This article first appeared in our winter ’19 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Love Revolution, distributed with the Guardian on 22 February 2018. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
For over 70 years, growing, shopping and eating organic has been something of a revolutionary act. The irony is that farming has been done this way for thousands of years. It was only in the mid-20th century, when farming was intensifying and becoming more industrial in the wake of the second world war, that people started to see organic as a new approach to growing food.
Organic as we know it today was the brainchild of a group of agricultural revolutionaries; they were some of the first people to see the interconnectedness of a healthy environment and a healthy population. Their primary objective was ‘to bring together all those working for a fuller understanding of the vital relationship between soil, plant, animal and man’.
Now in its eighth decade, this revolutionary spirit has remained central to the organic movement – not just in the actions it takes, but in the people that make up the movement. They may not look like revolutionaries as they walk down the aisles of their supermarket or local food shop, but by putting organic products in their basket, the people who support this way of farming are helping to change the world.
The organic principles of health, ecology, fairness and care express the contribution that organic agriculture can make to the world. By buying organic, you are saving natural resources, protecting wildlife and supporting a food and farming system that can support a growing global population and our precious natural environment at the same time.
Organic farming and food production is not easy – it takes real commitment and attention to detail. In the face of climate change, rising diet-related illness and widespread declines in our wildlife, the need to produce healthy food, cut greenhouse gas emissions and protect wildlife grows more acute by the year. There is no magic bullet to tackle the challenges that face us, but our daily buying decisions are a simple yet powerful form of direct action.
Now, perhaps more than ever, when our understanding of the relationship between human health and the natural environment has never been better understood or more at threat, it’s vital for more people to become a part of the movement and see themselves as citizens with an active role to play.
For over 70 years, the Soil Association has been playing its part in the food revolution that is now in full swing. In the 1980s, following years of Soil Association campaigning, a full ban on the use of DDT in farming came into effect.
Thanks to pressure from a long-running Soil Association campaign, six antibiotic feed additives were banned in the EU in 1999. 12 years later, Soil Association co-founded the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics to continue to push for the reduction of antibiotics use in farming.
It hasn’t just been in farming that Soil Association has spearheaded change. In 2003, along with school cook Jeanette Orrey, it began Food For Life to champion healthy food and cooking skills for school children. Nationwide, the scheme now supports 1.8 million healthy meals a day across schools, care homes, hospitals and other public settings.
Soil Association’s latest campaign, From the Ground Up, returns to organic’s founding principles and the crucial role of citizens in the move towards a more sustainable food system.
The founders of the organic movement could see that everyone and everything is affected by the health of the soil and the quality of the food we eat.
Eight decades on, organic and the people that support it are once again at the heart of the food revolution. You might not feel like you’re saving the world when you put organic milk or carrots in your shopping basket, but choosing organic whenever you can has a big impact on our natural environment, wildlife, animal welfare and health.
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