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What the Soil Association Says:

Organic systems recognise that our health is directly connected to the food we eat and, ultimately, the health of the soil.

Organic farmers aim to produce good food from a balanced living soil. Strict regulations, known as standards, define what they can and can't do. They place strong emphasis on protecting the environment.

Organic farmers use crop rotations to make the soil more fertile. For example, a farmer might graze sheep on a field one year, making the soil more fertile, then plant wheat the next and so on.

They can't grow genetically modified crops and can only use - as a last resort - seven of the hundreds of pesticides available to farmers (the Soil Association, however, only allow four of these).

Parasite problems in farm animals are controlled through regularly moving the animals to fresh pasture and other preventative methods, rather than routinely dosing the animals with drugs.

Here are some of organic farming's main features:
Organic farming severely restricts the use of artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides
Instead, organic farmers rely on developing a healthy, fertile soil and growing a mixture of crops
Animals are reared without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers common in intensive livestock farming.

The word organic is defined by law. Any food labelled organic must meet a strict set of standards. Look for the Soil Association symbol for your guarantee of the highest organic standards.

Top Ten Reasons why people choose and buy organic!

1. Best taste
Many people buy organic food because they believe it tastes better than non-organic. This could be because organic fruit and vegetables tend to grow more slowly and have a lower water content, which may contribute to the fuller flavour some people experience. A poll in 2005 showed that quality and taste of food are important to more people than low prices.

2. Organic Foods Benefits
On average, organic food contains higher levels of vitamin C and essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and chromium as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants. Organic milk is naturally higher in Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, Vitamin A (Beta Carotene) and certain other antioxidants than non-organic milk.

3. No nasty additives
Only 32 of the 290 food additives approved for use across the EU are permitted in organic food. Amongst the additives banned by the Soil Association are hydrogenated fat, aspartame (artificial sweetener) and monosodium glutamate which have been linked to health problems.

4. Avoids pesticides
The best way of reducing your exposure to potentially harmful pesticides is to eat organically grown food, where their use is avoided. Over 311 pesticides can be routinely used in non organic farming and residues are often present in non-organic food. Over 40% of all non-organic fruit, vegetables and bread tested in 2005 contained pesticides according to the Government's Pesticide Residues Committee.The results for particular fruit and vegetables were much worse, e.g. chemicals were found in all oranges tested, 90% of bread, 72% of grapes, 95% pears.

5. GM-free
Genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are not allowed under organic standards. Over a million tonnes of GM crops are imported to feed non organic livestock that produce much, if not most, of the non organic pork, bacon, milk cheese and other dairy products in our supermarkets.

6. Reliance on drugs removed
Antibiotic additives routinely added to animal food to speed animal growth are linked with bacterial resistance in humans to the same or closely related antibiotics. Soil Association standards ban the routine use of antibiotics.

7. No hidden costs
Compare this with the 120m that tax payers fork out annually to pay for chemicals to be removed from drinking water, mainly as a result of the pesticides used in farming.

8. High standards
Organic food comes from trusted sources. All organic farms and food companies are inspected at least once a year. The standards for organic food are laid down in European law.

9. Care for animals
No system of farming has higher levels of animal welfare standards than organic farms working to Soil Association standards. Compassion in World Farming believes that the Soil Association's welfare standards are leaders in the field. (Joyce d'Silva, Director, Compassion in World Farming.)

10. Good for wildlife and the environment
Overall organic farming supports more farmland wildlife than non-organic farming. The UK government has said that it is better for wildlife, causes lower pollution from sprays, produces less carbon dioxide - the main global warming gas - and less dangerous wastes.