organic is better for nature

Organic farming regards wild nature as a potential help to production, not a hindrance, and the sciences of organic production include biology, botany, zoology and ecology as well as agronomy.

Organic practitioners also think wild nature is valuable in itself, regardless of whether it has a possitive or negative relationship to production, or no relationship at all. That's a view they share with lots of people who are not farmers, who also care about conserving nature in all its forms so as to maintain the usefulness and beauty of biodiversity.

Preserving and enhancing biodiversity

Biodiversity is the key to a healthy (and beautiful) landscape, and healthy farming within that landscape.

Organic farming standards require certified organic farmers to maintain and enhance biodiversity on their farms, including protecting forest remnants, wetlands and other natural ecosystems that support native wildlife. Of course, not using toxic chemicals is also a huge help when it comes to protecting wild species.

Organic farming also uses biodiversity as a way to enhance production, a typical example being the planting of non-edible flowering species around food crops to attract a diversity of beneficial insects, both pollinators and predators.

Benefits above and below ground

Research on the differences to the farm and the rural landscape achieved by these organic farming practices shows that it is significant, with organic farms in both Europe and North America being consistently 30% higher in biodiversity than non-organic farms.

This biodiversity is not just above ground, with organic farms having a lot more areas set aside for nature, but also below ground. The greater range and number of soil micro-organisms on organic farms makes a significant contribution to land health and fertility.

Soil biodiversity is due to the organic farming practices which focus on keeping a healthy balance of carbon and nitrogen in the soil, and not applying fertilisers (such as synthetic nitrogen or phosphate-based fertilisers – especially those contaminated with cadmium) that end up causing pollution of soils, of the waterways they leach into, and of food.

Less greenhouse gas emissions

The fertilisers that pollute soil and water also play a major role in the world's biggest air pollution problem ever – greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming and related changes to the climate.

Around a third of global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and related food processing and distribution systems. In New Zealand, agriculture accounts for 49% of national greenhouse gas emissions.

The basic organic farming practices of building the soil with carbon and not applying chemical fertilisers mean that there is significantly less pollution from fertilisers and greenhouse gases from organic farms – as much as 50% less than non-organic farms, whether that farm is in China, the USA or New Zealand.

Enhanced energy efficiency

Storing energy in the soil in organic form rather than applying it in the form of fossil-fuel and other non-renewable mineral-derived fertilisers also makes organic farming much more energy efficient and sustainable than industrial agriculture.

As Miguel Altieri, Professor of Agroecology at the University of California Berkeley, says in this short talk 'Why is agroecology the solution to hunger and food security?'’ agroecological farming systems such as organic farming produce 15 or more kilocalories of food energy for every 1 kilocalorie of energy used on the farm, whereas in industrial agriculture the ratio is only 1.5 kCals of energy out for 1 kCal in.

For all these reasons it's true that organic really is better for nature.

Want hard evidence? Read the research: Make my meals greener than spinach.