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Organic Agriculture

Current industrial farming methods are responsible for mass deforestations; reduction of biodiversity; mining of non-renewable groundwater; and pollution in the form of pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics, and greenhouse gas emissions. Many critics of the organic movement argue that while organic farming is nice in theory because it’s so much better for the environment, it’s not a feasible method for feeding the world.

A recent United Nations (2008) agricultural study found that although organic growing methods produce lower yields under some conditions, when best management practices are applied, they actually produce significantly better yields. Furthermore, such methods produce more healthy and resilient soils that are better able to retain water.

Barry Estabrook (2011), author of Tomatoland, argues that organic farming is the only agricultural method that will be capable of feeding 9 billion people – the projected world population for 2040. A research review of nearly 100 studies of the potential for organic agriculture to feed the world supports this conclusion (Hewlett & Melchett, 2008).

Our current industrial agricultural system depends upon cheap labor, cheap energy, and other unsustainable resources and practices. According to the Rodale Institute (cited in Estabrook, 2011), shifting to organic, sustainable agriculture would:

  • Generate yields similar to those of industrial agriculture
  • Improve soil
  • Conserve water
  • Eliminate toxic pesticides and commercially produced fertilizers (and the expenses of these products for farmers)
  • Reduce fossil fuel use  because organic methods require up to 50% less energy
  • Diminish global warming by sequestering carbon in compost and cover crops
  • Increase the nutrient density of food

Under the current industrial system, enough calories are produced to feed everyone in the world, yet a significant proportion of the global population is undernourished due to problems associated with distribution. This indicates that local organic food production is the key to long-term local food security.

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