A unique idea by the Finnish organic Farmers:
On the occasion of Finnish Nature Day, nearly 30 organic farms all over the country will become accessible to the public. From noon until 3 pm on 28 August, individuals and families will have the opportunity to learn more about organic agriculture and buy harvest season products. A variety of farms will participate in this event, including plant, animal, and berry farms, among others.
The purpose of the event is educational as it seeks to introduce Finnish organic production and acquaint individuals with the everyday life on farms. Therefore, attendees will be able to see the type of work that is done, get to know the animals, and participate in activities.
Moreover, children will get the opportunity to learn where organic food comes from and how farms are maintained. On the day, attendees will also be able to buy organic products, with some farms offering them for tasting at popup cafes.
Benefits of Organic Farming
According to a press release by the Finnish government, organic farming is based on respect for nature and the sustainable use of natural resources. Taking this further, the products of organic farms are healthier as they do not contain harmful chemicals.
Organic agriculture massively contributes to a better environment as the lack of pesticides and chemicals results in higher biodiversity. That is, natural plants, insects, birds, and animals can easily survive and thrive. For this reason, organic farms contain almost a third more species of plants and animals than conventionally cultivated fields.
At the Finnish Nature Day event, people will gain insight into this discussion and understand the benefits of opting for organic products. The organic farms which will participate in the event can be found on the luomu.fi website where one can find information about each farm.
Due to the current epidemiological situation in Finland, attendees will have to wear gloves at all times and face masks when indoors. Each farm may also have its own additional guidelines.
Source: The Mayor EU
Farmer Angus McIntosh has the intense look of someone with a single dream like skateboarding to the South Pole. He wears a slightly ingenuous expression, as if he has just been born into a new world and finds everything curious and a bit disturbing.
With a background as a trader for [...........] in London, there is a hint of cufflinks and striped shirt in his farmerish attire and smooth talk. However, his verbal spritz no longer sprouts derivatives and hedge funds but involves a passion for environmentally friendly farming.
And boy do you need passion.
In a world where farming is a big industry (visiting a farm in the USA is hazardous because of free floating poisons), following a dream of clean food is a kind of madness.
Farmer Angus’ farm is situated on 126 hectares of irrigated pasture at Spier Wine Estate near Stellenbosch. It is a place that ignites the heart with its well cared for animals, green pastures, vegetable gardens and on site butchery. A friend calls it “fairyland”.
The farm arguably hosts the Cape’s best non-industrial food production. The eggs are yolky and delicious and the meat which can be ordered online is clean and tastes like meat used to taste. Remember? Before feedlots, pesticides and hormones.
About six years ago I discovered his eggs by chance, astonished by their creamy innards and thick marigold coloured yokes. Investigating their origin, I came across Farmer Angus, moving his egg laying hens in “eggmobiles” to new outdoor pasture.
He told me then, “The biggest lie in agriculture is free range eggs. They live in barns, they don’t range outside. On commercial egg farms, chickens live and never leave a space equivalent to an A4 piece of paper.”
And it is not only the animals that are benefitting. His egg company is now 80% owned by his staff and the eggs get better and better. “I am only a 15% shareholder but it’s got my name on it,” he says.
Over the years McIntosh has developed biodynamic and regenerative agricultural practices in the raising of the farm’s animals which include cattle, pigs, chickens and laying hens, as well as vegetables and wine.
His pastured livestock and poultry are moved frequently to new pastures where they can perform basic needs such as dustbathing and flapping their wings.
Often in the past in butcheries or so-called organic groceries, I have asked about provenance. So far I have never met a retailer who has even taken the trouble to see where the food (particularly labelled as “organic”) they sell comes from.
Farmer Angus encourages people to visit the farm and see where their food is produced. Caring for the animals properly is a high priority. More and more restaurant owners around the world are keeping their own herds for the simple reason that cared for cattle produces not only the healthiest but the tastiest meat.
With farming there is so much wonkery – what irony that the salt of the earth, the food we eat is as about as full of corruption as the Zuma Cabinet.
His desire is for people from all walks of life to be able to eat better and more nutritiously and to understand what they put in their bodies.
The challenge of agricultural sustainability has become more intense in recent years with climate change, water scarcity, degradation of ecosystem services and biodiversity, the sharp rise in the cost of food, agricultural inputs and energy, as well as the financial crisis hitting hard on South Africa.
He reels off stats with an almost cult-like enthusiasm.
“A well looked after Jersey cow that has grown up on pasture should give you 50 lactations. Do you know what the average lactation in South Africa is? Two point one. They are treated as monogastrics and fed a heavy corn diet three times a day. As a result the milk is so high in pus that they are forced to homogenise it.
“Of course people are going to be allergic to it.”
I have always wondered why so many people are “allergic to dairy”.
South Africa should be the land of milk and honey; instead it is the land of cheap chemicalised food. “We have the highest obesity rate in the world. The rural Africans understood the value of milk, a whole food, but they lost the tradition when they came to the cities to work.”
Personally, says Farmer Angus, “I think that consumers have to think about food differently and eat differently. They need to be conscious that behind a kilo of tomatoes lies a lot of work. They need to know where their food comes from and what goes into it.
“People are living on more and more processed foods, so the body is craving nutrients. The only thing that the people in agriculture agree on is that the nutrient content of food has been in decline for 120 years. The carrots your grandmother ate and the ones you eat might look the same but on a nutritional level they are entirely different.
