AND FARMING METHOD
A government report on
organics showed that, since 1996, the area had risen from
25,000 hectares to 250,000 last year, although 27% of this
was in conversion from conventional crops. Organic farmers
had grown from 900 to 4,000 in the same period.
About 4% of
agricultural land was organic, and it was a £1bn a year
business. The government favoured organic production: it used
less energy, caused less pollution to air and water, and less
nitrate loss from soil.
A bit of backgroung information
to maintain the vital balance of nature in
farming and food dates back to the 1920s. Fertilizers,
new pesticides, herbicides and mass rearing
of animals were coming into use to increase
production of crops and animals per hectare.
After the Second World War, the use of intensive
methods encouraged the greater use of fertilizer,
the removal of hedges to give bigger fields,
and large scale mono culture.
A few far sighted people realized that this
kind of farming was slowly eroding the natural productivity
of the land and changing the landscape by reducing
wildlife and its habitat. The term “organic” gradually
came to describe farming methods not causing environmental
“The criteria for a sustainable agriculture can be summed up in one word
- permanence, which means adopting techniques that maintain soil fertility indefinitely,
that utilize, as far as possible, only renewable resources; that do not grossly
pollute the environment; and that foster biological activity within the soil
and throughout the cycles of all the involved food chains.”
Lady Eve Balfour was a leading pioneer of
organic farming. Trained in conventional agriculture, after
some 20 years of farming, she began to study organic farming
ideas and around 1940, turned her farm organic.
With other farmers, she helped found The Soil Association in 1946. Lady Eve was
its first president, and carried on encouraging organic methods until she was
100, in 1988. Her Suffolk farm became a centre of research into organic farming
methods, the role now carried on at Elm Farm Research Centre, www.efrc.com.
Rudolf Steiner (1861 - 1925) was an Austrian
philosopher and scientist who developed a form of organic agriculture
known as bio dynamic, meaning moving with life.
His teaching that humans should work with the rhythms and laws of nature are
followed today by a growing number of bio dynamic farmers, as well as in Steiner
schools, medicine and social banking companies.
Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, published in 1963, made
many people aware of the destructive effects on wildlife of DDT, then legally
used as a pesticide. Her best seller influenced the growth of efforts to protect
the environment, including organic farming.
organic philosophy is that humans must recognize that humans
can only survive and thrive if they live in harmony with the
delicate balance of nature between plants, animals, earth and
In farming, that means using methods that
conserve and enrich the soil without causing pollution, damaging
wildlife or using up too many the the world's resources .
world's shallow layer of topsoil, on which all our future food
depends, contains billions of tiny live organisms in a single
These are essential to soil fertility.
Protecting the soil and
preventing its erosion are essential to our future.
Look for these symbols
Things to note.
Today, just over 4% of farmland
in the UK is farmed organically. In Europe, the proportion
is about the same.
Worldwide, the market is worth an estimated £15 billion.
America and Europe both sell over £5 billion worth
of organic food and drink each year. In the UK, the market
was valued at £920 million last year.
Across Europe and in the UK the market
is growing quickly, on average by 15% each year.
food still represents a very small portion of our total food sales, only 1%.
Most of that, over 80%, is sold through the supermarkets.
Of the organic food we eat in the UK, about 65% is imported.
Nearly 80% of UK
households bought organic food last year. A core 8% of consumers account for
60% of sales.
Like other European governments, the UK gives a small amount
of financial support to UK farmers whilst they are going
organic, or “in conversion”.
Figures based on reading Soil Association Organic
food and farming report 2002.