With the continuous awareness of people about a healthier lifestyle and environment, more consumers are changing their eating habits into eating organic. Today, the global market for organic produce amounts to billions of dollars. Organic farming is a form of agriculture that uses different techniques which includes green manure, biological pest control, crop rotation and tillage, among others. It also promotes productivity in the ecosystem and is also said to promote animal welfare and water conservation,
Ironically, organic farming has already been in existence for thousands of years. However, with technology and the invention of synthetic fertilizers in the 18th century, which were mass-produced and cheaper, farmers turned to what is known today as conventional farming.
With the popularity of organic farming in modern-day agriculture, many consumers and farm owners are enjoying its benefits. However, there are also critics and skeptics of organic farming. To have a better understanding about the issue, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages associated with this form of agriculture.
List of Pros of Organic Farming
1. Healthier Food Option
Advocates for organic farming posit that with the process behind this type of farming, end-products are full of mineral and vitamins which accounts to the nutritional value of food. They say that organic foods have far more mineral content as opposed to food grown using the traditional farming method and contain 18 to 69% higher concentrations of antioxidants than the usual food purchased by consumers. And if Americans will choose organic food over conventionally grown food, they will become healthier. Moreover, animals that are herbivorous will also benefit from eating organic plants and crops.
2. Harmless Pesticides
The notion that organic farming does not use pesticides, herbicides and insecticides is a misconception. It uses pesticides and fertilizers such as insecticides and fungicides. However, these products are considered natural such as pyrethrin from flowers and bone meal from animals. Also, farmers engaged in organic farming do not use or at least limit the use of different methods to fertilize their crops. These are the use of synthetic petrochemical fertilizers, antibiotics used in livestock, human sewage and hormones which are plant growth regulators.
3. Better Taste
Apart from being nutritious, people who eat organic food as well as distributors claim that food grown organically are sweeter and taste better. A plant that is grown organically and without pesticides has an enhanced taste. Since there is a higher level of antioxidants, this affects the aroma and taste. Studies also show that plants respond to biological stressors such as harmful pesticides. Having said that, plants that are not exposed to stressors have intense flavors which are significant in how they taste.
4. Longer Shelf Life
Experts say that organic produce might have high levels of oxidants but when it comes to nitrate levels, it is exactly the opposite. Consequently, these products can be stored for longer periods of time than conventionally produced. Take for example an organic apple. It is noticeably firmer and has a longer shelf life. Organic potatoes, on the other hand have higher levels of Vitamin C. This also results to less susceptibility to decay and molds.
According to the Organic Trade Association, the method f organic farming results to the reduction of pollutants in groundwater and at the same time enrichment of the soil, which in turn reduces the possibility of soil erosion. Moreover, it lessens the presence of pesticides in drinking water. There has also been a study that took 15 years to complete which yielded results that organic farming only consumes 50% of the energy used by conventional farming.
List of Cons of Organic Farming
Organic farming uses several steps to yield products. On top of this, farmers also spend for fertilizers and fungicides that are more expensive than the competitors. These are just two of the reasons organic food is much more costly than conventional food. Moreover, these products are considered to be specialty products and when they are offered in restaurants, they will definitely cost more.
2. Smaller Yield
Critics of organic farming argue that farmers who plant using the organic method only harvest lesser produce as compared to farmers who use the conventional way of farming. Although proponents posit that this farming method results to superior produce, opponents point that over time, this advantage is toppled by the fact that there are situations where soil life is diminished due to industrialization, which results to lesser produce.
3. Demands Time
Another setback of organic farming is the length of time needed to grow crops. This faming method necessitates more interaction of the farmer to his crops. This includes investing time for observation, apart from its being labor-intensive which is also a reason why organic produce is more expensive when sold to consumers.
4. Effect on Environment
According to researchers who made an analysis on peer-reviewed studies, some organic products are harmful to the environment because of the emission of greenhouse gases per product as opposed to conventional food. These are organic pork, cereals and milk. Moreover, organic products require more land and that per unit of product generates higher nitrogen leaching, ammonia emissions and acidification.
5. Skills Needed
Critics of organic farming claim that this type of farming requires the farmer to be skilled since they have to know about the different methods of organic farming as well as the applications needed to grow food organically. A person who wants to transition from conventional to organic farming can also find it challenging. Skills needed are not only limited to farming skills, one should also have management, organizational, business and analytical skills.
Generally, organic farming offers many benefits to the environment and the people. Farmers who are practicing this method tend to earn more because people still buy organic produce despite its higher price. Consumers, on the other hand, are given a healthier food alternative. However, there are also relevant points from critics. Whether it is more of a benefit than a setback or vice-versa, consumers will be better off weighing the pros and cons of organic farming to discern if it is right for them.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.