“Most of us can grow our own vegetables, we can all make our own worm compost which is the best fertiliser of all.
South Africa has got a million unemployed people. Why are they not growing their own food? Here’s why. There is a stigma attached to farmers which is why so few guys grow their own food in a place like Khayelitsha. They want to wear zoot suits and drive Beemers.”
McIntosh’s new project is producing first grade grass fed, pesticide free food at an affordable price. Last week, wandering the aisles of Checkers, I came across such usually unaffordable products as pancetta, coppa, prosciutto at a price within my budget.
Let us give thanks for the pig.
Pancetta made from the belly, coppa from the neck and prosciutto from the leg and Black Forest ham to die for from the loin, a real feast.
But not a feast for pigs, especially in South Africa. “I only know two farmers who do not cage their pigs,” says McIntosh.
The European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee has recently called on the European Commission to propose a revision of the EU directive on farmed animals with the objective of phasing out the use of cages in animal farming.
McIntosh’s move to supermarket selling is not only significant because people like me can afford to buy it but it is the first time that grass-fed beef is being sold at the same price as feedlot products.
“But more important,” says Farmer Angus, “this is a truly costed item. The beef you buy in a shop is not really costed, the antibiotic resistance is not costed, the inflammatory diseases you get are not costed. There is a whole lot of stuff that is not in the price, so true cost accounting is another thing that has to be on the table in order to keep any ethical enterprise going.”
“This stuff has been outdoors reared, it is not imported and most important it has been cured without adding nitrates or nitrites plus the chemical arsenal that fires up most commercial foods. Our charcuterie, made by Gastro Foods, is the only charcuterie in South Africa cured without added nitrates or nitrites.
“We have the space, we have the weather, all we need is the absolute desire for better nutrition.
“And there are rewards. The carbon in our soil has increased and we get paid credit for that. What people don’t realise is that the vegan diet that everyone is trying to ram down our throats is destructive to the ecology. Whereas this is generative to the ecology. In the vegan utopia there are no animals, so how do they make the food for the plants? They can’t make animal based fertiliser or compost so they have to use chemicals.
“Actually, we have no choice. We go the ethical route or we die.”
As Joel Saliton, a farmer in the USA famous for his ethical practices, says, “If you think organic food is expensive, try cancer.”
A study 2020 conducted by the insurance comparison website Compare The Market, which ranked the healthiest and unhealthiest countries – all part of the Organisation for Economic and Co-operation Development, found that South Africa is the “unhealthiest country in the world”.
A separate study, The Indigo Wellness Index, which tracks the health and wellness status of 151 countries, also found South Africans were dangerously unhealthy and ranked SA the unhealthiest country in the world in 2019. Meanwhile, in 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated 28.3% of adults in South Africa were obese. This was the highest obesity rate for the sub-Saharan African countries recorded by the WHO.
Growing a garden is a truly gratifying experience. After all, what could be better than watching seasonal flowers bloom outside your window or walking out your back door to harvest fresh herbs and vegetables for dinner?
But gardening isn’t just fun—it’s good for you, too. The health benefits of gardening are well-known, and the benefits are only amplified when you choose to grow an organic garden.
Not only is it good for you, it’s better for the environment.
Organic gardening means avoiding synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that are harmful to the environment and the people who come in contact with them. But it’s not just about replacing those chemical products with more natural alternatives. Organic gardening is all about nurturing and harnessing healthy soil to create gardens with fewer pest and disease problems to begin with.
Whether you’re a gardening newbie or an experienced green thumb, starting an organic garden may mean shifting your perspective a little bit when it comes to how you approach the art of growing fruits, vegetables, and flowers. But with a little bit of information and preparation, you’ll be ready to go in no time. Here are some of our recommendations on how to get started.
Organic gardening 101: how to grow your gardenGet to know your local climateThe first step of organic gardening 101 is to get to know your local climate, as this will impact which plants you can expect to grow with success, as well as when to plant them.
Select an organic garden siteSelecting a garden site is one of the most exciting parts of starting an organic garden. What could be more inspiring than picking a spot in your yard and imagining a tidy, flourishing garden? Here are some key factors to consider when it comes to garden site selection.
Get to know your soil
“Start with your soil.” That’s the advice of Ellen Polishuk, farm consultant and author of the forthcoming book, Start Your Farm: The Authoritative Guide to Becoming a Sustainable 21st Century Farmer.
As Ellen implies, your soil’s health will play a huge role in the success of your organic garden, so the first thing you’ll want to do is get a sense of how it currently fares.
Organic gardening 101 tip — even if your soil isn’t in tip-top shape, using organic gardening methods should help improve it over time. We recommend the following ways to determine whether or not your garden’s soil is ready for planting.
Create an organic garden plan
Now that you’ve picked a location and started familiarizing yourself with your garden’s soil, it’s time for the really fun part—creating a plan for your organic garden.
Prepare the ground
At least several weeks before you intend to begin planting your organic garden, you’ll need to prepare the ground. If yours is a brand new garden spot, this will likely mean measuring out your beds and breaking ground for the first time or building and filling raised beds.
Be sure to work in any organic soil amendments you plan to use—it’s always a good idea to add in some organic compost, too. Soil amendments should be worked into the top 8–10 inches of soil. If you’re preparing the ground in the late summer or early fall for the following spring, cover the beds with straw or a plastic tarp until planting time.
