One of the big buzzwords in the world of environmentally friendly individuals is “organic”.
But is organic farming really sustainable farming?
And is organic food the answer to world hunger or are organic farmers barking up the wrong tree?
We asked some horticulturalists for their input and what we learned about organic farming is quite shocking. You need to know this before you buy any more organic foods.
Organic Farming vs Conventional Farming
Organic farming as opposed to conventional farming choose to avoid the use of chemicals to treat the soil or deal with pests and organic systems, generally speaking, involve intensive monoculture practices.
That’s because conventional farming damages soil fertility and soil biodiversity, and over time it leads to land degradation. That means conventional farming does not employ sustainable farming practices.
It can also lead to long-term pollution of the environment due to the use of chemical inputs and synthetic fertilizers and even damage the health of workers.
So when we choose between organic and conventional agriculture it’s a no-brainer, right?
The Benefits Of Organic Farming Practices
There are definitely benefits to organic farming for those involved in it.
Farmers who work on the farms are much less likely to get sick due to chemical poisoning, their crops are likely to taste better, and they benefit from organic certification, which helps them win new business from those who want healthier choices for the family dining table.
However, as much as we like the idea of going organic – it’s not a sustainable farming practice.
Does Organic Agriculture Contribute To Climate Change?
Yes, and worse, it may contribute more to global warming than traditional farming systems do.
Why? Organic farming systems and organic practices need more land to deliver the same yields as commercial conventional farms do. Organic crops are more prone to dying during the organic production process and they tend to be smaller because they aren’t force-fed with chemical fertilizers.
One alarming fact is that this means that an organic farm might be creating deforestation by accident as it creates pressure for more farming land and that means that land needs to be cleared for farming use. In turn, this will create more greenhouse gas emissions and the release of soil organic carbon dioxide which is going to speed up climate change.
Issues For Organic Farms
In the year 2015, the Indian State of Sikkim converted to organic methods for all their farms, by law.
And the initial results were mixed. While most products didn’t lose very much in the way of yield, their orange yields dropped by over 20%!
The state also acknowledged that these methods aren’t going to solve their food dependency issues on other states and that means they rely on food security from other areas of India.
It’s also worth noting that local farmers aren’t exactly enthusiastic about this move to organic production either.
Is Organic Produce Capable Of Feeding The World?
And this is the biggest issue when weighing up conventional or organic farming methods, organic food production might be good for us but it has two major problems.
That reduced yield from crop production? That leads to much higher prices when compared to conventional farming systems. Some researchers admit that if you produce food in this way, it’s not only not going to feed the world but it’s going to see a price increase at the till for shoppers of between 50 and 200%!
There is also another, perhaps lesser issue, in that organic food may not be healthier for us, either. When we don’t use toxic chemicals to protect plants? They create their own to fight off pests.
That might mean that when we eat these foodstuffs, they are more, not less toxic to human health!
Is It Time For An Organic Revolution?
Please don’t think that we’re anti-organic agriculture at all, but if it is to become truly sustainable then it needs to address the issues raised above.
We’re certain that if enough resource was devoted to researching new practices for organic farmers then we could swiftly find a way to use fewer chemicals, boost yields and ensure that everyone has enough to eat at a price they can afford.
What we think the world needs is an organic revolution in its universities and national policies. Not a sudden switch to “all organic” as in Sikkim state but a planned migration based on capacity and capability, instead.
Final Thoughts On Organic Farming And The Environment
Organic is definitely better for the environment than traditional agriculture is and we’re still confident that the food is healthier too (despite the reservation above) but if it is to be fully sustainable – there are legitimate concerns to be addressed or organic agriculture may do more damage to the planet in the long term than it prevents.