As we head into autumn, Organic September is a month-long campaign designed to encourage more people to try organic products and educate them about organic farming practices. The Soil Association and the Organic Trade Board are organisations promoting certified organic products, who also believe that organic is better for wildlife. The 2021 campaign shows us why organic is better for wildlife with a focus on the 10 most endangered species in the UK in the ARC 2031 research. You can find out all the species here.
Since 2015, research has shown that organic farms act as a refuge for wild plants by providing habitats for bees, birds, butterflies and other wildlife, helping to offset the biodiversity losses on other farms. These conventional farms use pesticides designed to kill insects and pests that spoil crops. The trouble is that many farmers have become reliant on pesticides and these toxic chemicals end up in our food, waterways and are eaten by wildlife. This causes biodiversity loss and we can see the effects of this every day.
Species loss and why it matters
Biodiversity matters because it supports the vital benefits we get from the natural environment (such as pollinating crops) and it contributes to the economy, and personal health and well-being too. Lower biodiversity means that our countryside is becoming depleted of insects and wildlife and our soil is no longer teeming with microbes. Farms are increasingly less productive and our landscape is no longer varied and pulsing with life.
Species loss is a world-wide problem. The WWF’s Living Planet Report found on average a 68% fall in numbers of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish between 1970 and 2016. Now the WWF has reported that we are overusing the earth’s resources by 56%. We know, for example, that palm oil plantations are seriously reducing biodiversity in tropical forests which is leading to habitat loss for many iconic species including Orangutans. This is why at Greenscents, all our products are certified palm oil free.
But what is the state of biodiversity here in the UK?
Unfortunately, we are suffering the same kinds of losses as elsewhere in the world and there is very little evidence that things are improving. UK government-led research published at the end of June this year, has shown that we have experienced a decline in species abundance of 13% on average. 15% of species within the UK are threatened with extinction, and since 1970 the abundance of UK priority species has declined by 60%.
We are a nature-depleted nation, and what we have left are remnants of what was once here. Some of the statistics we have are quite troubling […] We have only a tiny percentage left of some of the very biodiverse herb-rich meadows that we had in the middle of the last century. Our native woodlands are down to just a few percent of the country and continue to be under pressure, so we can paint a pretty gloomy picture of where we have reachedThe Chair of Natural England, Tony Juniper
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) estimate that only around 5% of the UK’s land is both protected and effectively managed for nature and most assessments of UK biodiversity point towards ongoing loss, or no recovery.
This is a very worrying picture and many of us are concerned about the future of farming and countryside in the UK. It is time for us to expand the role of organic farming in the UK so that we can benefit from all the good things that organic farming provides.
- Reducing pesticides. Organic farmers are permitted to use just 20 pesticides, compared to around 400 in non-organic farming. These 20 pesticides are derived from natural ingredients – things like citronella and clove oil – these are only permitted under very restricted circumstances.
- Promoting healthier soils. With conventional farming around half of pesticides used in the UK are fungicides and these may be damaging the health of our soils. Organic farming builds soil fertility through composting and crop rotation, using legumes to fix nitrogen, rather than energy-hungry synthetic fertilisers. Organic farms have healthier soils, with more earthworms and a more diverse range of microbes.
- Nature-friendly land use. Maintenance of hedgerows, ponds and woodland are all part of being an organic farmer – planting more trees to slow climate change and provide more habitats too – there is no doubt that organic is better for wildlife.
If you want to be part of the nature revolution in the UK, there is no better way to start than by supporting organic farmers and choosing certified organic produce. While you’re are buying your organic fruit & veg, don’t forget that organic household & laundry products have all the same benefits for wildlife and prevent toxic chemicals polluting our water systems.