10 things you didn’t know about organic food

26 Sep 2019
4 min read
Organic food

Denmark’s cows honour organic food by dancing (yes, really).

 You probably know that organic food is a greener choice for the planet. It’s fully traceable from farm to fork, doesn’t require synthetic fertilisers or pesticides, uses less energy, and is produced with the utmost respect for the animals that provide it. But there’s a whole lot more to organics than that. To celebrate The Soil Association’s month-long Organic September campaign, here are 10 facts about organic farming that you didn’t know you didn’t know.

1. It’s not just about fruit and veg

You might commonly associate organic food with fresh produce, but there are actually organic options for everything from grains such as rice, wheat and quinoa, to store cupboard basics like sugar, olive oil, tea and coffee. In fact, organics go far beyond the kitchen, and include clothing, furniture and beauty products as well.

2. Organic farming was once the only kind of farming

You might think that organic farming is something of a new-age trend, but just before the Second World War farming across the entire planet was done organically. It was only after the war that fertilisers, chemicals and pesticides became widely used.

3. It takes two years to convert to an organic farm

Going organic is no quick switch for farmers. The conversion process takes around two years depending on the land and crops being grown. If they want to sell organic produce they’ll then have to register with an organic certification body, and then their land and farming processes must be thoroughly inspected.

4. The UK’s organic food and drink market is tiny

According to the National Farmers Union the organic sector accounts for just 1.4% of the UK’s multi-billion pound food and drink market. While a lot of organic food comes from local farms, much of it is imported (so always check the label!), so there’s a major opportunity for UK producers to grow more.

5. Organic food is hugely popular in Denmark

Half the Danish population buys organic food at least once a week, and it accounts for 8.4% of food and drink sales in the country. Denmark celebrates National Organic Day on the third Sunday of April, when the country’s 60,000 organic cows are let out of their barns for the summer to graze. Some cows are so excited by this they’re said to run, leap and even ‘dance’ with joy!

6. Organic farming gets rid of CO2

According to the Rodale Institute, a single acre of organic agriculture has the potential to remove 7,000 pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere every year. If the US converted all of its cropland to organic farming that would be the equivalent of taking 217 million cars off the roads.

7. Traditional farming isn’t sustainable

There are a lot of reasons why the global food chain is in crisis: rising demand for cheap food, damaging agricultural practices and climate change are just a few. But the fertilisers and pesticides used in traditional farming are a problem, too. Eventually the pests they’re designed to deter develop an immunity to the chemicals, meaning stronger and stronger formulas need to be created, which destroy soils and kills wildlife such as bees.

8. You can’t wash away chemicals

Pesticides and other chemicals used in conventional agriculture aren’t just on the skin of fruit and vegetables – they make their way into the flesh of the produce, too, which means they can’t simply be washed off. But it’s always a good idea to give your produce a rinse anyway, whether it’s organic or not.

9. Some organic produce is more beneficial than others

It’s important to get your five-a-day, regardless of how it’s farmed – fruit and veg are vital for good health. However, there are some types of produce where it makes more sense to opt for organic, and others where it doesn’t make so much of a difference. The Environmental Working Group recently released its list of ‘Clean 15’ fruit and veg, which have low-pesticide residue on crops, and its ‘Dirty Dozen’, which have the highest pesticide residue. So if you’re going to spend your money on just a few organic items, it would make more sense to choose strawberries and spinach, for example, instead of avocadoes and sweetcorn.

10. ‘Natural’ is not the same as organic

In order for packaging to state that a product is organic, it has to go through rigorous assessment and legal certification, which is time-consuming and expensive for food manufacturers. Some companies will try to get around this by using branding such as ‘natural’ or ‘certified naturally grown’, but it’s not the same thing. Always look for proper certification. In the UK, this will take the form of:

  • Organic Farmers & Growers CIC
  • Organic Food Federation
  • Social Association Certification
  • Biodynamic Association Certification
  • Irish Organic Association
  • Organic Trust Limited
  • Quality Welsh Food Certification
  • OF&G (Scotland)


The information in this article was correct at the time of writing and is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

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