About organic

Find out more about what organic is and what it means.

Organic means working with nature, not against it. 

Organic farming means higher levels of animal welfare, lower levels of pesticides, no weed-killers or artificial fertilisers and more environmentally sustainable management of the land and natural environment - this means more wildlife! 

Organic farming and food production is not easy and takes real commitment and attention to detail, and is backed up by rigorous, independent inspection and certification. 

Food you can trust

Organic food comes from trusted sources. Any food products labelled as organic must meet a strict set of standards which define what farmers and food manufacturers can and cannot do in the production of organic food.

GM ingredients, hydrogenated fats and controversial artificial food colours and preservatives are banned under organic standards.

All organic farms and food companies are inspected at least once a year and the standards for organic food are laid down in European law. 

What organic means

Artificial chemical fertilisers are prohibited

Organic farmers develop a healthy, fertile soil by growing and rotating a mixture of crops, adding organic matter such as compost or manure and using clover to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere.  As a result, organic farming reduces disruption to the natural environment and pollution.  

It's nutritionally different

How we farm really does affect the quality of the food we eat. Ground-breaking research published in the British Journal of Nutrition has found significant nutritional differences between organic and non-organic farming. In 2014, the team at Newcastle University found organic crops are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally-grown ones.

A new study, released in the British Journal of Nutrition, has also shown that both organic milk and meat contain around 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced products. The studies are the largest systematic review of their kind, and were led by Newcastle University and an international team of experts.

Pesticides are severely restricted

Non-organic food production makes wide use of pesticides.   Around 31,000 tonnes of chemicals are used in farming in the UK each year to kill weeds, insects and other pests that attack crops.

These are severely reduced on organic farms. Soil Association organic farmers are able to use just eight, derived from natural ingredients, but only under very restricted circumstances.

This makes organic farms a haven for wildlife and provides homes for bees, birds and butterflies. In fact, plant, insect and bird life is up to 50% greater on organic farms. 

Animal welfare is at the heart of the system and organic animals are truly free-range

No system of farming has higher animal welfare standards than farms working to Soil Association organic standards.

As well as requiring that animals are genuinely free range, organic standards cover living conditions, food quality, the use of antibiotics and hormones, as well as transport and slaughter.  

Protecting our soil for future generations to grow healthy food

Organic farming creates a healthy living soil. Organic farmers aim to select crop varieties with natural resistance to particular pests and diseases, with the aim of reducing or avoiding disease problems and the need to control them with chemical inputs.

A mixed farming approach with crop rotations helps break cycles of pests and disease and builds fertility in the soil.

The routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers is banned

The British Medical Association is concerned that the "risk to human health from antibiotic resistance is one of the major health threats that could be faced in the 21st century".

In organic farming systems, animals are reared without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers common in intensive livestock farming – routine or preventative use of antibiotics is banned. The farmer will instead use preventative methods, like moving animals to fresh pasture and keeping smaller herd and flock sizes.   

Genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are banned.

Over a million tonnes of GM crops are imported each year to feed the majority of non-organic livestock which produce chicken, eggs, pork, bacon, milk, cheese and other dairy products. 

GM ingredients, animal feed and crops are banned under Soil Association Organic Standards. 

Organic certification

Soil Association

Wherever you see the Soil Association organic symbol, you can be sure that the food has been produced to the highest animal welfare and environmental standards. The Soil Association certify over 70% of organic food in the UK and all organic farms and companies are inspected at least once a year.

It is the most rigorous of any independent food standard audit processes, so the organic label is the best way of assuring the food we eat has been produced to a standard you can trust.

Who's who in organic

The European Commission

The green leaf symbol you see on all organic produce in Europe shows that it meets EU organic regulation. 

Organic Trade Board

A collection of organic brands, both big and small, and national supermarkets who are united by their aim to see organic  thrive in the UK. The OTB share lots of useful information about organic and its benefits through their Organic. Naturally different campaign.

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