What is organic farming?
Organic farming encourages wildlife and cuts the use of pesticides and antibiotics.
Strict regulations, known as ‘organic standards’, define what organic farmers can and cannot do – and place a strong emphasis on the protection of wildlife and the environment.
Working with nature, not against it
Non-organic food production makes wide use of pesticides which can pollute water, the environment and make their way into our food chain. In 2015, over 17,800 tonnes of pesticides were used on British farms to kill weeds, insects and control crop diseases. Many pesticides don’t just kill the target pest. They can affect other wildlife and the environment by either direct poisoning, contaminating water courses or disrupting ecosystems.
Organic farming standards, on the other hand, don't allow any synthetic pesticides and absolutely no herbicides such as Glyphosate. Research suggests that if all UK farming was organic, pesticide use would drop by 98%! This means that organic farms are a haven for wildlife and these toxic pesticides can’t make their way into the food chain and into us. Switching to organic is one of the best ways to reduce your exposure to pesticides
In organic farming, natural methods are relied upon to control pests and disease. These include well-designed crop rotations, encouraging natural predators, and developing good soil and healthy crops which have natural resistance to pests and diseases.
Over 320 pesticides can routinely be used in non-organic farming. Organic farmers are permitted to use just 15 pesticides, derived from natural ingredients including citronella and clove oil, but only under very restricted circumstances. Research suggests that if all farming in England and Wales was organic, pesticide use would drop by 98%.
Because organic farms don't rely on potentially harmful chemicals & pesticides, have healthier soils and over 75% more plant species - supporting more wildlife than those that do.
Combating Climate change
Organic farming methods offer the best, currently available, practical model for addressing climate-friendly food production. This is because it is less dependent on oil-based fertilisers and pesticides and confers resilience in the face of climatic extremes. It also stores higher levels of carbon in the soil, and as a result if organic farming was common practice in the UK, we could offset at least 23% of agriculture's current greenhouse emissions.
How is organic farming different?
- Artificial chemical fertilisers are prohibited – instead organic farmers develop a healthy, fertile soil by growing and rotating a mixture of crops, adding organic matter such as compost or manure and using clover to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere
- Pesticides are severely restricted – instead organic farmers develop nutrient-rich soil to grow strong, healthy crops and encourage wildlife to help control pests and disease
- Animal welfare is at the heart of the system and a truly free-range life forfarm animals is guaranteed
- A diversity of crops and animals are raised on the farm and rotated around the farm over several seasons, including fallow periods. This mixed farming approach helps break cycles of pests and disease and builds fertility in the soil
- The routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers is banned – instead the farmer will use preventative methods, like moving animals to fresh pasture and keeping smaller herd and flock sizes
- Genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are banned
Why does it sometimes cost more?
Where there is a price difference, you are paying for the special care organic farmers place on protecting the environment and improving animal welfare. As the costs of farming with oil-based fertilisers and chemicals increase, the price gap between organic and non-organic is closing.
While you’re here…
…we’ve got a small favour to ask. You may know us for our organic standards logo but we’re also a charity that relies on fundraising to do our work. We champion a world where people, farm animals and nature can thrive – and we’ve made huge steps forward working with farmers, growers and researchers to find pioneering and practical solutions to today’s farming challenges. But there’s so much more to be done.
You can help change the way we farm and eat for good. If everyone who visits our website and cares about the food they eat and how it’s been produced, makes a small contribution today, we can do more of the work that really matters.