The industrial agriculture system has convinced many Americans that it is a necessity in order to produce an adequate food supply for the entire country. It operates under the assumption that it produces higher yields, more profits and is overall more efficient than organic farming. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A 30 year side-by-side study published by the Rodale Institute found that organic farming out performed industrial farming in the areas of yield, profits, energy usage and greenhouse gasses. In fact, there are seven fundamental ways that organic farming outperforms industrial systems.
1. Profits – This is one you might think industrial farming would take, since profits are the bottom line for the companies that comprise the industry. But, due to significantly lower input costs (fertilizers, pesticides, oil, etc.), organic farming revenues are greater. The Rodale study showed the mean net return for the organic systems was $558/acre/year compared to only $190/acre/year for the industrial systems.
2. Yield – The 30-year Rodale study concluded that after a three-year conversion period, organic yields were equivalent to industrial yields. Another study cited by the Organic Consumers Association states “In a review of 286 projects in 57 countries, farmers were found to have increased agricultural productivity by an average of 79 percent, by adopting ‘resource-conserving’ or ecological agriculture.”
3. Employment – Conventional wisdom might convince you that a large scale industrial system has the potential to create more jobs than a small or medium sized organic system. This is not the case. Where human hands used to work, now machines take their place. Over the last hundred years, the EPA says labor efficiency has increased from 27.5 acres/worker to 740 acres/worker. While this may seem like a positive, it means the same care and attention cannot be paid and subsequently, crop quality is inferior.
4. Energy efficiency – Oil used to transport and apply fertilizers and pesticides, along with nitrogen fertilizer representing 41 percent of total energy costs, makes industrial farming far less efficient than organic. Organic systems consume 45 percent less energy overall than industrial systems, with production efficiency being a whopping 28 percent higher.
5. Resilience – Organic crops are more resilient during times of drought or climate change. Organic corn even outperformed GM so called “drought tolerant” varieties by between 18 to 24 percent.
6. Soil health – The Rodale study found that, while industrial systems merely maintained soil health by utilizing chemical fertilizers, which over time destroys microbial life and weakens soil integrity, organic systems improved soil quality.
7. Toxic chemicals – With over 17,000 pesticides used today, many of which haven’t undergone any safety testing, dangerous pesticide residue is a given when it comes to industrial farming systems.
The notion that organic farming is incapable of feeding the world is simply not true. The current industrial system does not even deliver on its primary goal of increased efficiency. Most troubling, we are left with nutritionally depleted, highly toxic foods sold at artificially low prices. Organic farmer, author and speaker Joel Salatin remarked “We spend around 10% of our income on food and some 16 percent on healthcare, and it used to be the reverse.” In other words, we get what we pay for.
Sources for this article include:
http://eartheasy.com http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_16207.cfm http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/fst30years http://www.naturalnews.com/033925_organic_farming_crop_yields.html
About the author: John Mckiernan is a health and fitness writer. He is the owner of Supplement Helper where he writes supplement reviews and more. He also manages CNA Info, a small blog aimed at answering questions for anyone interested in CNA work.
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