1 year ago
1 September, 2022
Organic farming is a whole system approach to farm management and food production “that contributes to the preservation of natural resources and applies high animal welfare and production standards”.
The term “Organic” is legally defined in many countries around the world. In the EU and Northern Ireland, organic production follows European Organic Regulations. In Great Britain, production must comply with UK regulations, which are currently in line with those of the EU. Only government-approved Control Bodies (e.g., the Soil Association and Organic Farmers & Growers CIC) can certify organic food, production, and processing.
Organic farming prohibits the use of artificial fertilisers and synthetic pesticides and herbicides to minimise negative environmental effects and to rebalance the ecosystem the farm relies upon. All foods in the EU and the UK marketed as organic are subject to strict controls that are legally binding, and that cover the entire supply chain. Only those who comply with EU legislation or UK legislation on organic food and farming get organic certification.
A study by the UC Berkeley School of Public Health shows that significantly fewer pesticides were detected in the urine of people who eat organic food. In the study, a change in diet for just 6 days led to this effect.
Milk and meat from organic farming are thought to contain more healthy ingredients than conventionally farmed produce. This is suggested by a study conducted by British researchers which found organic milk and meat contain 50 per cent more omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy fats. These polyunsaturated fatty acids are said to have a positive effect on health. Organic milk also provides more vitamin E and carotenoids.
Reasons for this may be less concentrated feed for the organic cows. A review by researchers at Newcastle University concluded: Organic field fruits provide more secondary plant compounds such as polyphenols. These are thought to have many health benefits, including protection against cancer.
The use of antibiotics as a preventative treatment is banned in organic farming. The misuse of these drugs has contributed to widespread antibiotic resistance, weakening the efficacy of antibiotics on harmful bacteria.
Organic quality is also much better from an animal welfare perspective. Farmers on organic farms have to comply with strict criteria for the welfare of their animals. For example, organic chickens live in smaller flocks. They must have continuous and easy daytime access to a diverse outdoor range. They must not have their beaks trimmed. Additionally, they must get plenty of opportunities to express their natural behaviours. Studies suggest that organic poultry chickens live twice as long as most intensively farmed chickens bred for meat.
Although there is no conclusive evidence that organic food offers protection against breast cancer, some studies suggest it may. Organic food contains less pesticide residue. Therefore, it is less likely to contain endocrine disrupting chemicals which may be linked to breast cancer.
Read our Key facts sheet on pesticides, organic food and breast cancer risk for more information. Keep an eye on our social channels for great tips on incorporating more organic foods into your life.
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