Using your garden plan, start setting out seeds and transplants according to the schedule you created. Pay special attention to the instructions on seed packets or the informational tags that come with transplants to ensure that everything is planted according to proper spacing, planting depth, water, and sun requirements.
While some plants are more tolerant to drought than others, all plants require consistent watering to thrive. Here are a few tips to help you successfully water your organic garden.
Organic gardening means not turning to chemical herbicides to control the inevitable weeds that will find their way into your garden. Instead, you’ll need to rely on other methods to keep weeds at bay. Here are the two main tactics used by organic gardeners.
Nuisance insects and plant diseases are an inevitable—if unfortunate—part of gardening. Thankfully, there are quite a few options when it comes to organic pest management and disease control.
Sales of organic foods are growing by 10 to 20 percent each year in the United States. More than 10 percent of fruits and vegetables sold are now organic. By any measure, organic foods are starting to enter the mainstream American diet.
And with good reason. Organic produce often has higher levels of potentially healthy compounds. And organic farms may fare better in droughts, don't use synthetic fertilizers that contaminate groundwater, and are more hospitable to critical pollinators like bees and butterflies.
What's more, "the data show that you reduce your exposure to pesticide residues when you buy organic foods," says organics expert Charles Benbrook.
Q: Do organic foods have higher levels of nutrients and phytochemicals?
A: Yes. In about 60 percent of the studies, organic food is higher in some nutrients than conventionally produced food. About 30 to 35 percent of the time, there's no statistical difference, and in 5 to 10 percent of the studies, the nutrient levels are higher in the conventional food. That's based on studies that compare the same varieties of fruits and vegetables grown in similar locations, which is the ideal way to do these comparisons.
In a recent Stanford University review—which claimed that organic produce isn't more nutritious than conventional—only half the studies were done that way.
Q: How much higher are the levels in organic foods?
A: Generally about 5 to 15 percent, but they can be 30 or even 100 percent higher. In a two-year study of tomatoes purchased in Barcelona markets published this spring, organic tomatoes had twice the level of some polyphenols as conventionally grown tomatoes.1 Polyphenols are antioxidants and may be one of the main reasons fruits and vegetables are healthy for us.
Q: Why do organically grown plants have more beneficial compounds?
A: The two key factors are the stronger natural defenses of organic plants and a dilution effect in conventional plants.
Plants in an organic field have to fend off a range of insects, so their natural defense mechanisms are turned on earlier and more fully manifest themselves. As a result, they have higher concentrations of defensive compounds that may keep us healthier.
Q: And the dilution effect?
A: If you keep putting on more and more nitrogen fertilizer the way conventional farms do, you drive yields up and produce bigger plants. But this dilutes the plants' levels of vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols.
For example, in the fall you see beautiful, huge apples in stores that are incredibly juicy and very sweet. Those apples were grown in conventional orchards where farmers have pushed up yields and pushed up sugar concentrations by using a lot of nitrogen and irrigation water.
The trees have to do something with the extra nutrients, and the easiest thing is to convert them into sugars. These apples are juicy and sweet, yes, but the concentration of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients in them goes down. That's a classic example of the dilution effect.
Q: Does that affect shelf life?
A: Yes. Take apples. Organic apples store longer, and this has been shown all over the world. It's because they’ve got a higher concentration of antibacterial phenolic acids right under their skin, which helps to retard the growth of molds and bacteria that lead to spoilage.
Conventionally grown apples have diluted levels of these natural antibacterial antioxidants. Plus their extra nitrogen and sugar is exactly what spoilage bacteria and molds need to grow.
Q: What about contaminants that cause food poisoning?
A: Both organic and conventional foods can be a source of food poisoning outbreaks. However, in an organic system, there's a much higher level of microbial biodiversity, so there are more naturally beneficial microbes in the system and soil.
Studies show that when you introduce pathogens into an organic system, they often don't survive very long because the biologically rich community of organisms that's naturally there either competes effectively with them or uses them for lunch.
Q: And in conventional plants?
A: Pesticide use in conventional agriculture tends to reduce microbial biodiversity, both in the soil and on the surfaces of the plant. So when a pathogen does take hold, there's more of an ecological vacuum there, and the pathogen populations can grow.
Most bacteria need nitrogen, and a ready source of nitrogen can fuel spikes in their levels. So in conventional systems that have an excess of nitrogen, there's extra "gas" that can drive up pathogen levels.
Q: Are organic foods pesticide-free?
A: No. Although organic foods are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, they can pick up traces blown in the air from conventional farms or from water or packing materials in processing plants.
Q: Are pesticide levels on organic produce much lower than on conventional?
A: Yes, but if you measure the difference only in terms of the number of residues found, it's not nearly as dramatic as when you take into account the levels of the pesticides found and how toxic they are.
We developed and computed a Dietary Risk Index, or DRI, for the residues found in conventional versus organic strawberries, apples, grapes, blueberries, nectarines, pears, and peaches grown in the U.S. The conventional fruit's DRI averaged 24, while the organic fruit's DRI was only 3. That's impressive.
Since most consumers first seek out organic food to reduce pesticide risks, this shows that people get what they pay for.
Q: Is imported produce riskier?
A: Yes. One of the big changes in pesticide risk over the past decade is that the difference between domestic and imported produce has grown. When Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act [FQPA] in 1996, which reformed pesticide use, about three-quarters of the dietary risk from pesticides in the food supply was from fruits and vegetables grown in the United States and one-quarter was from imports.
