With consumers having more interest in where their food comes from, organic has gained immense popularity, with more and more choosing organic products. Much as it is part of the solution to addressing many challenges, for instance, food security, the concept in itself would be shallow on its own!
That is why at the heart of organic, there are four principles guiding it: Health, Ecology, Fairness and Care. These principles not only benefit the environment but also play a crucial role in promoting sustainability, biodiversity, and overall well-being.
With the various crises all over the world from soil degradation to climate change, these principles not only provide a path to sustainable food production but also hold the potential to address and alleviate the global food crises we face today.
Let’s dive into these principles and why they are essential!
The first principle of organic emphasises the importance of farming in a sustainable way that is beneficial to the health of the entire ecosystem. This could entail, for example, nurturing the soil’s health to support plant and animal life. The over-dependence on synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, leads to soil degradation that compromises crop quality and can have a negative impact on one’s livelihood.
Organic farming, with its emphasis on soil health, presents a solution. By nurturing the soil through practices like composting, cover crops, mixed cropping, crop rotation and use of legumes, organic agriculture maintains and enhances soil fertility and reduces the need for chemical inputs.
In 2015, the world’s most used pesticide, Glyphosate was declared by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a probable human carcinogen.
Healthy soil not only produces nutrient-rich crops but also further promotes the One Health principle, a perspective acknowledging the interconnectedness between human health, animal well-being, and our environment.
This principle shows how the ecosystem is all interconnected and how biodiversity loss needs immediate attention. Land use change, intensive use of synthetic inputs and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is a direct threat to biodiversity. Furthermore, agricultural practices like monoculture and industrial agriculture strip the land of natural habitats and threaten ecosystem services, pollinators and wildlife that are essential for sustainable food systems.
Habitat loss has now been identified as the main threat to 85 – 90% of all species described by the IUCN as ‘threatened’ or ‘endangered’.
Organic farmers are a great example of how their work boosts biodiversity. By avoiding the use of GMOs and synthetic chemicals, organic farmers create habitats for beneficial insects and foster diverse ecosystems on their farms. By doing so, they protect pollinators like bees, beneficial insects, and other wildlife, which not only sustains the environment but also contributes to better crop yields through natural pest control.
Organic farming principles place fairness at the core of their practices and it extends to both human and animal welfare. This principle encourages a more equitable food system and provides fair and ethical treatment to farm workers and animals.
This means ensuring that animals have access to pasture, prohibiting the routine use of antibiotics and growth hormones in animal agriculture, and creating humane conditions for livestock. Additionally, organic supports fair trade practices that support the livelihoods of farmers, ensuring that they receive fair compensation for their hard work.
Agriculture is a major source of income for rural livelihoods and employs, for example, more than 60% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Fairness necessitates the establishment of the food supply chain systems that are transparent, equitable, and mindful of the environment and social costs.
The principle of responsible and conscientious practices extends to safeguarding our environment and ensuring the well-being of future generations. In practical terms, organic farmers adhere to this principle by minimising the use of synthetic chemicals, conserving water resources, and enhancing carbon sequestration through the promotion of healthier soil. This multi-faceted approach not only reduces their carbon footprint but also embraces sustainable farming techniques, ultimately mitigating environmental harm.
Globally, 33% of the world’s farmland is highly degraded, affecting the livelihoods of local communities and the long-term health of ecosystems.
This is why the integration of scientific and indigenous knowledge is crucial to maintain the health and ecological integrity of organic agriculture and to provide practical and effective solutions within this field. This commitment to environmental stewardship plays a pivotal role in fostering a more sustainable and resilient food system.
The four principles of organic farming are not only important for those directly involved in agriculture but also for consumers and the planet as a whole. By embracing these principles, we can foster a food system that prioritises health, ecology, fairness, and care, leading to more environmentally friendly food production. It not only contributes to addressing the immediate challenges of food crises but also lays the groundwork for a resilient and sustainable global food system.
When you choose organic products, you support these principles, helping to create a more sustainable, environmentally friendly, and ethical food system. So, the next time you’re shopping for groceries or considering the food you consume, remember the significance of these principles and how your choices can contribute to a healthier and more equitable world.