Covid-19 has shaken our complacency about where our food comes from to the core. But now more than ever, citizens are appreciating the world we live in and the fragility of our existence in it. Research shows that people do not want to just return to how things were before (I wrote about my desire for real, systemic change back at the beginning of lockdown) and many of us say we want to make better choices that will support people, animals and our environment.
But how do we put those words into action? As more of us seek to minimise our impact on the planet, simply choosing to eat more organic food can offer an easy, trusted way to be more sustainable and in our day-to-day lives.
But why is organic food important?
‘Organic’ is a farming system and method of food production built on the principles of ecology, fairness, health and care. Organic farmers take a ‘whole system’, or holistic approach, to farming, that considers the entire food system, from soils and farm animals to the health of people, nature and the planet.
Choosing organic means… supporting wildlife
- Organic farms are havens for wildlife and provide homes for bees, birds and butterflies. On average, plant, insect and bird life is 50% more abundant on organic farms.
- Organic farming is better for bees, there are around 75% more wild bees on organic farms.
- Organic farms are more ecologically diverse, organic farms are home to 30% more species of wildlife on average.
…Helping to combat climate change
- On average, organic vegetable farms, dairy farms, and mixed farming systems use less energy than their non-organic counterparts.
- Organic farming tends to reduce energy use due to the avoidance of synthetic fertilisers.
- If Europe’s farmland all followed organic principles, agricultural emissions could drop by 40-50% by 2050.
- Adopting nature-friendly farming along with other key changes to our food system could help keep global warming below 2°C.
- Organic soils store up to twice as much water – this makes them more resilient in a changing climate.
…Supporting high animal welfare
- The Soil Association has the highest standards for animal welfare. In the UK, Organic standards mean that farm animals:
- Must have access to pasture (when weather and ground conditions permit) and are truly free-range.
- Must have plenty of space (indoors and outdoors) – which helps to reduce stress and disease.
- Are fed a diet that is as natural as possible.
- Graze and forage naturally on organic pasture (grasses and other crops) where only natural fertilisers are used, and pesticides are severely restricted.
- Must not routinely be given antibiotics.
…Enjoying food as it should be
- Organic food must be certified by law, so you can be assured that the product and ingredients come from verified sources.
- Soil Association Certification certifies over 70% of organic food in the UK, and all organic farmers and processors are inspected at least once a year. The organic logo can only be used on products that have been certified as organic by an authorised certification body. This means that the product fulfils strict conditions on how it was produced, processed and handled at every stage.
- Choosing organic means that you are supporting farming practices with a more traceable production process and you’ll always know what’s in your food.
…Reduced exposure to pesticides
- In organic farming, all weed killers are banned – a very limited number of naturally occurring fungicides and insecticides are permitted and their use is severely restricted.
- Soil Association organic farmers are able to use a very limited number of naturally derived pesticides like citronella and clove oil, as a last resort, under very restricted circumstances.
- Choosing organic is an easy way to limit your exposure to pesticides, herbicides (weed killers) and many additives and preservatives.
For inspiration on how to support sustainable farming this Organic September, check out 18 of my favourite ways to support Organic this month.