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? And is it really better for us?
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 must work to a rigorous set of standards, which legally comply with strict EU regulation, to ensure that their farms sustain the health of 4 main groups; 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 strictly complies to organic practices.
So what are some of the benefits of organic farming? 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 are a key reason for global insect declines and the biodiversity crisis, as it is not possible to control how many insects are killed by pesticides. 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 instead of using harsh chemicals.
So why should we choose to buy and eat organic? For one, organic farming practices are much more sustainable. In fact, if Europe’s farmland all followed organic farming 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 as the food grown clocks up less air miles than traditional farming practices. 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 species 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.
Even if you cannot switch to using only organic products, why not consider trying to make the switch with one item that you buy regularly? This could be your milk, carrots, coffee or tea bags! Every small change you make can help to have a big impact on protecting our planet, and you might even notice that organic produce tastes better too.
If you'd like to find out more about organic September, visit the Soil Association website here.