Nature Does It Better: Eco-Eating

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In the accelerating age of digital technology, as we are anxious to get rid of the effects of stress and chronic fatigue, we resort to all sorts of tricks. Indulging the stomach with a product labeled «bio» is one of the simplest options. But then a lot of questions arise. What is a «bio-product»? How do we distinguish the real thing from a fake? Is it worth overpaying at all?

According to the latest data from the Globus hypermarket chain, the demand for bio-products increases annually, on average, by 20%. In 2015, Czech residents spent about 150 million crowns on “environmentally friendly” products, which is 25% more than they spent the year before. In the opinion of analysts, there is no need to doubt that the trend will continue next year. In the standard consumer’s basket, as the data of the Czech Statistical Office show, milk, dairy products, cereals, meat, and vegetables account for most of what gets bought and eaten. The same milk and yogurts are at the top of the ten products labeled «bio», which are in the greatest demand. Their volume made up more than one-fifth of the total bio-trade in 2016, reports Data Nielsen.

It was the British botanist Albert Howard who was the first to speak about the proper cultivation of the soil and the cultivation of food in natural conditions and did so in the early years of the twentieth century. The development of ecologically clean agriculture in the Czech Republic began later – just because it was not possible to fit such a concept into the dominant socialist system.

The first fragmentary translations of articles began to appear in 1985 – 1987, and in 1988 in Moravia a community devoted to alternative agriculture emerged. Among its early leaders was the ZD Starý Hrozenkov farm, one of the first agricultural enterprises to conduct its activities with a focus on the mandates of nature.

Since 1998, the Czech Republic has begun to catch up with its European neighbors by leaps and bounds, so that by now there are about 3,920 agricultural producers bringing to market environmentally friendly products that meet all the relevant quality standards.

According to standards

Pure ecological (organic, alternative, «bio») agriculture is a type of farming which is based on the logic of nature and the cycle of the mineral and organic substances in it, and which excludes the use of any pesticides, artificial fertilizers, or hormones. The priority emphasis, on the contrary, is maintaining soil fertility and respecting animals, landscape biodiversity conservation, and improving the natural environment.

Packaging which indicates that the yogurt or milk which you drink for breakfast is really environmentally friendly goes beyond a label with the designation «bio». One of the logos in the original colors must be present, valid for the Czech Republic and the EU countries, as well as the code of the control organization (for the Czech Republic – CZ–BIO–001, or 002, 003, 004).

Currently there are four organizations that oversee the quality of organic products in the Czech Republic: BUREAU VERITAS CZECH REPUBLIC, spol. s.r.o. in Prague; Biokont CZ, s.r.o. in Brno; ABCERT AG in Jihlava; and KEZ o.p.s. in Chrudim. Inspections are carried out in accordance with Czech law No. 242/2000 Sb., concerning ecological agriculture, and the amendment to law No. 368/1992 Sb., concerning administrative expenses in the edition of subsequent normative acts, as well as a number of other decrees and orders listed on the BUREAU VERITAS CZECH REPUBLIC portal. The control system becomes more and more rigid every year and consists of several stages, which ensures confidence in the quality of all products, reports epravo.cz.

If you are going to produce environmentally friendly products by yourself, be sure to read the local rules for registering entrepreneurs in your area on the portal of the Ministry of Agriculture eAGRI.cz. If you are a meticulous consumer, then you can also check if the manufacturer of your favorite yogurt is listed on the register of environmental entrepreneurs.

Is it worth it?

You should keep in mind that demand generates supply, that‘s why on the store shelf next to genuine bio products, you can find those that have nothing in common with them, despite the «green» markings and labels. True organic products will be most likely be «simple» (fruit, vegetables, meat, or milk, for instance). A «complex» product, consisting of a large number of ingredients, can receive the prefix «bio-« only if not less than 95% of its composition is produced in an organically certified manner. It is not difficult to guess that this is a great rarity. Remember this when observing a bottle of bio-yogurt with apple or pear taste. The cost of such goods is much higher than that of ordinary yogurt because of its alleged «environmental friendliness», but there is no reason to overpay for it. To understand this, read the composition of the sour-milk product (you will find a lot of artificial additives in it) or pay attention to the expiration date («live» microorganisms can not survive for several weeks or months). This is an excellent example of how unscrupulous manufacturers attempt to manipulate gullible buyers with beautiful descriptions on packages. It is understandable, of course: eco-products are almost always much more expensive after all.

If you are financially able to consume organic products only, this will benefit your health for sure. However, do not forget that the general state of the body is affected not only by food, but also by how many hours you sleep, whether you are playing sports, whether you have bad habits”, explains Sofia Panfilova, a nutritionist. “Therefore, taking into account the fact that we all, one way or another, expose our bodies to harmful environmental influences and violate ideal regimes, do not worry about eating tomatoes without the ‘bio’ mark, from an ordinary supermarket. If you take care of yourself reasonably, this will not affect your health significantly.”

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