Now probably 80 percent of the risk is from imports and only about 20 percent is from domestically grown food. Today, the highest-risk fresh fruits and vegetables almost across the board are imported. Consumers are exposed to these mostly from December through April.
Q: Why the change?
A: The Environmental Protection Agency implemented the FQPA mostly by restricting the use of pesticides in the United States. It reduced the numbers and rates of pesticide applications and lengthened the interval between the last application and the harvesting of food.
These changes lowered the dietary risk of domestically produced food, but they had no impact on imports.
Q: How significant are the differences?
A: Some are dramatic. The last time the government analyzed domestic and imported peaches for pesticides was in 2008. If you calculate the DRIs for each sample it tested, 98 of the 100 most risky peach samples were imported from Chile, one was from Argentina, and the other was from the United States. Of the 100 peaches with the lowest DRIs, 99 were grown in the U.S.
So if I were a domestic peach grower and saw peaches high on a dirty dozen list, I would be pretty upset. The EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Congress need to start driving down the high-risk residues in imported fruits and vegetables, to at least match the reductions achieved by U.S. growers.
Q: How harmful are the traces of pesticides that are on conventional foods?
A: The evidence now is compelling that low-level exposure to organophosphate insecticides from food and the environment has been contributing to a suite of neurological and developmental problems, such as lost IQ points. These problems can be hard to measure in an individual, but are profound for society as a whole.
Q: How extensive has the impact been?
A: David Bellinger of the Harvard Medical School published an important analysis this spring looking at the risk factors that contribute to lower IQs in children.2 He drew on high-quality studies that looked at medical conditions like preterm birth and pediatric bipolar disorders and at the environmental contaminants lead, mercury, and organophosphate insecticides.
From these studies, he estimated that prenatal exposures to organophosphate insecticides were probably causing a greater loss of IQ points among some U.S. children aged five and younger than anything other than preterm births and lead exposure.
While the risk to a given child is small, the exposure is so widespread that the risk to the population is substantial.
Q: The harm is primarily to children?
A: Pound for pound, children are exposed to more pesticides than adults. And their developing bodies are more sensitive to the adverse effects of pesticides.
That's why pesticide regulation must focus on protecting the developing fetus and protecting children, especially during the first two years of life, but also through adolescence. The brain continues to grow and the nervous system continues to develop throughout the teenage years.
Q: What's the evidence of harm?
A: It's challenging to get proof of harm to children or adults. The most compelling evidence is for chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide. It's almost certainly the riskiest pesticide to humans that's still widely used on food crops.
In two studies published last year, researchers followed 400 children born around the year 2000 to women living in New York City's low-income neighborhoods.3,4 Some of them lived in public housing projects where exterminators used chlorpyrifos to kill insects in the buildings.
When the women gave birth, the researchers collected umbilical-cord blood or urine to measure how much insecticide the fetuses were exposed to in the womb. They’ve been tracking the children for 10 years now.
Q: What impact did chlorpyrifos have?
A: The kids from mothers with the highest levels of chlorpyrifos or other organophosphates during pregnancy were at greater risk for multiple developmental deficits, including slightly lower IQs when they were six to nine years old.
In a similar study of California farmworkers' families, children of mothers with the highest levels of organophosphates during pregnancy had IQs that were 7 points lower than children of mothers with the lowest levels.5
Q: How is that related to food?
A: A quarter of women of reproductive age in the United States in 2000 had average levels of organophosphates in their bodies comparable to the levels found in the high-exposure group of women in the California farmworker study.6
Since then, the EPA has banned nearly all home uses of chlorpyrifos, and has severely restricted most other uses of organophosphates in homes, other buildings, and urban environments. It now permits their use primarily in agriculture. So most of a woman's exposure now comes from food.
It makes sense when you realize that a person eating 3 or 4 servings of vegetables a day is probably exposed to 3 or 5 or 6 organophosphates on a daily basis. It's easy to understand how pregnant women could have these in their bodies. And very low levels may be harming their children.
Q: Hasn't organophosphate exposure decreased since 2000?
A: The EPA has driven down pesticide levels in domestically grown produce, but much less so in imports. We'll have to wait for the next government survey of our health status and levels of contaminants like chlorpyrifos to determine whether there has been a meaningful decline in residue levels in women.
Q: And eating organic foods would lessen the exposure?
A: Yes. When researchers at Emory University in Atlanta gave children organic fruits and vegetables to eat instead of conventional ones, chlorpyrifos fell to almost undetectable levels in their urine in just five days.7
Many experts are both puzzled and disappointed that the EPA has not acted to end all the uses of chlorpyrifos that lead to residues in food or beverages, given our deepening understanding of the many ways that chlorpyrifos exposures can disrupt normal fetal development, leading to cognitive deficits that could have serious lifelong repercussions.
Q: What about adults?
A: Residues in food rarely are high enough to pose acute risks to healthy adults. The concern for adults is with long-term degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.
Much of the evidence of harm comes from studies on animals or on farmworkers, their families, and others who face the greatest exposures and the greatest risk. But these studies raise concerns about the rest of us, who are exposed to lower levels.
The evidence was strong enough for the President's Cancer Panel to recommend in 2010 that consumers choose, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers.8
Q: Are people who eat more fruits and vegetables healthier even if they don't eat organic produce?
A: Yes. That's why the single most important diet change you can make is to eat more fruits and vegetables and less bad fat, added sugar, and highly processed foods. The second most important thing is to seek out organic fruits and vegetables.
