The respect for the environment is an intrinsic part of organic agriculture. Organic farming is a method of food production that combines best environmental practices, a high level of biodiversity and the preservation of natural resources.
Organic farmers in the European Union are obliged to respect nature's systems and cycles; ensure the health of the soil, water, plants and animals; contribute to a high level of biodiversity. Organic farmers also make responsible use of energy and natural resources, such as water, soil, organic matter and air.
Soil is arguably one of the earth’s most important – yet often neglected – natural resources. It is essential for life on earth because it nurtures plants, which in turn provide food and oxygen for humans and animals. Organic farmers respect the value and importance of soil by carefully monitoring what they put in and take out of it and how their activities affect its fertility and composition.
Organic farmers don’t just seek to maintain the soil in a healthy, fertile and natural state – they also try to enhance its condition through the provision of appropriate nutrients, improvements to soil structure and effective water management.
It is a general principle of organic farming that every living organism should be held in high regard: from the tiniest micro-organism living in the soil to the mightiest tree towering above it. For this reason, every link in the organic food supply chain is geared towards maintaining and, wherever possible, increasing the diversity of plants and animals. Practices that contribute to high levels of biodiversity are often the result of good farming practice, as well as of the EU organic farming Regulation .
Organic farmers typically regard water not just as an input into the agricultural cycle, but as a vital resource for fostering life on earth that must be protected and enhanced through careful management. It goes without saying that farmers generally do not use water wastefully because they know how vital careful use can be to the successful growth of plants and livestock. And, while water use is not extensively covered by the EU regulations, organic methods contribute to retaining water resources and maintaining the high quality of these water resources.
Organic farmers can see the results of their hard work, not only in the satisfaction of those who consume their products, but also in the fields, streams, trees and hills that surround them. While the EU organic farming Regulation does not specify what practices should be used to contribute to the management and maintenance of the natural environment, other rules and voluntary practices followed by farmers can have a positive follow-on effect.
All agricultural activity invariably involves modification of the natural environment; however, organic farming attempts to reduce this as much as possible, so that organic farms essentially blend into the surrounding landscape and respect it.