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10 reasons to choose organic

9 June 2009 1,466 views No Comment

When you step into a shop it’s easy to feel bewildered by the sheer number of ethical, healthy, green and animal friendly options available. The great thing about organic is – it ticks every box. Simple. When you consider all the different benefits organic offers, it all adds up to genuine good value. So, why choose organic?

1. Health benefits

Many people believe organic food is better for you because not only is it produced avoiding pesticides and contains far fewer additives, but also because there is increasing evidence it contains more beneficial nutrients. A rapidly growing body of research shows organic food contains higher levels of vitamin C and essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and chromium as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants and Omega 3. For example, studies show organic milk is on average 68% higher in Omega 3 essential fatty acids. It’s thought this is because of the high levels of natural red clover fed to cows on organic dairy farms. [Source: Research by Universities of Liverpool and Glasgow from 2002-2005 published in the Journal of Dairy Science in 2006]

2. Avoid pesticide residues

Organic farming avoids the use of pesticides, so the best way to reduce your exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals is to go organic. In non-organic farming, over 311 pesticides can be routinely used and residues are often present when tested. Over 40% of all non-organic fruit, vegetables and bread tested in 2005 contained pesticides according to the Government’s Pesticide Residues Committee. The results for particular fruit and vegetables were much worse. Chemicals were found in all oranges tested, 90% of bread, 72% of grapes and 95% of pears.

3. Organic always means free-range

When it comes to chicken and eggs, people are increasingly keen to buy free-range, but many do not realise that eggs, poultry and meat labelled organic are guaranteed to be free-range. In fact, Soil Association organic guarantees the strictest free-range standards for poultry. This means birds are looked after in smaller flocks, they spend more of their lives roaming outside, they have better access to fresh grass and air and have more space in their houses.

4. High animal welfare

Recent TV programmes have highlighted the practices common in factory-farmed animals where animals are crammed in together to increase profit margins. Pigs, for example, are naturally inquisitive, and when they are penned in boredom can lead to aggression and tail and ear biting. Therefore, they often have their teeth painfully clipped and over 80% have their tails cut off. Organic standards prohibit cruelty and guarantee truly free-range lives for farm animals.

5. GM-free 

Genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are banned under organic standards and organic farmers cannot feed livestock with any feed containing GM materials. Many people who would avoid GM products do not realise that over a million tonnes of GM crops are imported each year to feed non-organic livestock. This livestock produces much, if not most, of the conventional pork, bacon, milk, cheese and other dairy products in our supermarkets.

6. Routine use of antibiotics banned 

Soil Association standards ban the routine use of antibiotics for farm animals. In non-organic farming, antibiotic addictives are routinely added to animal food to combat illness spread by animals raised together in cramped conditions. Some scientists have linked these additives with bacterial resistance in humans to the same, or closely related, antibiotics.

7. Avoiding additives

In spite of studies linking food additives to hyperactivity and other behavioural effects in children, 314 additives are permitted in non-organic food. Organic standards avoid controversial additives by generally permitting only those derived from natural sources such as citric acid from lemons. Amongst the additives banned by the Soil Association are hydrogenated fat, aspartame (artificial sweetener) and monosodium glutamate.

8. Better for wildlife and for the environment

In non-organic farming around 31,000 tonnes of chemicals are sprayed in the UK each year to kill weeds, insects and other pests that attack crops, and tax payers fork out over £120m annually to remove chemicals from drinking water mainly as a result of pesticides. Contrastingly, organic farmers rely on natural methods to manage the land. They encourage natural predators and develop nutrient-rich soil and healthy crops which have
natural resistance to pests and diseases, in addition to maintaining natural habitats such as hedgerows which encourage wildlife. Unsurprisingly, studies have shown there are greater numbers and more species of birds, butterflies, beetles, bats and wild flowers on organic farms.

9. Creating jobs

Organic farming creates more jobs, revitalises rural economies and encourages younger people into agriculture. Organic farming is helping to reverse the decline in the UK’s agricultural workforce, which has fallen by 80% in the last 50 years. The University of Essex estimated that if all farming in the UK became organic over 93,000 new farm jobs would be created.

10. Quality and taste

Research shows shoppers frequently choose organic because they believe it tastes better. This could be because organic fruit and vegetables tend to grow more slowly and have a lower water content, which may contribute to a fuller flavour.

11. Helping to combat climate change

A whopping 20% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from food and farming, so choosing organic, local and seasonal food is a fundamental step in reducing our carbon footprint.

That’s eleven good reasons, not ten. Think of it as a bonus – a way to help look after the planet that’s both easy and enjoyable.

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