- Eating less pesticide and herbicide. Agricultural chemicals are supposed to be safe in tiny amounts, but with more than 320 in use it's impossible to know how much you're getting when you eat lots of different foods, and the effects of consuming combinations of these chemicals has never been studied, so many people prefer not to eat them if they can be avoided. Many remain in our food despite washing and cooking. In a test in 2016, 99.6% of people were found to be excreting glyphosate in their urine, at an average level 17 times the official 'safe limit' for drinking water. Glyphosate is classified as 'probably carcinogenic' by the World Health Organisation, yet its routine use still continues in conventional crops.
- Better soil health. Organic principles protect and nurture the soil better, avoiding concerns about soil depletion and erosion and providing strong, healthy soils for future generations of crops. Crop rotation, less tillage, no soil-life-harming chemicals and better care for field margins all play a part.
- Better nutrition. Healthier soil means healthier plants, so organic veg are often more nutritious; a 2014 study showed that organic crops are up to 60% higher in key antioxidants. The popular herbicide glyphosate actually works by chelating (making unavailable) certain nutrients, so it's easy to see why crops grown in areas treated with this would be less nutritious! And animal products produced organically have been shown to have around 50% more omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital but seriously lacking in the modern diet. Additionally, GM ingredients, hydrogenated fats and controversial artificial food colours and preservatives are banned under organic standards.
- Better animal welfare. Organic principles extend to animal welfare standards too; organic animals are always free-range, get a natural diet, spend more time outdoors and are not prescribed antibiotics routinely.
- Less pollution. Where agricultural chemicals are used, run-off can pollute rivers and streams. This is exacerbated by soil depletion in non-organic farms where the soil is not properly cared for, which means run-off happens more easily. Routine pesticide/herbicide use has caused pest and weed species to become resistant to the chemicals used, meaning that conventional farmers will ultimately have to rely on stronger and harsher chemicals to do the same job.
- Less harm to wildlife and biodiversity. Pesticides kill pests, and they kill non-pests too. Bees are in danger, songbirds and other wild animals are becoming more and more scarce, and routine pesticide use is one of the reasons.
- A lower carbon footprint. Organic farming uses less energy, largely due to less chemical production, shipping and application, and also creates healthy soils; healthy soils actually store carbon and keep it out of the atmosphere. The widespread adoption of organic farming practices in the UK could offset at least 23% of UK agriculture’s current official GHG emissions.
Read more on the Soil Association website.