What is organic farming? Where does an organic apple come from? What are the standards? And finally why is it better for us? I’ll round this up in this post, dedicated to #organicoctober.
Organic farming practices conserve woodlands, wetlands, and wildlife. They protect ecosystem and improve them. In order to be accredited organic or to be able to label products as organic. In the UK, they must meet the following broad standards which are laid down in EU law:
- no genetically modified crops and ingredients
- the use of pesticides is severely restricted
- artificial chemical fertilisers are prohibited
- farm animal welfare is paramount
Organic farm animals:
- cannot be given hormones to make them grow,
- must be free range
- must be fed natural GMO-free food
- must not be produced from cloned animals
- must be free from drugs, antibiotics and wormers (at the time of sale)
So what do organic farmers do instead?
- They use plant waste left on fields (green manure), livestock manure or compost to improve soil quality
- Plant rotation to preserve soil quality and to interrupt cycles of pests or disease
- Cover crops that prevent erosion when parcels of land are not in use and to plow into soil for improving soil quality
- Mulch to control weeds
- Predatory insects or insect traps to control pests
Organic farmers essentially aim to work in harmony with existing ecosystems – including conserving water, soil and energy, and using renewable resources and natural farming cycles.
Why should we choose organic?
- It tastes better, you’ll notice the difference. Much better in fact. Each to their own, but in some cases the difference is big both in flavour and quality.
- It’s fresher and lasts longer especially if you buy directly from the farmers, at farmers markets, boxed veg companies or shops that turnover produce quickly.
- It’s more nutritious, so higher energy levels for you. In some cases, organic produce also has higher antioxidant content, higher in vitamins and minerals.
- You don’t have to ingest toxic chemicals, that disturb your overall health and wellbeing. As opposed to what we have been taught for decades, science is now clear, that there is no safe level of pesticide for humans to be exposed to. (Not to mention the “cocktail effect” when you’re body meets with a mix of them, many at once. Pesticides are poison. They are designed to kill living organisms. Research shows (Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows that these pesticide traces found in food and other pollutants can cross the placenta. (The most commonly used pesticides including carbamates like Aldicard, Carbaryl, Carbofuran; organophosphates including Methamidophos, Mevinphos; and thiophosphate pesticides like fenitrothion, malathion, parathion.)
It’s better for the Earth
- With organic farming we can avoid polluting our waterways (Surface water runoff from non-organic farms and other non-organic food operations can deposit pesticides into lakes, rivers, and reservoirs), air and land (Companies who dispose of pesticides incorrectly can contaminate soil and drinking water supplies as well. Many pesticides don’t break down in water and may remain in the water system for years), feed rich nutritious soil, avoid land degradation and soil erosion. Organic farms use a lot less water partly due to the healthier soils, produce less greenhouse gasses. Wildlife is generally more abundant around organic farms.
- It’s better for the soil – the soils store tens of billions of carbon. Healthy and well managed soils capture carbon dioxide. Therefore soil health is essential for combating climate change. Organically farmed soil can store 44% more carbon.
- No artificial fertilisers used. Organic farmers build fertile soils naturally using compost and manure. Synthetic nitrogen fertilisers are responsible for an increase in nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. (It’s 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.)
- Soils on organic farms store up to twice as much water, helping to protect against flooding, and performing better during drought.
- Conventional agriculture production uses more fossil fuels than organic food production. In fact, one study shows that sustainable farming methods may use 23% to 56% less fossil energy than conventional farming methods.