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Why Organic?
Ladybird dealing with an aphid outbreak
Ladybird dealing with an aphid outbreak

The Soil Association's definition of organic farming recognises the direct connection between our health and how the food we eat is produced. Artificial fertilisers are banned and farmers develop fertile soil by rotating crops and using compost, manure and clover.

Strict regulations, known as ‘standards’, define what organic farmers can and cannot do – and place a strong emphasis on the protection of wildlife and the environment.

Taking its name from the organic matter that farmers use as an alternative to synthetic fertilisers, organic farmers take a holistic, principled approach that respects and harnesses the power of natural processes to build positive health across the ecology of the farm.

Organic farming methods offer the best, currently available, practical model for addressing climate-friendly food production. This is because it is less dependent on oil-based fertilisers and pesticides and confers resilience in the face of climatic extremes. It also stores higher levels of carbon in the soil, and as a result if organic farming was common practice in the UK, we could offset at least 23% of agriculture's current greenhouse emissions.

In Organic Farming:

  • artificial chemical fertilisers are prohibited – instead organic farmers develop a healthy, fertile soil by growing and rotating a mixture of crops, adding organic matter such as compost or manure and using clover to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere
  • pesticides are severely restricted – instead organic farmers develop nutrient-rich soil to grow strong, healthy crops and encourage wildlife to help control pests and disease
  • animal welfare is at the heart of the system and a truly free-range life for farm animals is guaranteed
  • a diversity of crops and animals are raised on the farm and rotated around the farm over several seasons, including fallow periods. This mixed farming approach helps break cycles of pests and disease and builds fertility in the soil
  • the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers is banned – instead the farmer will use preventative methods, like moving animals to fresh pasture and keeping smaller herd and flock sizes
  • genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are banned.

Five reasons to choose Organic

Organic is good for you and your planet, it is kind to animals and wildlife, and it empowers us all to make a big difference - simply through the way we shop. With all these benefits, it’s easy to see why organic delivers such good value.

1. Better for your Planet
Over 20% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from food and farming today.

Nitrogen fertiliser manufacturing is the worst offender.To produce just one tonne of fertiliser demands a whole tonne of oil, seven tonnes of greenhouse gasses, and one hundred tonnes of water. Organic farmers work with nature to feed the soil and control pests. By choosing organic, local and seasonal - we as consumers can significantly reduce our carbon footprint.

2. Great for You
No food has higher amounts of beneficial minerals, essential amino acids and vitamins than organic food. Organic food avoids pesticides and all controversial additives. including aspartame, tartrazine, MSG and hydrogenated fats. Organic food contains higher levels of vitamin C and minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and chromium as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants and Omega 3. Organic milk for example, is on average 68% higher in Omega 3 essential fatty acids that normal milk.

3. Kind to Animals
Animal welfare is at the heart of organic systems. Soil Association standards for meat and animal products rigorously protect all aspects of animal wellbeing - from rearing, feeding and shelter, to transportation and slaughter. Organic animals are free to pursue natural behaviour because they have plenty of outside space to thrive and grow, and are not routinely drugged with antibiotics. Organic standards prohibit cruelty and guarantee truly free-range lives for farm animals.Yes, that’s right. Many shoppers don’t realise that organic products are also free range. Eggs and meat with the Soil Association symbol have been reared to the highest level of free-range standards. Birds are looked after in smaller flocks, spend more of their lives roaming outside on fresh grass and have more space in their houses.

4. Encourages Wildlife
The UK Government’s own advisors found that plant, insect and bird populations can be up to 50% greater on organic farms.

Organic farming relies on wildlife to help control natural pests, so wide field edges are left uncultivated for bugs, birds and bees to flourish. This vital wildlife is also not deterred or harmed by the spraying of fertilisers, chemicals and pesticides routinely used on non-organic farms.

5. GM free 
Genetically Modified (GM) crops and ingredients are banned under organic standards. Shoppers wanting to avoid GM products may be surprised to know that over a million tonnes of GM crops are imported each year to feed non-organic livestock, which in turn supply our supermarkets with pork, bacon, milk, cheese and other dairy products.

There is a lot more to organic food production than just not using chemicals!

The word 'Organic', when related to food, has a legal definition. The list below offers an outline of what organic production entails, and is taken from the Soil Association standards.

The principles and methods employed result in practices which:

  • Coexist with, rather than dominate, natural systems;
  • Sustain and build soil fertility;
  • Minimise pollution and damage to the environment;
  • Minimise the use of non-renewable resources;
  • Ensure the ethical treatment of animals;
  • Protect and enhance the farm environment with particular regard to conservation and wildlife;
  • Consider the wider social and ecological impact of agricultural systems;
  • Maintain or develop valuable existing landscape features and adequate habitats for the production of wildlife with particular regard to endangered species.

All food production causes some disruption to the natural environment. However, Organic farming minimises this disruption not only by the prohibition of synthetic pesticides and soluble fertilisers, but also because the maintenance of ecological diversity within and around cropped land is an essential component of the Organic system.

Organic farmers are expected to manage habitats such as banks, hedges, ponds, species-rich pastures, areas of poor drainage and scrubland in accordance with their wildlife value as an integral part of the Symbol Scheme.

For further information about Organic Farming, please visit the Soil Association website.

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