Should we all be buying locally sourced organic and seasonal veg to improve our health and protect the environment?
Organic farming prioritises the health of the soil, crops, people, animals and insects. Genetically modified crops are not allowed and there are no artificial fungicides, pesticides or herbicides which damage the ecosystem. Organic farmers are allowed to use a much smaller range of naturally sourced chemicals, the use of which is under strict control. However, some people are unhappy about the use of any chemicals.
Organic farming makes more use of crop rotation and composting. Cover crops are planted in fields that are not being used for cash crops to put nutrients back into the soil and also help to keep weeds down, provide food and shelter for wildlife and reduce soil erosion. Predators such as birds of prey and bats are also encouraged to keep pest numbers under control naturally. Before the advent of mass production, these were common farming methods.
Some farms use livestock to cultivate and fertilise the land. Cattle help to tear up the weeds leaving the soil exposed to allow a varied plant life to flourish. Their manure is trodden into the soil adding organic matter to improve the soil structure. Sheep graze the land differently and select different grasses helping to increase the diversity of land use. They are also less likely to leave areas of soil exposed to erosion. This mixed land use can encourage wild flowers and insects to flourish and invasive species to be kept at bay.
Organic crops may be more resistant to climate change. This type of farming captures more carbon in the soil and the farmers are less reliant on oil based chemical fertilisers and pesticides which contribute to global warming.
Whether consuming these products makes a difference to our toxin load will depend on many different aspects of the environment that we are exposed to such as hair and skin products, household cleaners and air fresheners. Do you spray weed killer in the garden or walk or cycle near busy roads? What types of household decorating products are you using? All of these factors expose us to additional toxins.
Organic produce can be more expensive and you may have to restrict how much you buy. The list below shows which produce may be best to buy organic and which contain very few chemical residues.
There are many farms that are not classified as organic but are following similarly high standards of crop management and animal welfare. If you are interested in reducing the carbon footprint of the food you eat, it may be worthwhile going to local farmers’ markets and speaking to the farmers in person so that you can find out about how they farm and possibly buy from them directly. There are also farms who deliver direct to your door.
It is better to buy locally if you can because you will be buying produce that is in season and hasn’t endured several methods of transport and many miles of travel before it arrives at your door.
Another benefit of seasonal produce is that you will be increasing the nutrient diversity of your diet and you will get to try out lots of new vegetables that you may never have thought of using. Your food will taste good, be much better for you and be more interesting as well.
Overall, it is more important to check that your food has been produced to a high standard, respecting the environment and animal welfare than it is buy all organic produce. Buying locally will reduce the time that it takes for the produce to get from the farm to your plate ensuring that as many nutrients are preserved as possible. Using local farms will allow you to access produce that is in season but, if this is not possible, supermarkets are now providing more information on the origin of their products than ever before to help you make informed choices.
English Nature. The Importance of Livestock Grazing for Wildlife Conservation [Online]. Available at: www.publications.naturalengland.org/file/612038 [Accessed 20/8/2019].
Magnificent Meadows.org. Types of Grazing Animals [Online]. Available at: www.Magnificentmeadows.org.uk/assets/pdfs/Types_of_Livestock.pdf [Accessed 20/8/2019].
Pesticide Action Network UK. https://www.pan-uk.org/dirty-dozen-and-clean-fifteen/ [Accessed 16/8/2019]
Soil Association.org. Organic farming [Online]. Available at www.soilassociation.org/organic-living/organicfarming. [Accessed 16/8/2019].