Organic Agriculture: A Clean, Safe, and Environmentally Friendly Process of Food Production
The agriculture industry especially in the developed countries experiences opposition to the modern agriculture. Various efforts on agriculture in the past have been geared towards the utilization of science and technology to produce enough food to supply the growing world population. At present though, particularly in developed countries the trend in agriculture is the opposite. The production of food through “organic” farming is the contemporary belief in exchange for the “mass food production to feed the hungry populace” agriculture slogan. The question now is what are the catalysts of this contemporary trend? Does recent occurrences in the society influence the so called “healthy eating through organic foods” belief to emanate? This essay will unravel the explanations for the rallying call for “organic” agriculture. My argument will be that to condemn the proponents of organic agriculture due to their quest for healthy food is unjust and selfish. I believe that the explanations for the contemporary cry of the health conscious global populace is in relation to the diseases acquired by the population in their long term consumption of products of modern agriculture and the hazards in the environment due also to this type of agriculture.
In the last decade, the global development of organic agriculture had a speedy occurrence. Estimates of 120 countries around the world are already engaged in organic farming. The recent data collected indicates that there are more than 31 million hectares and no less than 623’174 farms around the globe that practice organic farming. A steady increase in the markets of organic products is also highly noticed in other countries aside from its primary markets in Europe and North America. The growing approval of organic products is not only experience in developed countries but in the developing nations as well (Willer et al, 2006, p. 5).
The global acceptance of organic agriculture implies that this methodology has more to offer than modern agriculture does. DeGregori (2004) criticized the proponents of organic agriculture because according to him they fail to recognize the importance of the modern agriculture’s utilization of advance sciences to provide enough food for the whole world. Yes, it is true that the progresses of modern agriculture made possible the sustenance of the global food rations but what this author failed to recognize is that the needs of the people have gone far beyond food’s purpose of alleviating hunger. At present, it is not only enough for agriculture to sustain the growing food needs of the global populace. Various considerations like the impact of the methodologies utilized in the food production to the environment, man, and animals; and, the capacity of the food produced to nourish its consumers need to be considered because man is already aware that long-term effects of agriculture aspects are more significant than just feeding the hungry. The yield of food today to feed the populace is useless if tomorrow we would be extinct due to the consequences of the methodologies we used in the production of that food.
So what is organic agriculture and why is there a rallying call for it? The production method that upholds the health of the ecosystem, soils, and people is termed as organic agriculture (IFOAM). This farming scheme does not utilize synthetic products like herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides. The focus of this method rather is centered on biological processes that include composting for soil fertility sustenance, crops and livestock diversity, and natural pest control. Importance of long-term health of the ecology is highly regarded in organic agriculture (Lim). Organic farming therefore is environmental friendly and upholds superior wellbeing of man, animals and environment.
The fundamental practices of organic agriculture are the following: intensive rotation of crops planting; strict limitations on the application of synthetic chemicals like pesticide and fertilizer, antibiotics for livestock, and other feed additives; intolerance of genetically modified organisms; utilization of natural fertilizers like animal manure; thorough selection of plant and animal species that are naturally adapted to location environment and naturally resistant to local diseases; and, free-range livestock raising accompanied by open air systems and organic feeding. The produced organic products are ensured that addition of non-organic substances in different areas of production or manufacture procedures does not occur. With these primary practices behind organic farming, the consumers are guaranteed that the products are fresh and as natural as possible (European Commission).
Organic farming materialized in the 20th century and gained noteworthy popularity during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Even at the start the general theme of this mode of agriculture was the gearing towards environmentally friendly and sustainable food production system. It was only in the last decade that remarkable expansion of organic farming started (Miles, ). From then on and up to the present, the organic agriculture sector continuously gaining support from other public institutions.
