Georgie Fenn, writes most of our news articles and social media posts.
Organic September – why move over to organic produce?
This month, the Soil Association is promoting all things organic with its Organic September campaign, so read on to find out why making a move towards organic could bring benefits for you, your family, the environment and for future generations.
Organic living – an increasingly popular choice
According to the Soil Association’s 2016 Organic Market Report, sales of organic produce increased 4.9% in 2015, the third consecutive year of growth which, says the Soil Association, reflects a global trend of growth and increasing interest in all things organic. But why the shift? Perhaps part of the picture is that making the switch to organic is now easier than ever before, with most major supermarkets supporting organic growers by stocking a wide range of produce. More importantly, more people are becoming aware of the healthy positives of making the change to organic produce – which is by no means limited to you and your family’s health and taste buds – the benefits are also huge for our native wildlife, the environment and the welfare of farmed animals.
Five reasons to favour Organic
1: Benefits for you
According to The Soil Association, organic produce has been found to be naturally higher in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, therefore typically providing you and your family with more quality nutrients than conventionally-grown produce, not to mention less exposure to potentially harmful pesticides and toxic metals.
A 2014 study conducted by Newcastle University found that organic crops contain around 60% more key antioxidants compared to standard produce and a more recent study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that organically-produced milk and meat contains 50% more brain-boosting omega 3 fatty acids. Organic dairy products also contain higher concentrations of iron, Vitamin E and carotenoids, all important for healthy blood, skin and to support healthy eyes.
Not just fruit and veg, the ever-expanding range of organic produce on offer in the UK also includes beauty products and cosmetics, toiletries, household goods and cleaning products, dietary supplements and even clothing – for certified organic, look for the Soil Association logo.
To find out more about organic food and other produce and for information on sourcing organic, locally-produced fruit and veg in your area, visit the Soil Association website.
2: Benefits for the environment
According to The Soil Association, organic farms are havens for our native wildlife, supporting up to 50% more plants, insects and birds than their conventional counterparts, thereby playing a crucial role in slowing down any further decline of our wildlife that we have witnessed in recent decades. This decline is said to be a consequence of a combination of factors, including changes to farming, the expansion of our towns and cities, building on greenfield sites and industrialisation, meaning vast habitat losses for countless species of wildlife and, sadly, often irreversible changes to our ecosystems.
The above factors combined are said to have contributed to a 98% decline in wildflower meadows over the past 60 years, and 75% of our native butterfly species have experienced a decline in numbers over the past ten years – when was the last time you saw a butterfly flutter by?
3: Benefits for animals
Soil Association standards stipulate that organically-reared animals are genuinely free range, which means they are bred and raised under the highest welfare standards of farmed animals. This means greater quality of life, such as access to natural light, more generous living space and more access to the outdoors than their conventionally-reared counterparts, allowing for natural foraging and grazing behaviour and exercise which reduces stress and disease, and some say that the meat is tastier as a result.
Fed as natural a diet as possible, organically-reared animal feed is free from genetically modified organisms. Organic standards also restrict the use of antibiotics unless necessary and the use of hormones, given to speed up growth, is banned. Organic standards also apply to transport conditions and slaughterhouse practices.
4: Benefits for essential pollinators and other wildlife
Organic farmers play a vital role in supporting our wildlife by maintaining hedgerows, ponds and marginal areas adjacent to their land, which allows birds, insects and small mammals to thrive and breed alongside farmland without any impact from pesticides and other agricultural chemicals – just as they would have done in times past.
In the UK, the Soil Association says 31,000 tonnes of chemicals are used every year by farmers to eliminate weeds, insects and pests that attack and damage crops and some of these pesticides may be harmful to other beneficial insects. In recent years there has been some controversy over certain neonicotinoid insecticides – and, while the jury is still out on these chemicals – some experts suspect their extensive use in agriculture may have contributed to the decline in honeybees and other vital pollinators, which are absolutely crucial to the human food chain and, therefore, our survival. Alarmingly, eight of the UK’s 25 bumblebee species are currently classified as endangered while two have already been declared extinct – which is very bad news for our own species, as well as the humble bumble.
5: Benefits for farmers and growers
Organic farmers report a sense of pride in their more sustainable farming practices, with the knowledge that their efforts protect their land and animals, as well as changing the face of modern farming for the benefit of future generations.
The Soil Association supports organic farmers via the Innovative Farmers initiative, which conducts research and trials, offers training and technical advice but also enables farmers to work together, pooling experience and expertise to find solutions to practical issues, such as weed and pest management, improving soil naturally and finding innovative and sustainable solutions to age-old farming problems.
Organic farmers work hard to maintain healthy, balanced soil and farm their land sustainably, resulting in healthier communities of local wildlife and higher quality produce with more nutrients to keep us healthy – as nature intended.
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