Going organic isn’t about health. It isn’t about quality. It isn’t about status. These are some common misconceptions. For some people it’s about these things but there is one other hugely important factor, maybe the most important factor for us as humans, and that is the environment. Organic means without chemicals fertilisers and insecticides. It means naturally grown.

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What’s the big deal

It’s a testament to how crazy our world has become that this is not considered by the majority of people to be a priority. Many see organic produce as something for the privileged. It does not add value. It’s more money for vegetables that may be the same or even inferior to the ones that are non-organically grown. But that is not why organic is important. Organic is not really about benefiting the buyer. At least not directly. Organic is about benefiting the earth and the labourers who worked to grow that product.

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An organic tomato did not contribute to the use of chemical fertilisers and insecticides which are contaminating more and more of our earth, air and water. It did not contribute to the species loss this contamination is causing as the loss and poisoning of insect life is felt further down the food chain. And it did not contribute to the poor health, cancers and diseases which afflict the farmers from developing countries who are not protected by governmental legislation in the use of these chemicals. Let alone the health of local people living in areas where the land and water has been polluted by chemicals.

The story of chemical farming

The history of chemical fertilisers and insecticides is not a happy one. The discovery of the importance of nitrogen in the soil to facilitate plant growth led to the development of nitrogen boosting fertilisers using ammonia as a key ingredient. But their use did not become so widespread until after the Second World War when large scale ammonia production in the US had been established for the manufacturing of weapons. Once peace brought an end to that market there was a surplus of product and nowhere for it to go. Enter large scale fertiliser marketing, manufacturing and distributing. A market for ammonia did not exists so instead of diversifying they invested in building a new market and chemical fertilisers were the product of choice.

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The true cost

From this point on companies in the US began aggressively marketing their products to developing countries with the promise of greater productivity and yields. But our understanding of the long term effects of the use of ammonia based nitrogen boosting fertilisers was non-existent. Now, as the use of chemical fertilisers has deteriorated the soil quality to the extent that farmers have grown dependent on them for yields, we can see that the only sustainable part of this industry is the market for the fertilisers themselves. Using nitrogen based fertilisers gives quick returns but over time the soil loses the ability to regenerate and becomes less fertile to the point where the farmers need the fertilisers to grow anything at all.

Chemical fertiliser ushered in a new age of agriculture. With them we started growing huge fields of crops and mass food production was made possible. Growing rows and rows of a single crop make sense to an industry trying to maximise on yields but in nature this just creates a mono culture. There is no balance created by different plants and the ecosystems that surround them and so it becomes a breeding ground for pests. One type of animal can thrive unchecked in a limitless playground of food. This then creates the need for extensive use of insecticides which are essentially poison. Poison that is picked up by rain to be washed into rivers, affecting not only insect life but marine life and anything further up the food chain.

Make the change

Our food comes from all over the world. In many of these countries farmers are scratching a living on land ruined by chemicals, paying out significant amounts from their meagre earnings to buy in more of the stuff and lace their land with the deadly concoction that only increases their dependency. And the companies that sell this product know what they are doing.

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Chemical fertilisers are not safe or ethical and their existence is not justified because they are a way for people to make money. Dependencies on this horrible product turn farmers into debt slaves and our land into desert. And paying a little extra is how we stop that from happening. The reason we are in this mess is because we have learned to put cheap consumption over everything else but if we are willing to support our farmers properly then we can do the right thing by the earth.

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