Whether it’s the new “Canada Organic” logo showing up at local farmers’ markets, or entire sections of mainstream grocery stores being dedicated to organic products, it’s now easier than it’s ever been to find organic products in Ontario.

Organic is a made-in-Canada success story: sales grew 300 percent between 2006 and 2012. Today’s organic market is worth over $3.5 billion a year, with Ontario responsible for a full third of national sales. And there’s no sign of this slowing down — 98 percent of consumers polled indicate they planned to maintain or increase their purchases of organic products next year.

Increased awareness and education

There are many reasons people are turning to organics: to reduce their exposure to pesticides and GMOs; because organic is inspected, produced, and certified to meet national organic standards; or because organic is healthy for soil, plants, and animals.

Increasingly, people want to know more than just where something was grown — how it was grown and made can be equally as important. People are asking more questions about their food and, as a result, are helping to shape public policy and the future of agriculture in Ontario.

A safer way to grow and eat

A recent poll conducted by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the David Suzuki Foundation found that 87 percent of Ontarians surveyed worry about the negative impact of neonicotinoid pesticides (or “neonics”) on pollinators and wildlife, currently used to grow everything from corn to cut flowers. Ontario has unveiled proposed legislation to restrict the use of neonics within the province (similar to what Europe put in place in late 2013.)

With approximately 1,100 pesticides in common use in Canada that have already been banned by other developed countries in the OECD due to environmental or health concerns, we still have a lengthy ‘row to hoe’ when it comes to reducing our chemical ‘food-print.’

Growing support

But consumers do have another option: they can vote with their dollars and support the growth of organic agriculture here in Ontario. Not only does buying organic reduce consumers’ (and bees’) exposure to GMOs and all kinds of toxic and persistent pesticides (including neonics), it also supports family farms, humane animal welfare standards, and more biodiversity in Ontario’s rural areas.