What are organics all about?
It’s about producing goods that work in harmony with, and not against, nature. The aim is to eradicate the use of harmful chemicals by making effective use of nature’s natural resources. All organic products are also free of genetically modified organisms (organisms that have had their basic gene structure modified by the addition of external organism genes).
What is Organic farming?
Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.
Examples of organic farming methods include:
- Rotating crops between fields. This helps keep pests from building up and improves soil fertility.
- Planting selected herbs and flowers to attract beneficial insects which ward off unwanted pests.
- Using biological insecticides and make use of pests’ natural predators to control pest populations.
Organic farming produces nutrient rich, fertile soil which nourishes the plants. Keeping chemicals off the land protects water quality and wild life. It’s also about practising good animal welfare where everything from breeding, rearing and handling, to feeding of animals is strictly regulated and a free range lifestyle is implemented.
Organic farming refers to a system as a whole entity in ecological balance. Soil fertility is promoted by compost, cover crops, crop rotation, green manuring, minimum tillage, mulching, valuing of the biodiversity and avoiding synthetic chemical inputs. The principle is to treat the soil with respect knowing that the soil is the base for life on earth. The basis of organic farming is thus to feed the soil and not the plant directly. Organic matter is this ‘feed’. The organic farmer is interested in balancing soil processes and is not as focused on balancing numbers as a consequence to soil analysis. A good organic soil structure is able to hold large amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, iron and other micronutrients, essential in providing the plants with a balanced diet for healthy growth. A good soil structure will optimise water infiltration and retention and is also important in the control of erosion by wind and water.
Diseases and pests
The approach to pests and diseases by the organic farmer is that these are seen as symptomatic of imbalances in the soil’s fertility and health. There are too many pests and diseases as well as remedies to mention. The plant, like any living organism, develops a natural resistance to pests and disease attack. This resistance depends on the nutrition of the organism.
Organic animal suppliers have strict protocols that include treating their cattle humanely and allowing them to mature naturally. They are grazed naturally in a free-range environment minimising stress and producing high quality meat that is free from contaminants. It costs more to produce as the animals grow more slowly on natural grazing, hence more land is needed and higher interest costs are incurred. The certified farm has to produce 90% of the feed on the farm.
Certified Organic meat is a guarantee that meat has been produced free from any additives such as chemicals, antibiotics and hormones, and kept separate in the supply chain to the consumer.
As only natural, biodegradable products are used, water and the environment become cleaner. Farmers and their workers enjoy healthier working conditions. Organic animals are produced in harmony with the land, environment and native wildlife. This can only be good for future generations.
Regarding Antibiotics: The standards (EU 2092/91 and the draft DAFF regulations) allow for “two courses of treatments with chemically-synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products or antibiotics within one year or more than one course of treatment if their productive lifecycle is less than one year”. If livestock receive more than this, they and their produce may not be sold as organic, and the livestock must go back into conversion. Quote is from the EU 2092/91 standards.
The health benefits
The hazards for human health of consuming products contaminated by harmful pesticides include increased risks of cancer, reproductive problems and neurological damage. Organically grown produce on the other hand is free of chemical residues, has a much higher vitamin and mineral content and is usually more flavoursome (which is why many top restaurants prefer to use organic ingredients).
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