Why should you choose to eat organic food? There are very many extremely good reasons, but let’s group them into the main beneficiaries: ourselves and our loved ones; farm animals; the environment ; wildlife. Let us look at each in turn to answer the question ‘why organic?’.
Why Organic #1: Human Health & Wellbeing
If you are not eating organic you are putting yourself at risk of ingesting serious amounts of synthetic fungicides, herbicides, pesticides and other toxic nasties – such as glyphosate, classified as a ‘probable human carcinogen’ by the World Health Organization and scientifically shown to be implicated in whole range of human disease. Glyphosate has recently been shown to cause liver disease at much much lower doses than allowed in food worldwide (including in the EU, which has some of the most stringent food safety standards). Scientists are beginning to understand the pathways through which glyphosate affects human health – notably, by killing good bacteria in the gut; these bacteria form a large part of the human immune system. Organic standards omit Genetically Modified crops from the food chain – whatever your thoughts on GM technology, it is a fact that its use in agriculture focuses on allowing heavy use of pesticides without killing the crops, which can then be called, for instance, ‘Roundup™-Ready’ (unfortunately these toxic residues can reach your body – and you are NOT ‘Roundup™-Ready’!). These same pesticides can be used in agriculture to ‘dry-down’ crops such as grains – meaning you can be getting more than you bargained for in your ‘daily bread’ – unless it is organic! Livestock raised in the UK for meat, milk and eggs can be fed GM feed, as well as non-GM feed that has been treated with a range of toxic nasties. Outside the UK, growth hormones and ‘preventative antibiotics’ might be routinely used on livestock, and will affect produce found on shelves in various countries. That’s the stuff that is omitted from organic dealt with! That’s why organic!
On the positive side, organic fruit and vegetables have been shown to be healthier than conventionally grown crops in terms of the levels of a number of nutrients. Organic pasture-fed meat and milk is shown to be healthier (e.g., in terms of omega fatty acids) than produce from conventionally farmed cattle kept indoors and fed on, for instance, grain (you may have heard of ‘zero-grazing’, though probably not, as it isn’t put on the ‘green-washed’ brand packaging of affected meat, milk and other produce). Organic farming relies on developing and maintaining a healthy soil, with a thriving ‘soil-food-web’ (there is a reason the Soil Association is so-named!); this ensures that plants take up the range of nutrients necessary to promote healthy growth – compare this with conventional cropping that grows plants in soils that have been denuded of life due to the repeated poisoning with various ‘-cides‘ (read: ‘-killers’), and which rely on synthetic fertilisers focussing on a small number of chemically-produced nutrients (e.g., ‘N-P-K’) that can promote quick, but not necessarily healthy, growth. It’s the difference between a living soil and a medium that is essentially there to hold dead, synthetic nutrients. That’s why organic!
Why Organic #2: Farm Animal Welfare
Organic standards outlaw a range of farming practices that are common in so-called ‘conventional agriculture’. Around the world there is a creeping (and creepy) trend towards large scale ‘factory-farming’, where animals are kept shut indoors with food brought to them, rather than being able to live anything like a natural life out of doors. For an insight into these issues it is recommended you visit the website of Compassion in World Farming. Organic standards let farm animals live a much more fulfilling life – that’s why organic!
Why Organic #3: The Environment
‘Conventional’ (and more industrial) agriculture is so much more harmful to the environment than organic agriculture for many of the reasons set out above. Unlike conventional agriculture, organic agriculture does not soak the landscape with synthetic toxins, which are then liable to find their way into the eco-system. Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) – another name for factory farms – are getting bigger and bigger. With so many livestock kept together intensively, there is a problem created in what to do with the huge amounts of animal excreta and urine that are generated – and which would otherwise just have been dropped in the pasture (to add natural fertility – what a great idea!). Leaky effluent tanks can lead to pollution of groundwater and ecological disasters – such as in this case, where over a hundred thousand fish were killed as a result of a leak of pig effluent. Large scale industrial farming is just such a huge threat to the environment – and when things go wrong they go wrong big. That’s why organic!
Why Organic #4: Wildlife
We have just explored how effluent leaks into the environment can have a devastating effect on not just the environment, but on local wildlife too (see above), but what about pesticides and other toxic chemicals? The classic text on this is Silent Spring, published in the early 1960’s, which set out how pesticides were already then devastating wildlife – how much worse is the situation now, half a century later?! The toxic nasties used in non-organic farming are no less harmful to wildlife today. Much media coverage has been given of late to the threat to bee populations from synthetic toxic chemicals such as neo-nicotineoids – bees, and other insect pollinators, are vital to food production – but birds, small mammals and a host of other wildlife are affected by the poisoning of the environment by non-organic agriculture. That is another reason why organic!
Why the LoopyFood.net Project?
The LoopyFood.net project was inspired, initially, by my frustration at trying to market produce from my smallholding directly to local customers who might be interested in food produced to organic and similar standards. Not being able to find a web-based local-food directory with what I would consider reasonably-priced listings and a user-friendly design – let alone one that focused on Organic (and similar) produce – I decided to design and build my own internet directory of local Organic and similar food; after all, if I found marketing my produce difficult, I figured there would be others who might benefit from the project. Then the wider context of my interests, including especially a passion for open-pollinated seeds – combined with a mind that likes integrating ideas and producing acronyms(!) – led to the distillation and birth of the concept of ‘LOOPY food‘: food upholding, celebrating and/or promoting the values of Localness, Organics (& similar), Open-Pollination & Yumminess!
From there it was a short step to the realisation that there are a range of movements, issues and organisations that concerned themselves with progressive food, environmental and political issues, and which had a degree of common ground – not least the fact that people switched on to these issues (like I had been for some time) would naturally be more likely than the population at large to value clean, wholesome (Organic and similar) food. Bringing these different, though related, groups together – as a ‘community of interest‘ under the umbrella of the LoopyFood.net project – would potentially have many good outcomes, in particular:
- spreading awareness of issues and movements from one group to another in a more efficient manner than might happen otherwise: e.g., bringing Permaculture and the Transition Movement to the attention of foodies and those aware of Slow Food movement; bringing Slow Food to the awareness of anti-GM folk, etc. – in short, encouraging greater open-pollination of ideas!;
- linking those people interested in seeking out organic (and similar) food with local producers and suppliers (including retailers and farmers markets) – as well as with cafés/restaurants etc. serving organic (and similar) food, accommodation serving organic (and similar) food, festivals, fêtes and other events where organic (and similar) food is available … in other words, providing people who care about food (and related) issues with information about opportunities to pursue their interests and eat great food!
The best part of a year thinking about and working (part-time) on this project has resulted in LoopyFood.net. I hope you like it. If so, spread the word on social media (buttons below!) – and beyond that, think about how you can promote local organic food and food issues.
Director of Greenaissance CIC (owner of LoopyFood.net project)
LoopyFood.net is a Community Interest Company project in need of funds
Next Question: Who is LoopyFood.net for?