Organic farming is a big-picture exercise. It’s not only targeted at this season’s results, but considers future generations. In the long run it makes better economic sense as well. But its main goal is to contribute to a healthier world.
Studies conducted all over the world have shown the effects that conventional chemical farming has on the environment. Certainly, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides increase the quantity of a farm’s production. But at what cost? A 21-year Swiss study showed that organic farming yields an average of 20% less than conventional methods. But the organically grown food contained 50% less fertilizer and 97% less pesticides.
Though only a fraction of the amount of pesticides a farm uses actually does the job of eliminating bugs, all of it remains active in the soil for months or even years after application. Perhaps worse, each generation of pests is growing increasingly immune to the chemicals used.
It’s not even all about the food and the soil. The pesticides used in conventional agriculture are ultimately spill their chemical residues and nitrates into the waterways. It affects wildlife, soil erosion and ecosystems as a whole. According to a Worldwatch paper, Deep Trouble: The Hidden Threat of Groundwater Pollution, toxic chemicals are contaminating groundwater on every inhabited continent, endangering the world’s most valuable supplies of freshwater.
Perhaps not so intuitive, organic farming affects the air. "Organic agriculture can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by effectively locking more carbon into the soil rather than releasing it into the atmosphere," found "Farming Systems Trial," a 15-year study conducted by the Rodale Institute of Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Organic agriculture even uses 50% less energy than conventional farming.
How does organic farming deal with pests? Organic farmers intentionally build up populations of beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, that eat other pests and control the growth of larvae. Wildflowers create green belts that control the spread of weeds and themselves encourage the beneficial insects.
Farmers have to adhere to strict standards and practices to earn the label "organic." Looking forward, by promoting biological diversity and maintaining soil fertility, organic farming creates a natural self-sustaining balance that helps to get high quality food in healthy quantities year after year.
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Debbie O'Meara is the owner of http://www.organic-food-and-drink.com, full of resources and information about organic food and beverages. Get the free newsletter for organic specials and updates, plus a free ecourse on wine!