Q: How hard would it be to lower the pesticide risks in food?
A: The EPA could reduce by one-half or more the dietary risk in the U.S. food supply by selectively targeting just a few pesticides applied to no more than a dozen crops. Of the 200 pesticides found on our food, just six account for 66 percent of the total risk. One of them is chlorpyrifos.
1 J. Agric. Food Chem. 60: 3373, 2012.
2 Environ. Health Perspect. 120: 501, 2012.
3 Environ. Health Perspect. 119: 1182, 2011.
4 Environ. Health Perspect. 119: 1196, 2011.
5 Environ. Health Perspect. 119: 1189, 2011.
6 Environ. Health Perspect. 113: 1802, 2005.
7 Environ. Health Perspect. 116: 537, 2008.
8 deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/annualreports/pcp08- 09rpt/PCP_Report_08-09_508.pdf.
]More and more households are choosing to buy organic foods over “conventional” foods—but what’s the difference, and is it worth the price?
What is organic?
Organic food is produced without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilisers.
(Pesticides include insecticides, which target insects, and herbicides, which target weeds. Fertilizers are used to enhance soil nutrients where they may be lacking.) The practices of organic agriculture aim to cycle resources, promote ecological balance and preserve biodiversity.
The problem with “conventional” agriculture.
While the terminology, organic and conventional, makes it seem as though organic is a special type of food we haven’t had access to previously, it’s actually quite the opposite:
10,000 years of agricultural production has been “organic,” without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers. What we now call “conventional” agriculture didn’t exist until after World War II.
Insecticides are neurotoxins, developed from the same nerve gases used in World War II. They are incredibly toxic to handle, though their toxicity decreases in sunlight.
In general, the argument for using chemical pesticides is that they improve yield, and they break down quickly enough to not be deadly when consumed.
(Pesticides are so severely toxic that there are stringent federal guidelines regarding when they are allowed to be sprayed before harvest, in order to reduce their toxicity before human consumption.)
However, foods grown with chemical pesticides do retain pesticide residues that are ultimately consumed by whoever eats them.
These residues are in legally allowable amounts that aren’t harmful on impact, but they bioaccumulate over time to cause severe health effects.
Research shows that prolonged exposure to chemical pesticides (including their residues) leads to increased risk of cardiovascular and respiratory disease, reproductive damage and cancer. Additionally, the recent rise in gluten intolerance and autoimmune disease can be attributed to pesticide exposure through consumption.
The benefits of eating organic
One of the primary reasons people choose to purchase organically grown foods is concern about the negative health impacts noted above (from the consumption of conventional food). But there are also some other substantial health, environmental and social benefits to choosing organic foods and supporting organic agricultural practices:
Health benefits of eating organic.
By choosing organic foods, you avoid consuming insecticides and herbicides. This removes toxic, endocrine-disrupting, carcinogenic pesticide residues from your diet.
Many studies also show that organically grown produce contains higher nutrient profiles than their conventional counterparts. This is due to the quality of soil the crops are grown in: in general, chemically-treated land has less nutrient-rich soil, with fewer beneficial microorganisms, which leads us to:
Environmental benefits of organic farming
In addition to the human health consequences of pesticide exposure, pesticide-treated land harms beneficial soil microorganisms and other wildlife (have you heard about the pollinator crisis?). Runoff from chemically-fertilized cropland pollutes water sources, leading to algae blooms and killing marine life (for example, the Gulf Dead Zone from Mississippi River’s agricultural runoff).
Organic agriculture, on the other hand, utilizes practices that promote soil health, encourage beneficial microorganisms and pollinators, and protect our natural resources from toxic runoff.
Social benefits of organic farming
Exposure to pesticides is a significant health concern for farmworkers in the U.S., many of whom are economically disadvantaged and don’t have sufficient access to healthcare, nor the political power to advocate for safer working conditions. Organic practices are much safer for farmworkers and neighboring communities (which are impacted by toxic groundwater and air pollution from chemical pesticide application).
......., it’s something consumers are increasingly looking for on their packaging. But what exactly does it mean to be “certified” organic?
Click to here to learn: What it means to be certified organic
Organic farming practices can be used with or without formal certification. In fact, the organic certification process can be cost-prohibitive to small farming operations, so some farmers may produce and sell organically grown food but can’t afford to label it as such (this is common at farmers’ markets).
[.......,] it is not permitted to label a food product as “organic” if it has not been certified through a USDA-accredited organic certification process.
So, if you like eating seasonally and supporting small, local farmers, it can be a good idea to get to know the producers at your local farmers’ market and talk to them about their farming practices. It’s not necessarily safe to assume that if it’s not labeled organic it must not be—in some (perhaps many) cases, small farmers do use organic practices but can not afford to formally certify them as such.
Dirty Dozen: the top 12 foods to buy organic
Ideally, all the food we consume would be organic. But since that’s not feasible for many of us (due to cost, availability, or not really knowing the source of our food when eating out), your best bet is to start with the foods that are shown to have the highest amounts of pesticide residues.
Environmental Working Group publishes an annual report on pesticides in produce, listing the “Dirty Dozen,” or the top 12 foods to buy organic.
Dirty Dozen 2020
These are the top foods to purchase organic (because they contain the most pesticide residues):
Organic animal products
Toxins biomagnify up the food chain. That means, the amount of toxins an animal consumes per pound of food it eats will be more concentrated per pound of its own body weight. In other words, if a cow eats conventionally-grown feed that contains pesticide residues and then you eat the cow—you’re actually receiving a more concentrated dose of pesticides than what the cow initially consumed.
