Organic farmers aim to produce good food from a balanced living soil. Strict regulations, known as standards, define what they can and can't do. They place strong emphasis on protecting the environment.
They use crop rotations to make the soil more fertile. For example, a farmer might graze sheep on a field one year, making the soil more fertile, then plant wheat the next and so on.
They can't grow genetically modified crops and can only use - as a last resort - seven of the hundreds of pesticides available to farmers.
Parasite problems in farm animals are controlled through regularly moving the animals to fresh pasture and other preventative methods, rather than routinely dosing the animals with drugs.
Here are some of organic farming's main features:
· Organic farming severely restricts the use of artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides
· Instead, organic farmers rely on developing a healthy, fertile soil and growing a mixture of crops
· Animals are reared without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers common in intensive livestock farming.
The word organic is defined by law. Any food
labeled organic must meet a strict set of standards. Look for the Soil
Association symbol for your guarantee of the highest organic standards.
Why are more people choosing organic?
· Food safety: Organic farmers, as far as possible, avoid using unnecessary chemical sprays. Food additives linked to asthma and heart disease are among those banned under organic standards
· The environment: Organic farming is friendlier to the environment so there is a much greater diversity of birds, butterflies and plants on organic farms. Organic standards ban the use of GM technology
· Animal welfare: Organic farming requires animals to be kept in more natural, free-range conditions with a more natural diet
· Taste: Many people tell us they buy organic food because they believe it tastes better
1 It's healthy
On average, organic food contains higher levels of vitamin C and essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and chromium as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants.
2 No nasty additives
Organic food doesn't contain food additives which can cause health problems such as heart disease, osteoporosis, migraines and hyperactivity. Amongst the additives banned by the Soil Association are hydrogenated fat, aspartame (artificial sweetener) and monosodium glutamate.
3 Avoids pesticides
Over 400 chemical pesticides are routinely used in conventional farming and residues are often present in non-organic food. The UK government has recently found high levels of pesticide residues in baby food, spinach, dried fruit, bread, apples, celery, and chips.
4 No GM
Genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are not allowed under organic standards.
5 Reliance on drugs removed
There is growing concern about the high use of antibiotics on farm animals and the possible effects on human health. Soil Association standards prohibit the routine use of antibiotics.
6 No hidden costs
Compare this with the £120m that tax payers fork out to pay for chemicals to be removed from drinking water, mainly as a result of the pesticides used in farming.
7 High standards
Organic food comes from trusted sources. All organic farms and food companies are inspected at least once a year. The standards for organic food are laid down in European law.
8 Care for animals
Animal welfare is taken very seriously under organic standards. The benefits of the organic approach are acknowledged by animal welfare organizations such as Compassion in World Farming as well as the UK government.
9 Good for wildlife and the
The UK government has said that it is better for wildlife, causes lower pollution from sprays, produces less carbon dioxide - the main global warming gas - and less dangerous wastes.
10 Top for taste
Many people prefer organic food because they say it tastes better. A number of top chefs choose organic, and every year many are involved in the Soil Association's Organic Food Awards.
The Soil Association