Biodiversity and the Environment
Soil is a living, breathing entity essential to all life on earth. Rather than treating soil as a medium to which inputs are added, and from which crops grow, organic farmers think of soil as a living system. Through regeneration of soils and ensuring a thriving ecosystem in the soil, organic systems are healthy and resilient.
Techniques used in organic farming that lead to healthier soils include:
- crop rotations and the use of legumes that “fix” nitrogen;
- manure based fertilizers and green manures which improve soil structure and avoid soil erosion;
- avoid the use of synthetic chemicals and fertilizers that damage and overload the system;
- avoid overgrazing and overusing the land;
- and planting wind breaks and hedgerows that prevent soil erosion.
Organic farmers focus on responsible use and management of water in order to reduce water loss, keep water quality high, and avoid chemical residues such as synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and nutrient-leaching from getting into our waterways. Practices such as improving the soil, crop rotations, and planting hedgerows helps keep water on the land and not disappearing through run-off.
4) Wildlife and Biodiversity
Organic systems help to enhance biodiversity from the ground up and tend towards co-existing with the natural world. A living system in the soil means more bacteria, fungi, and other soil organisms thrive. By not polluting the air and water, and by protecting trees, bush and other natural habitat on organic farms, organic systems lead to a greater diversity of plants and animals.
5) Genetic diversity
Organic production promotes genetic diversity in a number of ways. From increasing the amount of plant, animal, and microbial life to protecting native species, a varied gene pool is maintained. Organic production also has a tendency towards using a greater variety of crops and species which preserves genetic diversity. Genetically modified organisms are excluded from organics.
A Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development report stated: "the advantages of organic farming are many: reduced soil erosion, retention of soil nutrients, surface and ground water that is uncontaminated by pesticides…”
6) Climate Change
Organic production requires tilling the soil to reduce weeds, something that was once thought to cause more carbon dioxide to be released from the soil, as well as more fossil fuels use and therefore not that energy efficient. It turns out the reverse is true. A 12 year Manitoba study found that organic production actually was more energy efficient than conventional. 1
1. Dr. Derek Lynch, Canada Research Chair in Organic Agriculture, at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College has published a paper, “The Environmental Impacts of Organic Agriculture: A Canadian Perspective”
The Environmental Impacts of Organic Agriculture: A Canadian Perspective By Tanya Brouwers http://www.organicagcentre.ca/NewspaperArticles/na_environmental_impacts_tb.asp