This is because animals, including humans, store toxins in our fat to keep them from harming our vital organs. These toxins build up over time and, thus, the concentration is higher in an animal that ate a plant (or an animal that ate an animal that ate a plant!) than it was in the plant in the first place. (The plant here being a conventionally-grown crop that contains pesticide residue—though the same concept applies in a slightly different way to seafood and mercury levels as well.)
So, if you consume animal products, it’s best to choose organic—animals that were fed organic food themselves.
And, at the very least, it’s important to choose organic for high-fat animal products, like butter and other dairy products, eggs, and fatty cuts of meat.
Source: Four Wellness Co
If you consume animal products, it’s best to choose organic—animals that were fed organic food themselves.
When making comparisons at the grocery store between a gallon of conventional milk and a container of organic milk, you might notice that the “best by” dates are vastly different.
Why does organic milk last longer? Is there something added to it that prevents it from going bad, something in regular milk that makes it sour more quickly or does it have something to do with shipping?
Comparing organic and regular milk (and looking at shelf-stable milk) can shed light on these different types of milk and help you decide which is best for your family.
What is Organic milk?
The difference between organic milk and conventional milk is primarily in the way dairy farmers raise, feed and treat the cows that produce the milk. In the U.S., milk can only be labeled with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Organic seal if the farm where it is produced complies with this set of regulations:
Why Does Organic Milk Last Longer?
There is one other difference between regular and organic milk, and this distinction answers the question, “Why does organic milk last longer?” This difference is in the way that milk is pasteurised.
According to the Dairy Alliance, dairies pasteurise conventional milk using a standard method, heating the milk to approximately 71.1C for at least 15 seconds. However, they use ultra-high temperature (UHT) processing for organic milk, heating the milk to 137.8 C for 2 to 5 seconds. This method kills more bacteria, resulting in a longer shelf life.
Part of the reason organic dairies use this method is that antibiotics are not used in the production of organic milk.
(Addition by Full of Soil and Sun: Antiobiotics reduce the number of good bacteria and therefore lower number of bacteria will be reduced and in turn lower temperatures will be used. But antiobiotics are left in the conventional milk and they are considered as contaminants of the milk which is bad for our health)
But the other purpose is to provide more time to distribute the milk to retailers since there are fewer organic dairy farms across the U.S. By using UHT processing, producers can ensure that the products will reach store shelves without spoiling.
The downside of UHT processing is that it can affect the taste and consistency of the milk. For example, the milk might have a “cooked” flavor that is less rich and full-bodied than conventional milk is. And because the process burns some of the natural sugars in the milk, it can taste sweeter, which some milk drinkers find off-putting.
According to Consumer Reports, ultra-pasteurised milk has a shelf life of 40 to 60 days unopened, while conventionally pasteurised milk has a 15- to 17-day shelf life. That being said, consumers should drink or discard all milk within seven days of opening, regardless of the “best buy” date, according to the USDA. You can also freeze milk for about three months and thaw it in the refrigerator, but you should also consume it within a week.
Here at Full of Soil and Sun, we quote information from across the globe related to organic foods and its huge health benefits.
Below you will see extract from an article written by Nonie De Long in Canada.
''As I've learned more about the pesticides that are now being sprayed on almost all commercial crops (and animal feed). I now believe glyphosate – the most common commercial herbicide and desiccant used today – is extremely carcinogenic and dangerous. As such, I advise clients to consume organic produce whenever they can. So what does the data say?''
More recent data shows the safety claims were trumped up. One 2017 study has shown that since 2006 when glyphosate was introduced, human levels have gone up 500 per cent. Lawsuits and class action lawsuits abound. In a fact sheet released in June of this year, USRTK published safety concern statements from several scientific groups:
Moreover, glyphosate is a known endocrine disruptor. Fertility is an unprecedented issue here in the West now. The data sheet lists the data that links that to glyphosate use.
Studies abound to demonstrate the pesticide's toxicity to fish and mammals.
Health Canada set to increase glyphosate levels?
Despite this, Health Canada is right now in the midst of increasing our maximum residue levels (MRLs) for glyphosate – to bring them closer to US levels – for trade purposes. The deadline for public input was supposed to be July 20, 2021, but has been quietly pushed back. Readers, have you even heard about this in the news? These changes would be reflected in your country's food policy for years (maybe decades) to come. It involves a very controversial chemical. Have you even heard about it?
The proposed changes would allow significantly increased levels of glyphosate in commodities such as oats, lentils, and beans. There are many more that would be impacted. For a full list and description of the changes proposed by Health Canada, click here.
How that impacts organic produce?
The Canadian Organic Trade Association (COTA) is concerned. Why? The suggested changes also affect the organic sector because its protocol is essentially 5 per cent of the MRL.
This means even your certified organic foods can contain higher amounts of glyphosate. And your non-organic foods will contain MUCH higher amounts of glyphosate in many cases.
The new deadline for citizen input has been extended by 45 days. It's unclear to me how consumers can share their concerns in anything I've read, but contacting your MP and/or creating and circulating a petition might be a good start.
Forest fires also linked to glyphosate
You may not realize the link between the raging forest fires and glyphosate spraying. It has become common to spray forests to kill certain species of trees to make other trees grow better for easier harvest. Isn't it convenient for Monsanto/ Bayer that it also increases sales of glyphosate products? But I digress.