The advocacy for organic farming did not materialize in an instant. Instead it was established over time as humanity’s answer to the harmful effects brought about by industrial or modern agriculture. The hazards brought about by methodologies of modern agriculture affect not only us humans but the environment and animals as well. The principal problem of the modern agriculture methodologies is the application of chemical pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers. Don’t be blinded by these chemical manufacturers promise of positive result because in reality the application of chemicals in agriculture is coupled with several problems. Number one of these problems is the exposure of the environment, humans, and animals to the toxic effects of the chemicals being applied. The fertilizers and pesticides applied to the crops diminished the soil’s capacity to sustain continuous planting seasons because these chemicals gradually poison the soil and interact with its minerals depriving the plants of the nourishment naturally obtained from the soil. Acification/salinization of the soil is also results of chemical application to agricultural lands. Extremely acidic or basic lands will also not support the growth of crops. In the long run, instead of the pesticides and fertilizers helping the plants obtain their optimum growth they will hinder the progression of these growths (Maharishi Global Administration).
Toxic chemical contaminations of land and water are additional problems in modern agriculture’s application of fertilizer and pesticide. The chemicals that contaminate the soil and water when ingested by humans and animals can cause toxicity and disease conditions. Included in the disease conditions indicated are: decreased fertility in males, cancer, neurological diseases, and immune system problems. In United States, 12 of the commonly utilized pesticides are categorized as carcinogenic. Aside from the association with cancer occurrence, these chemicals also are linked to miscarriages, abnormalities in sperm structure and functions, and birth defects (Natural landscape project). Studies and researches conducted on the capacity of agricultural chemical contamination to cause disease conditions justify the claim that modern agriculture is detrimental to the health of the animals and humans. Organic agriculture that uses no toxic chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers therefore produces a safer food supply compared to modern agriculture.
Another issue with regards to the pesticides applied in modern agriculture is the development of insect resistance to the chemicals applied. Instead of the pesticides killing the insects that will attack the plant and prevent good harvest, these pesticides help the next generations of pests like insects and rodents to mutate into species that are not affected by the applied chemicals. The pesticides therefore promote the capacity of the pests to propagate and attack the crops. The fertilizers and chemicals also contribute to environmental pollution specifically the water, air, and land pollution. The chemicals that supposedly help humanity increase the food production are among the culprits of destruction of the ozone layer and global warming. It is rather true that these chemicals in the beginning help the agricultural sector yield more food but the long term effects of the application of these chemicals also threatens the existence of the human populace ( Maharishi Global Administration).
Modern agricultural methods of farming also brought the diminished biodiversity of the plants and animals. The excessive utilization of the toxic pesticides and fertilizers suppresses the existence of some animal and plant species that have their own specific role in their ecology. The long term effect is the decreased varieties of plants and animals that thrive. This phenomenon is an agricultural problem because diminished biodiversity means loss of plant and animal species that have various significant potentials (Maharishi Global Administration). The methodologies of modern or industrial agriculture therefore hinders instead of sustaining the food supply needs because it pollutes the soil and water resources, endorse erosion, and catalyze climate change thru global warming.
The various long –term side effects of chemical application in modern agriculture proves that “organic” agriculture is a much better alternative. The recognition of the positive attributes of organic agriculture further intensified the advocacy efforts. These highly regarded qualities are: the production of increased agricultural yield without harming the environment, utilization of less fossil energy per crop production, minimal emission of greenhouse gases contributing to climate change prevention, decreased amounts of water usage, freedom from pesticides, positive ecosystem impacts, and benefits in the consumer’s nutrition (Hamer et al).
The highlight of the advantages of organic agriculture products is the health benefits. Compared to the industrial agriculture products, organic foods like the fruits and vegetables have more nutrients and flavor; and, free from toxic chemicals. The prohibition of synthetic chemical’s application to organic plants as fertilizers or pesticides ensure the consumers that the organic foods are 100% free of toxic chemicals. The organic foods also are free of genetically modified (GM) products which are potentials threats to human health. Organic animal products also have no antibiotics or drugs included because the livestock animals that are organic are not treated with antibiotics or other synthetic drugs. The residual antibiotics when present in the animal products you consume could cause health conditions such as allergies and can trigger the development of antibiotic resistance which is detrimental to your health. In times of infection, your body will not be able to combat the infectious agent because of the drug resistance so your health is compromised (“Organic? What’s the big deal?).
