We love organic produce! Yes, they’re a little pricier, but for a sustainable, healthy and delicious product it’s worth the cost. Here are our top 10 reasons to go organic today.
1. Protect local ecosystems
With intensive farming contributing to the loss of habitat and subsequent decline of many species of bees, birds, insects, frogs and small animals, organic farms are a little safe haven for many varieties of wildlife. Firstly, more care is taken to maintain biodiversity - soil health and habitats like hedgerows, ponds and grasslands. More wildlife playing their role in the ecology of the land means healthier ecosystems.
Secondly, soil erosion and chemical run off into water systems can damage ecosystems and poison wildlife, as well as promote certain weed and insect resistance to herbicides and pesticides, disrupting the delicate balance of life. Organic farming minimizes the use of these chemicals promoting ecological health.
2. Lower levels of the nasty stuff
There are over 600 chemicals registered for agricultural use in America – 16lb per person per year! Many of those were approved by the EPA before extensive diet testing meaning we don’t know any long-term effects on health. These pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, hormones and other nasty mystery things remain in our food despite washing and cooking. The most widely used, Glyphosate, was termed a ‘probable carcinogen’ by the World Health Organisation’s international agency for Research on Cancer.
Pesticides and herbicides often don’t just kill the target but many other species of plants or animals. This can damage fragile ecosystems. Organic farmers use local crops that have more natural resistance and they carefully design crop rotations to sustain soil nutrients and control pest and weed populations.
Given to animals to increase their meat and milk production, growth and sex hormones cannot be broken down even when cooked, so they pass on to us as consumers. Banned in Europe as research has concluded that there is no acceptably safe level for daily intake, these can cause early onset puberty, tumor growth and genetic problems and are linked with cancer.
3. Prevent antibiotic resistance
In modern farming, antibiotics are given freely to animals to reduce their risk of infection – 70% of all antibiotics produced go indiscriminately to animals, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. This is leading to a rise in bacteria resistant to our most useful antibiotics. The continued overuse of antibiotics could lead to many bacterial infections becoming resistant, bringing us back to a scary time where common infections will once again be untreatable. Organic farming limits antibiotic use, prioritizing good hygiene and less crowded housing so that the need for them is reduced to begin with. And that can only be a great thing!
4. Combat climate change and soil degradation
Agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, and this is down to a few reasons. Firstly, healthy soils are a major store of carbon – 3 times as much as is in the atmosphere. Poor farming practices release this carbon to the air. Then you have huge numbers of livestock contributing to methane and carbon dioxide production through their manure and natural processes, and the energy required for industrial farming generates lots of emissions through fuel consumption.
Currently one third of the worlds arable soils are degraded – and 75% of that is severely degraded. It can take a thousand years for just one centimetre of topsoil to form, and right now were losing the equivalent of 30 football pitches of fertile soil every minute.
If we keep farming the way we do, we could eventually lose our ability to feed the world.
5. The effect on human health
Now, there’s a bit of a grey area here. Certainly, there is doubt over the longer-term effects of pesticides and herbicides on human health, with scientific studies sitting both sides of the fence. The fact is, we just don’t know what the long-term effects are. Whilst many ‘scaremongering’, pro-organic sites can be a little lax with their referencing, a lot of the big studies are funded by the industry, so a pinch of salt is needed both ways.
What we do know, though, is that the FDA tests only 1% of foods for pesticide residue. Most require special testing methods which are rarely deployed. As such, rates of these chemicals within our food supply can get worryingly high, a fact which most of the literature tends to agree on. And the ecological effects are not in dispute.
6. Animal welfare
Free range, free run, cage-free – with a lot of different terms floating around, it can be confusing knowing which is best. For example, ‘free-range’ chickens must be un-caged and able, weather permitting, to set foot outside – but guidelines on space are still pretty lax, meaning birds are often piled into tight conditions and that ‘outside’ time is up to the farmer’s judgement. Organic chickens have stricter welfare standards for feeding times and what they’re fed, space per bird, and access to pasture high above the industry norm, along with stricter regulation and inspection. This helps with stress, disease, and the dreaded ‘pile-ups’ of uncaged, cramped conditions – where a noise startles hens, causing a panic in which birds can be trampled to death.
7. More nutrients
Several studies show increased omega-3s, iron, vitamins and carotenoids, and antioxidants than their conventional counterparts alongside lower concentrations of saturated fats, pesticides (of course) and toxic heavy metals. (1)
In 2014 Newcastle University in the UK found that organic crops are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants, and a study in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that organic milk and meat are around 50% higher in brain and heart-healthy omega 3s. (2,3). When soil is managed well, and kept healthy, it supports nutrient development within the crops.
8. Support local farmers
When you buy organic from your local farmers, you can trust every step from farm to fork, and you support local economy. With big commercial farms heavily subsidized, the little guys deserve our support. Plus, shopping at your farmers market or at the farm is an experience itself, bringing you closer to the growing process – and produce will often be much cheaper, too.
Plus, driving organic demand means more farmers are spared from exposure to all those nasty chemicals – we’re concerned about eating them, but these guys are surrounded in them on a daily basis!
9. Crop varieties
When commercial farmers grow crops, they usually use just one or two varieties – hybridized to be the biggest, prettiest specimens to sell. But agriculture’s reliance on a few varieties rather than the hundreds once available can lead to vulnerability of that crop to disease. Crop rotation and variation improves soil fertility – organic farms often grow a range of crops suited to natural, local conditions and resistant to local pests.
The potato famine in Ireland is a wonderful example of how badly things can go wrong when there is too little genetic diversity in agriculture – blight killed the entire year’s potato crop and millions of people starved.
10. Better taste!
Ask any keen organic shopper and they’ll tell you, organic produce tastes better. Nourished soil makes for healthy plants, and the different varieties introduce you to new delicious flavors. Try it yourself and let us know what you think!
1.Baranski, M. et al. “Higher antioxidant concentrations and less cadmium and pesticide residues in organically-grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses.” British Journal of Nutrition, 06/2014
2 Srednicka-Tober, D. et al. “Higher PUFA and omega-3 PUFA, CLA, a-tocopherol and iron, but lower iodine and selenium concentrations in organic bovine milk: A systematic literature review and meta- and redundancy analysis.” British Journal of Nutrition, 03/2016
3 Srednicka-Tober, D. et al. “Composition differences between organic and conventional meat: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis.” British Journal of Nutrition, 03/2016.