Why buy organic?

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 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 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.

Organic farming facts

In organic farming:

  • artificial chemical fertilisers are prohibited – instead organic farmers develop healthy soil by growing and rotating a mixture of crops, adding 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
  • 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

There are a limited number of non-food ingredients such as salt, water, and a restricted number of additives and processing aids which are allowed, some of which are legally required (such as iron and thiamine in flour).

All artificial colourings and sweeteners are banned in organic food.

There is an extremely strict list of permitted ingredients to ensure that nothing harmful or potentially harmful will be found in organic food.

Welfare

Organic farm animals:

  • Must have access to fields (when weather and ground conditions permit) and are truly free range
  • Must have plenty of space – which helps to reduce stress and disease
  • Must be fed a diet that is as natural as possible and free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
  • Must only be given drugs to treat an illness – the routine use of antibiotics is prohibited
  • Cannot be given hormones which make them grow more quickly or make them more productive
  • Must not be produced from cloned animals

Organic farms are havens for wildlife and provide homes for bees, birds and butterflies. In fact, plant, insect and bird life is up to 50% greater on organic farms.

Source: www.soilassociation.org