingredients. A genetically modified organism (GMO) is a plant, animal, or microorganism whose “genetic makeup has been modified using recombinant DNA methods (also called gene splicing), gene modification or transgenic technology.”
GMO’s are newly created genomes that could not exist naturally or through traditional crossbreeding methods. Many products are labelled non-GMO by the non-GMO Project, a third-party verification organization “dedicated to building and protecting a non-GMO food supply.”
If a product is certified organic or biodynamic, it is also non-GMO. While there are several crops that are at high risk for being genetically modified, there are also many more that are still likely non-GMO even if non-organic. You can find a list of the most common offenders here.
Fair Trade focuses on providing producers in developing countries the ability to receive better trading conditions while promoting sustainability. It aims to move away from the current system of trade which it perceives as exploitive, toward a sustainable, more equitable world market.
Fair Trade certifiers typically focus on commodities or products exported from developing countries into developed countries such as fruit, coffee, tea, or chocolate.