Organic Your September

Posted on August 19, 2016 by Eleanor McKenzie
Organic your September

Hey farmer farmer
Put away the DDT
I don’t care about spots on my apples
Leave me the birds and the bees
Joni Mitchell – “Big Yellow Taxi”

Do you understand the whole ‘organic’ thing? Are you, like me, one of those consumers who thinks that “organic is better” but hasn’t quite got around to embracing it as a way of life? Your reasons for this may be similar to mine: organic products are more expensive and they are more difficult to buy with ease in some areas. How do I incorporate them into my lifestyle in a way that I get the most benefit from them rather than just experiencing a sense of smugness from paying lip service to ‘organic’ by buying the occasional product?  Maybe this awareness campaign will help all of us teetering on the edge of going organic.

Organic September UK is a national campaign to raise awareness about organic food and other organic products.  The Soil Association, which is organising it, claims that switching to an organic lifestyle is easier than you might think. So, how can you get involved and what will we all gain from an increased use of organic products?

Choose the future

The Soil Association, which is both a charity and the UK’s organic certification body, says that “every time you shop you make choices about the future of our planet.” It’s not difficult to grasp the notion that pesticides, while helpful to agricultural food production in that they ensure maximised crop production and therefore better profits, are not kind to the earth or our bodies. Pesticides and their chemical relations are intended to kill, so they are inevitably toxic. Of course, there are arguments defending their use: supporters claim they are not toxic to mammals.

Bees at work


The destruction of British bees

However, other species aren’t so immune. An 18-year study by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology published in August 2016 shows that neonicotinoid pesticides used on the rapeseed crops in the British countryside are devastating our wild bee species. However, on organic farms the method of crop production benefits these bees. And we do need bees for their pollination skills that play a vital role in keeping the whole food chain balanced. Humans and other mammals are not the only species that matter.

Post-war pesticide use

The use of pesticides only dates back to the Second World War with the development of DDT and I can perfectly well understand the need for farming methods that increased crop production during the post-war years as Europe struggled to recover and food was rationed. But, it was only a matter of two decades before a growing number of voices started to point out the damage they were doing. In 1962 Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, highlighting the damaging effects of DDT. She called it a “fable for tomorrow”; it became an instant best seller and inspired the modern environmental movement. It is a book still worth reading and hers is a prophetic voice that calls on people to “act responsibly, carefully and as stewards of the living earth.”

Five ways to go organic

The Organic Your September campaign aims to help us just do that and the Soil Association has compiled five simple ways that we can lead a more organic lifestyle that in turn will protect our wildlife and encourage sustainable management of the land, and protect your own body from potentially harmful chemicals.

And here are five other things you can do to make your life more organic:

  1. Use organic milk – It has higher levels of mega 3 fatty acids and the cows enjoy a higher standard of animal welfare.
  2. Buy organic meat – Again, the animals receive better treatment and their food is free of genetically modified products. It is more expensive, so think about ‘quality over quantity’ and reduce your meat consumption.
  3. Switch to organic beauty products – Be sure to look for ones that have the authentic Soil Association certification. There are a lot of manufacturers who have jumped on the ‘organic bandwagon’ and are making false claims.
  4. Support local organic farms – Sign up for a fruit and vegetable delivery service, or buy from a farmers’ market. You’re not only supporting British farmers, you’ll also be protecting, bees, birds and butterflies.
  5. Look for organic tea and coffee – These are grown without pesticides and fertilisers. It’s better for you, better for the soil and provides a healthy habitat for birds and wildlife.

I would also add that if you have a garden or allotment then you have an opportunity to grow your own organic produce. Discover how to Organic YOUR September – our wildlife will thank you for it.

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.