Since that inception we have seen an exponential increase in huge scale, uncontrollable forest fires. Scientists have been speaking up about the link since at least 2019.
New Brunswick is one community where citizens are starting to fight back. The New Brunswick Environmental Network has been collecting signatures and putting pressure on local agencies to stop spraying the forests.
Other regions have started to take action, realizing Health Canada is not listening to citizens on this issue. On April 6, the Quebec city of Laval initiated a bylaw banning the use of glyphosate, “to protect human health, pollinating insects, wildlife and natural spaces.”
One bush pilot and environmental lawyer in Foleyet, Joel Theriault, has spent about 20 years now petitioning the provincial government to stop spraying glyphosate over Ontario forests. His petition has fallen on dead ears. And dead trees, as certain species are wiped out by the spray. Theiault insists the wildlife are killed by the product, too. He says he won’t observe any living species in sprayed areas for a good time after the sprays. The Ministry defends the practice, saying the Pest Management Regulatory Agency has determined glyphosate is safe to humans and the environment.
It begs the question when people will believe what is right in front of their faces.
In May of this year, Green MP Jenica Atwin tabled a private member's bill to ban the use of glyphosate in Canada.
Eating organic is essential
...... I fervently recommend organic produce consumption wherever possible and even better - growing your own food at home in organic, composted soil.
It is time to see why a brewery goes organic:
''The most significant impact we can make on a manufactured product is in our choice of raw materials.
We are a dedicated organic brewery certified by the soil association and all our beers are made with organic malt and hops.
Here, we only source the very best ingredients from farming which has a positive effect on our environment, and never use ingredients which degenerate our environment, ecosystems or precious soils for capital gain.
The organic standards support our ambition to produce the highest quality beers with care for people and the planet. Sustainability is at the core of the organic approach. The standards we have to adhere to include not only the ingredients, but also how organic beer is made, packaged and traded.
Organic farming restricts the use of artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Instead, organic farmers rely on developing healthy, fertile soil and growing a mixture of crops.
No system of farming has higher wildlife benefits.
Organic farming creates the highest level of biodiversity on the farm, the highest standards of animal welfare and the highest level of carbon sequestration in the soil.
Organic farms tend to be diverse, have higher levels of employment per acre and are more likely to be involved in direct marketing of their produce.
As an organic brewery we pay a premium for these ingredients however the market does not stretch to fully recover our margins. It is not a strategy for increased profit.
Because we are uncompromising, we source the very best ingredients, we prioritise local, we will not buy ingredients which exploit our environment this is why organic is important to us.
Source: Stroud Brewery
Did you know there are pesticide residues in and on your food on a daily basis (unless you seek out and consume mostly organic food)?
Pesticides include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, fumigants, and plant growth regulators. These chemicals can be taken up by crops and some make their way to your kitchen table.
We have all heard the saying “you are what you eat.” Yet a question lingers largely unanswered
— What are the chemicals in the food we eat doing to our bodies, our health, and the integrity of the human genome (i.e. the DNA in our genes)?
Cutting-edge research has begun to shed new and brighter light on the ways pesticide exposure can contribute to or cause adverse health outcomes.
Pesticide exposures (from conventional food) have been linked to multiple health problems including
- Getting and staying pregnant,
- Developmental delays in children,
- Heritable genetic changes,
- Altered gut health,
- Neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, and other chronic health problems.
Clearly, pesticides can adversely impact the brain and our neurological system, the human immune system, and our reproductive health.
Neurological impacts increase the risk of autism, ADHD, bad behavior, and can reduce IQ and hasten mental decline among the elderly. Anything that impairs the functioning of the immune system increases the risk of cancer, serious infections, and can worsen viral pandemics, as we have regretfully learned throughout the Covid-19 outbreak. Several pesticides have been shown to cause or contribute to infertility, spontaneous abortion, and a range of birth defects and metabolic problems in newborns and children as they grow up.
So how do we avoid potentially harmful pesticide exposures?
In the USA in 2021, the surest way to minimize pesticide dietary exposure and health risks is to consume organically grown food. How do we know? We have run the numbers.
A recently-published HHRA paper, written by a team led by the HHRA Executive Director Chuck Benbrook, draws on multiple state and federal data sources in comparing the dietary risks stemming from pesticide residues in organic vs conventionally grown foods. The new paper is entitled “Organic Farming Lessens Reliance on Pesticides and Promotes Public Health by Lowering Dietary Risks”, and was published by the European journal Agronomy. Benbrook was joined by co-authors Dr. Susan Kegley and Dr. Brian Baker in conducting the research reported in the paper.
There is good news in the paper’s many data-heavy tables.
Organic farms use pesticides far less often and less intensively than on nearby conventional farms growing the same crop (see the chart below for an example from California). On organic farms, pesticides are an infrequently used tool, applied only when needed and after a variety of other control methods have been deployed. Plus, only a small subset of currently registered pesticides can be used on organic farms – just 91 active ingredients are approved for organic use, compared to the 1,200 available to conventional farmers. Pesticides approved by the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) are typically exempt from the requirement for a tolerance set by the EPA because they possess no, or very low, toxicity. NOP-approved pesticides cannot contain toxic, synthetic additives or active ingredients. Many of them are familiar household products, like soap, vinegar, clove oil, and rubbing alcohol. On many conventional farms, pesticides are the primary, or even sole tool used by farmers to avoid costly damage to crops by pests. Conventional farmers also have far more pesticide choices. The products registered for many crops include known toxic and high-risk chemicals linked to a number of adverse health outcomes.
