The news is full of stories about climate change, the rise in greenhouse gases and the need for more sustainable ways of living. While many of us choose to purchase organic produce for our health when we can, we can’t ignore the positive impact that choosing organic has on the health of our planet.
Interested in supporting more sustainable agriculture practices?
Here are four reasons why you should consider buying organic produce:
1. Organic farming promotes important biodiversity
Biodiversity means the variety of life in an ecosystem. Why is more variety better? Because everything in an ecosystem, from the healthy bacteria in the soil, to the insects and bees, to the plants that grow, has a job to do to keep the whole system running in harmony.
When relying on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as with many conventional farming practices, we disrupt parts of the system and negatively impact biodiversity. Organic farming, on the other hand, excludes many of the chemicals that can harm precious plant and animal populations. In fact, one study found that organic farming practices resulted in a 30% increase in species richness than non-organic farming.
2. Organic farming releases less greenhouse gas than conventional farming practices
Greenhouse gas emissions are a large contributor to climate change and global warming. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations “organic agriculture not only enables ecosystems to better adjust to the effects of climate change but also offers a major potential to reduce the emissions of agricultural greenhouse gases.”
Organic farming practices can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in many ways. Things such as improving the quality of our soil, working towards better welfare conditions for animals, and requiring stricter management when it comes to the use of fertilizers go a long way in helping to reduce our impact on climate change.
3. Organic farming improves the health of soil and our water quality
Organic standards generally ban the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. This is a good thing for our soil and waterways.
We’ve already talked about the importance of biodiversity. This extends to the healthy bacteria and insects that live below the earth’s surface buried in the soil. For plants to truly grow strong and healthy they need a connection to these unseen critters, just like a baby needs contact with their parent’s bacteria.
The impact of chemicals fertilizers and pesticides don’t just end where they are sprayed. Run-off of these chemicals from farms can enter into waterways polluting our water and creating oxygen-void zones. This can suffocate the plant and animal species that live there.
Since organic farming does not rely on these chemicals, it doesn’t pose a threat to our waterways. It helps to keep them clean and safe. When it comes to the health of our soil, that wonderful biodiversity doesn’t just mean a healthier happier system, it means more nutrients are available for the plants that grow there.
One of the primary ideas of organic agriculture is to feed the soil, not the crop. This is done through green manures and cover crops that are grown and then plowed into the soil. This process captures carbon and nitrogen in the soil to feed future crops.
4. Organic farming means no GMOs (Genetically Modified Organism)
Understanding the full impact of GMOs on our environment is something that may take decades (if not longer!) to uncover. What we currently do know is that some GMOs may grow resistant to pesticides. This could potentially result in the use of more or stronger pesticides to do the same job or could result in challenges to biodiversity.
Until we know more about GMOs and our environment, organic farming chooses to take a precautionary stance. In Canada, choosing ‘organic’ is actually the only standard to ensure you aren’t getting GMOs in your food.
Organic farming means thinking holistically about the entire system. It means making sure the community at large is strong and healthy. As consumers of food, we’re part of that community along with the plants and animals and insect. Choosing organic means doing our part to ensure we all thrive.
Paul Stewart is the owner of Footstep Organics, a family owned and operated small-scale organic farm in Wooler, Ontario servicing Toronto and Prince Edward County. To find Footstep Organics at Toronto Farmers’ Markets or to join their CSA (community supported agriculture) program, visit https://www.footsteporganics.ca/summer-csa.