What is the difference between ECO and organic?

Some say they are healthier and more sustainable. Others question these two arguments, recalling that there are no studies confirming either of these two supposed advantages of organic products, which are simply more expensive and have a certification seal.

But there is no doubt that their consumption is booming and more and more people are betting on organic food when making the purchase. A growing business that has led to the proliferation of lines of products of this type, although in Spain consumption remains far below what happens in other countries of the European Union. Interestingly, when it comes to organic farming, the country is at the top of the continent in production.

But what does it really mean that a product is organic? And what is the difference between organic, “bio” and “organic”, three categories that are usually used in this field without it being too clear whether it is the same, there are differences or, basically, they are pulling our leg to charge more for the same. And it should not be forgotten that the price difference between conventional and organic products is considerable.

First of all, it is worth clarifying what it is and that it is not an organic product. Because, although many relate it to concepts such as seasonal or proximity products, it has nothing to do with it. It may be, but in reality organic certification does not oblige it.

Ecological means that it has been produced in accordance with European regulations for these products. Basically, and to sum it up a lot, the use of pesticides or chemical fertilisers is not allowed, nor is the use of transgenic fertilisers.

Can it be an ecological greenhouse product? Of course. In fact, Almeria has become one of the leading areas in Europe in organic production under plastics. Surely many people are surprised by this idea of combining organic with intensive agriculture.

In the case of food, the European Union seal is responsible for identifying certified organic products that have passed the necessary controls. And they have paid for it, of course.

In other words, the tomatoes of a neighbour who has a vegetable garden could be organic, but if you want to sell them as such, you would have to go through this certification process. Whether they are more or less good is another issue that, on the other hand, also usually generates a lot of discussion.

The mess comes when other denominations come into play that, in reality, at a legal level, are considered synonyms of “ecological” and are used indistinctly according to the language and the country. In other words, “bio” and “organic” (actually a bad translation of “organic”) mean exactly the same as “ecological” and, if they are, they will bear the aforementioned EU identification mark.

However, it is true that if there is one thing that tends to abound in this type of product, it is the stamps. First of all, organic farming, which in Spain is granted by each autonomous community. Other European countries also have their own stamps, so – and here comes the confusion – it is common to find German products with “organic” certification or French products certified as “organic farming” in an organic supermarket.

So much for what the law says and what the consumer can demand. But as we read in various media specialized in this type of products, there is a certain different perception of what each of them means or how they are interpreted. We insist, regardless of what the regulations say.

Thus, “bio” is usually understood as products that have not been genetically modified, although there is also a “non-GMO” certification issued by various private organizations. Is a non-GMO product necessarily ecological? No. Is an organic product free of transgenics? For now, yes, although there is debate among producers as to whether it makes sense to maintain this regulation.

With “organic”, the opposite is true. In this case, it is understood that these productions are free of pesticides and chemicals, but it could be transgenic seeds. Again, they are not eligible for organic certification, as they do not meet all the requirements.

Has it become clearer as to how unclear the whole issue really is? In any case, buy organic or not, as long as you can, that is seasonal and proximity.