The majority of people choose organics because they want to avoid pesticides in their food. But there are a number of other benefits you may not have considered yet. Organic production is a management approach that promotes biodiversity, enhances the soil, avoids synthetic chemicals and is good for your health and the environment.
Assurance – As of June 2009, any food labeled organic has to be certified and meet strict standards. With organics you know what you are eating.
Healthier foods, healthier people – Growing organically relies on keeping the soil healthy and fertile. Such systems have the spin off benefit of more nutrients in your food. You also get to avoid pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, hormones and overuse of antibiotics. Fertile soil and vital systems creates healthier plants and animals which creates a healthier you!
University research has shown more antioxidants (those beneficial compounds that help fight cancer) in some organic fruits than in conventionally grown varieties.1 Also the research from many sources cite the toxic levels of pesticides in our food and the deleterious long term effects. Children are especially vulnerable. A study in Environmental Health Perspectives found that children who consumed organic fresh fruit and vegetables had lower concentrations of pesticides than children who ate a conventional diet.2
And it tastes great! Fertile soils make for healthy plants which just taste better.
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.
Pollutants in our rivers or in the soil that leach down to the water table can play havoc with our health, our environment and for wildlife. Organic production works hand in hand with the environment and protects the water and air.
WILDLIFE & 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.
Organic systems help to enhance biodiversity from the ground up. 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 wild spaces on organic farms, a greater diversity of plants and animals is sustained. Plus organic systems tend towards preserving native and endangered species.
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…”
Eliminating pesticides and persistent fertilizers was thought to be an inefficient system since yields would be decreased. However, long term studies have shown the exact opposite with organic production matching that of conventional production on average. A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) study has also found that organic agriculture is the best way forward for feeding the world population! 3
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. New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods,” www.organic-center.org/reportfiles/5367_Nutrient_ Content_SSR_FINAL_V2.pdf
2. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Vol. 25 (1), 2006
3. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization www.i-sis.org.uk/FAOPromotesOrganicAgriculture.php