The detractors of organic agriculture stated that this methodology will be inefficient in sustaining the food supply needed by the worlds growing populace. The critics of organic farming states that the technology utilized in this agriculture method will only aggravate the poverty further because of the expensive costs of the technology that depend on nutrient sources that are organic. In their point of view, it is unreasonable to practice organic farming because the improvements in the soil quality will only be observed after long term application of the organic matter (Dawe et al, 2008).
My argument to this view is that organic methods though laborious, expensive, and needs long term application to see the positive effects is worth the all the fuss. If we are going to compare the expenses on organic technology with the environmental destructions that industrial agriculture has caused, definitely the organic technology is cheaper. The technology of organic agriculture renewable making it cheaper whereas the damages caused by modern agriculture to the environment are too much to quantify in monetary terms. The critics also state that organic farming can cause soil nutrient deficiencies and excesses. Yes, this can occur but will be relatively manageable compared to the poisoning caused by the chemical pesticides and fertilizers employed in modern agriculture.
Though critics continuously, condemn organic agriculture methodologies, studies like that conducted by the University of Michigan prove always these detractors wrong. The group of Catherine Bandgley concluded in their study that organic farming can yield as much as 300 percent more than that of the conventional farming methods (Gourdazi). Sustainability of organic farming is also concluded by the authors of the research in 2007 entitled “Organic Agriculture and the Global Food Supplies”. In the said study it is indicated that the range calorie production per person in organic farms is higher than the standard which is 2,786 calories each individual in a day (“Organic Agriculture is Better than Industrial Agriculture”). These data signifies that organic farming can indeed sustain the increasing global supply needs and is more reliable than that of the modern agriculture. The studied regarding the sustainability of organic farming has already indicated that it is effective thus what’s left to do is to set these studied methods into motion.
Agriculture according to the World Development Report (WDR) is an integral instrument in obtaining the Millennium Development Goals that includes the reduction of poverty and hunger globally. This industry as a development tool can be partnered with various sectors to create livelihood, reduce poverty, and maintain the environment (World Bank, 2008, p. 1-9). Addressing the goals of using agriculture as an instrument in rural development, poverty reduction, and protection of the environment can be attained through integrating organic farming as the primary agriculture methodology. In organic farming, the health of the environment is surely protected whereas the poverty can be managed properly because organic agriculture does not need too much monetary input like the modern agriculture methodologies.
The growing number of evidences that point out modern agriculture practices as the causes of threats to the health of the environment, man, and animals. The search for alternative methods of food production aside from the modern agriculture should be encouraged instead of being condemned. Is it wrong to find solutions to the harm done by man on the environment? I don’t think so. It is man’s responsibility to protect the earth’s resources for it to be able to sustain the future needs of the generations to come. In implementing the organic agriculture methodology, man does not neglect the things that science and technology provided in the past. Instead, the proponents of organic farming are exploring the methods to compensate to the hazards done by man’s science to the environment. Organic agriculture can utilize science and technology in further developing this sectors practices and methodologies.
Organic agriculture is the best alternative to the modern or industrial agriculture that destroyed the resources of the earth. Though is organic farming still has various aspects that needs further studies, it is no question that the only way to help save the health of the environment, humans, and animals from future agriculture consequences is to go “organic” – the most safe, clean, and environmentally friendly method of food production.
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International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). 2008. Defining Organic Agriculture for the World. Retrieved November 1 , 2008, from http://www.ifoam.org/organic_facts/doa/index.html
Miles,C., Granatstein, D., and Koshinen, T. 2002. An assessment of organic farming research, teaching and extension at Washington State University. Report Number 3, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University, Puyallup,WA. P.1-25.
“Organic? What’s the big deal?”. Retrieved November 1 , 2008, from http://www.princeton.edu/~greening/organic4.htm#healthcp
“Organic Agriculture is Better than Industrial Agriculture”. Retrieved November 1 , 2008, from http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4652
Willer, H. and Yussefi, Minou. 2006. The World of Organic Agriculture. Statistics and Emerging Trends 2006. International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), Bonn Germany and Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, Fick, Switzerland.
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