More good news — choosing and consuming organic food, especially fruits and vegetables, can largely eliminate the risks posed by pesticide dietary exposure (see figure below). In general, the residues of any given pesticide in organic samples are usually markedly lower than the same residue in conventional samples. This is important because pesticide residues in fruit and vegetable products account for well over 95% of overall pesticide dietary risks across the entire food supply. The pesticide-risk reduction benefits of organic farming now extend to a little over 10% of the nation’s fruit and vegetable supply.
Impacts on the farm and farmers.
While the dietary risks from pesticide use on organic farms compared to conventional farms is the focus of the Agronomy paper, the consequences of heavy reliance on pesticides by many conventional farms are also discussed. These include the emergence and spread of resistant weeds, insects, and plant pathogens that then require farmers to spray more pesticides, more often, and sometimes at higher rates – this is known as the herbicide treadmill. The heavy reliance on pesticides on conventional farms also can impair soil health and degrade water quality. It can undermine both above and below-ground biodiversity, and in some areas has decimated populations of insects and other organisms, including pollinators, birds, and fish.
People applying pesticides and people working in or near treated fields are the most heavily exposed and face the highest risks. A grower’s choices in knitting together an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system impacts workers, consumers, and the environment. Organic farmers rely on biological, cultural, and other non-chemical methods in their prevention-based IPM systems and generally succeed in keeping pests in check.
Switching from conventional farming to organic production takes time and requires new skills and tactics. Most farmers who have made the change have done so mostly on their own. Other organic farmers and their pest control advisors remain the primary source of technical support and encouragement for neighboring farmers thinking about taking the plunge.
The authors end the paper with a review of concrete actions, policy changes, and investments needed to support those willing to make the transition to organic.
First, “organic farmers need better access to packing, processing and storage facilities linked into wholesale and retail supply chains.” In fact, many farmers hesitate to transition to organic not because of problems adhering to organic farming methods or controlling pests, but because of a lack of marketing opportunities.
Second, agribusiness firms have shown little interest in developing and manufacturing the specialized tools and inputs needed by organic farmers. There are many unmet needs. Tillage and cultivation equipment suitable for small-scale operations is hard to come by, unless imported from Europe.
Infrastructure investments are needed to increase the supply and quality, and lower the cost of compost and other soil amendments. More cost-effective ways are needed for organic farmers — and indeed all farmers — to rely on insect pheromones in disrupting mating and microbial biopesticides that control pests by disrupting their development, reproduction, or metabolism.
Third and perhaps most important is “public education and access to information about the significant health, environmental, animal welfare, farmer, and worker benefits that arise when conventional growers successfully switch to organic farming.”
The case for transitioning most of the approximate 1.2% of US cropland growing fruits and vegetables to organic is strong and bound to grow more compelling. The paper points out that the technology and systems exist to rapidly increase the organic share of fruit and vegetable production from a little over 10% today to over 70% in five to 10 years. The only thing holding back growers is the lack of demand.
As more farmers switch to organic, more investment in tools, technology, infrastructure, and human skills will bring to organic food supply chains the same economies of scale that now make conventional produce so affordable. As a result, over time the organic price premium will narrow as the supply of organic produce expands.
Organic farming reduces pesticide reliance and dramatically reduces dietary risk. The opportunity to promote healthy pregnancies and thriving newborns via farming system changes will join the need to build soil health and combat climate change in driving new investments and policy changes that will hopefully support farmers open to innovation and willing to transition to organic.
Source: Heartland Health Research Alliance webpage
NYERI, Kenya, Jul 7 – As coffee prices in the county improve, a section of farmers from Mathira constituency have embraced organic farming as a way of upgrading production and the quality of their produce.
The farmers who are plying their trade at Kanyama village say they no longer use conventional fertilizers, but instead use organic fertilizers as well as manure in order to ensure their crop conforms with the standards of European markets.
The farmers say they hope that their produce will triple and that their soils are not affected by residues left behind by harmful fertilizers.
''I started farming with organic fertilizers this year and I have already started seeing change''
“I started farming with organic fertilizers this year and I have already started seeing change. For instance, my coffee bushes have increased production, ” said Jane Wanjiku, a farmer based in Mathira said.
Job kareithi who produces an organic fertilizer called Biodeposit says that many farmers are increasingly using his product due to its benefit.
“We as manufactures are encouraging farmers to use organic farm inputs because many consumers abroad follow on what farmers use to grow their produce at the farm level,” he said.
“Some coffee gets rejected due to chemical residues that exceed the set parameters especially in European markets,” said Kareithi, adding that is why he ventured into making organic fertilizers.
To encourage farmers to take his method of farming, Kareithi says that they have grouped farmers in zones not only in Nyeri county but also in Kirinyaga where they conduct training sessions on the proper use of organic fertilizers.
The move comes at a time when the government through the ministry of agriculture has embarked on a campaign to increase coffee production by rising the number of income farmers earn.
Among the raft of measures that have been announced by Cabinet Secretary of Agriculture Peter Munya is the new coffee act that will see the return of a coffee board and the establishment of the coffee exchange backed by a vibrant coffee auction.
The country’s production has gone to an all-time low of 20,000 metric tonnes as opposed to triple production of more than 100 metric tonnes realized in the eighties.