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And what difference does it make?

We are often told how much better organic produce is. But it costs more, involves more snails and more slugs and more land and less output per acre. Is it worth the fuss and bother, and what's the alternative? Well step back in time with Naissance and find out why it's worth the snails...

In the 1800s we got our first postage stamp, bicycle and telephone, get in! The industrial revolution saw increasing numbers of people moving to the cities, a population increase, (due perhaps to closer proximity ehem and an increased food supply) and a major change in agricultural techniques, which almost doubled the farming output.

By the 1900s some people were becoming increasingly alarmed by the potentially harmful effects of the new pesticides and fertilizers being used on farms to increase productivity.

That's when organic associations started to emerge, including the Soil Association. Founded in 1946 and Influenced by Rudolf Steiner, the organic farmers and activists thought of organic farming as the act of working with a living organism, a complex ecosystem which needed to be balanced and maintained.

As the development of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers increased, so did yield, in some cases by 130% per hectare. But the chemical fertilizers that initially increased growth, sometimes within the first couple of days, in the long-term stripped the soil of its health and nutrients. Despite the government's seal of approval on these synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, a growing number of people were starting to question their safety, both for the people using and eating them and the planet. Instead of synthetic fertilizers, organic farming used crop rotation, animal manure and green manure like clover to improve soil health.

In 1948 Paul Hermann Müller won a Nobel Prize for DDT, a popular pesticide which was subsequently banned in the UK in 1984 because of its harmful effect on wildlife, humans and the environment.

Bees are a recent example of how pesticides can adversely affect wildlife. There are a number of factors causing the death of hives around the world, nicotinoids being just one. According to the BBC bee pollination is estimated to be worth £200m a year in the UK, with the resultant products worth £1bn. So if the death of a species isn't enough to convince you, look at the asset loss.

Using the wrong type of pesticides can also affect other pollinators like birds; and earthworms and woodlice, which are essential for the health of the soil. Organic farmers think it is important to treat a farm like a natural ecosystem, which must be delicately balanced.

Organic produce is free from GM crops, free from non-natural pesticides and fertilizers, and the animals must be free range. Organic meat in the UK will often have the highest welfare standards, often higher than that of free range. It is not just the quality of meat that is being assessed when organic certification is given, but the animal's quality of life.

A massive population increase and an equally massive increase in western consumption and wasting of food means we are in an ever increasing demand for more food and water, which has meant the loss of whole species, the loss of nutrients in the soil, water pollution, air pollution, the melting of ice caps and a permanent change in the place we call home.

Whether we use permaculture, organic farming or something completely different, it is important that we find a sustainable and ecological way of feeding an ever increasing population in an ever changing climate. To me, organic farming seems like the most viable option at the moment. What do you think? Is there a better way? Would you like to see all farms return to their organic routes? Let us know in the comments below.

If you would like to know more about the Soil Association’s standards click here.

For our full range of organic products click here.

Tags: naissance, organic, health, organic food, good food, farming, pesticides, soil association


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