to helping to combat climate change - eating organic can have a whole host of benefits for ourselves and for the planet. Many of us have heard of the benefits of organic farming, but what does organic actually mean?
According to the Soil Association: "Organic is a system of farming and food production. Organic farmers aim to produce high-quality food, using methods that benefit our whole food system, from people to planet, plant health to animal welfare." Organic farmers work to a strict set of standards, which must legally comply with strict EU regulation, to ensure that their farms sustain the health of Soils, Ecosystems, Animals & People. Certification is legally required to grow, process or market organic products, and all organic farms and companies are inspected by a certification body, at least once a year. This means when you see the organic symbol, you can trust that the food and drink you buy has been made in a way that complies to organic practices.
Organic farming uses far fewer pesticides than traditional farming methods. Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill insects and other pests, including weeds and fungal diseases. Recent studies have shown the impacts of pesticides as key reasons for global insect declines and the biodiversity crisis. Under the organic standards, all weedkillers are banned, and farmers are only able to use a very limited number of naturally-derived pesticides as a last resort (like citronella and clove oil), but only under very restricted circumstances. Instead of relying on pesticides, organic farmers aim to create a natural balance between plants and animals to prevent pests. They encourage animals such as birds, beetles and 'beneficial insects' such as ladybirds to eat pests like aphids, slugs and caterpillars.
Organic farming does not use artificial fertilisers as protecting the natural properties of the soil is vital. Natural fertilisers are used in the place of synthetic, chemical ones. Things such as clover and legumes can be added to the soil to 'fix' nitrogen. Farmers will also use compost, animal manure, green manures and crop rotations to maintain healthy, nutrient-rich soils. Synthetic nitrogen fertilisers are also responsible for an increase in nitrous oxide in the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas which is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
So why should we choose organic? For one, organic farming practices are much more sustainable. In fact, if Europe’s farmland all followed organic principles, agricultural emissions could drop by 40-50% by 2050. Not only this, organic farmers typically import less resources, making their methods much better for the planet. Organic farming is also better for wildlife and it is vital we protect our wildlife now more than ever. Pesticides are considered to be the main reason for the dramatic decline in British wildlife, leaving over 1 in 10 facing extinction. On average, plant, insect and bird life is 50% more abundant on organic farms, and there are around 75% more wild bees on organic farms. Lastly, organic food is widely considered to be better for you. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2014 showed that organic milk and meat contain around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic. What's more, organically produced crops were found to contain up to 68% more antioxidants than non-organic.
If you'd like to find out more about organic September, visit the Soil Association website here.