Why eat organic?

This month marks the Soil Association’s annual Organic September campaign. Here, Renée Elliott explains why we should all be eating organically

Organic food is...
...free from the chemicals used in conventional farming and is grown in rich soil. No food has higher amounts of beneficial minerals, essential amino acids and vitamins than organic food. Organic food contains higher levels of vitamin C and minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and chromium as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants. Organic milk has 68 per cent more omega-3 essential fatty acids. And nutrients aside, would you rather eat an apple that has been sprayed up to 16 times with as many as 30 different pesticides – or an organic one?

Organic processed foods contain no artificial additives and preservatives. Some chemical additives that preserve food or add colour or flavour affect individual wellbeing, for example, tartrazine food colouring is linked with hyperactivity. All controversial additives are banned in organic food, which means you avoid a wide range and large quantity of potentially allergenic or harmful substances. Organic processed foods are also better for you because they don’t contain hydrogenated fats. (Hydrogenation drastically changes good oils by heating them to very high temperatures. The result is a solid fat that is easy to work with and has a long shelf life, but the process destroys the good oils and turns them into trans fats.) The trans fats present in some non-organic processed foods have no known nutritional benefits and because of the effect they have on blood cholesterol, they increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

Let’s face it:
we live in a toxic world, from exhaust fumes to chemicals in our carpets to vaporisers in public toilets. With so much that you can’t control, it makes sense to manage what you can. Don’t overload your already exhausted liver with yet more toxins. And when it comes to the next generation, give them the best possible start in life. Create a foundation of wellness that will enable them to live well and follow their dreams.

The biggest problem facing humanity today is probably water. In organic farming, the soil is not only able to retain more water, but it also reduces the speed and scale of run-off after heavy rain.

We are also no longer able to clean everything out of water. Certain pharmaceutical drugs and chemicals remain even in ‘purified’ water, reducing the amount of usable water in the world. The sprays used in intensive agriculture are in our soil and water and are present in the most far-flung parts of the world. Organic farming reduces pesticide use by 98 per cent and artificial fertiliser by 95 per cent.

Without topsoil, little plant life is possible. Intensive conventional farming contributes to the depletion of topsoil with little effort to prevent erosion or protect topsoil. Organic farming conserves and builds fertile soil.

Conventional farming routinely adds antibiotics to animal feed to speed up animal growth and because many animals in conventional farming are stressed and become ill. Antibiotic residues in meat and dairy products are creating antibiotic resistance in bacteria that make people sick, thereby reducing the effectiveness of our antibiotics.

Organic farming increases jobs on farms by 73 per cent. It also contributes more to the economic and social wellbeing of rural areas.

Over 20% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from industrialised food and farming. To produce just one tonne of nitrogen fertiliser takes one tonne of oil and one hundred tonnes of water – and produces seven tonnes of greenhouse gasses. This is not sustainable and seems pretty stupid. There is now evidence that organic farming produces more beneficial soil, organic matter and soil carbon than conventional farming. By choosing organic, we can significantly reduce our carbon footprint.

Organic farming is better for wildlife and allows bugs, butterflies and birds to thrive on farmland. This is because organic farming relies on wildlife to help control pests, so wide field edges are left uncultivated for bugs, bees and birds to flourish. The UK government’s advisors found that insect, bird and plant life is up to 50 per cent greater on organic farms. Yes, organic food is generally more expensive. Quality always is. You will spend money on what you value. It’s that simple.

Organic September is a month-long campaign aimed at encouraging shoppers to try and buy organic. The theme of this year’s campaign is “Food as it should be”. To find out more, visit www.soilassociation.org/organicseptember. Follow the Soil Association on social media: @SoilAssociation and join in the conversation using the hashtags #ChooseOrganic and #OrganicSeptember

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