For years, the debate on organic versus conventional farming has been ongoing. While some tout the benefits of organic, others have claimed that organic farming has no added value to the consumer. However, now those arguments against organic are finally being put to rest.
A recent report by the Rodale Institute, called the Farming Systems Trial – 40-Year Report, provides a comprehensive analysis and comparison between organic and conventional farming using pesticides and chemicals. The study, which lasted four decades, found that organic farming is superior to using pesticides and chemicals to grow food.
According to the report, organic farming offers many benefits to ecosystems and people. The researchers published some surprising results, including:
- Organic systems are up to six times more profitable than conventional production.
- The yields for organic and conventional were the same following a five-year transition period for the organic system.
- Droughts had less of an effect on organic systems, with organic yields topping out at 40% higher than conventional yields.
- Conventional farming that is pesticide intensive leaches toxic compounds into nearby rivers, lakes, and other waterways – organic systems do not leach any toxic substances.
- Organic systems use 45% less energy than conventional systems.
- Organic systems also beat conventional systems in carbon emissions by 40%.
Other studies and reports, including the Farming Systems Trial (FST), have had similar findings, but this is one of the largest and longest studies, and the results are hard to argue against.
Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial was launched in 1981 to address the adoption barriers of organic farming by farmers. It contains 72 experimental plots that are divided into three groups. Each group is managed using a specific approach to farming: organic manure, organic legume, and conventional synthetic. Within the three groups, some are tilled, and some are not. This provides a total of six different systems for study.
The soil used for organic systems is a healthy soil that has a number of beneficial organisms like nematodes, algae, bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and more. Each of these contributes to soil health as well as plant health, yielding better quality food for humans and animals. This results in better quality, healthier beef and dairy. Healthy soil also holds water making it more effective in aiding plants in surviving a drought.
The best way to support organic farming is to buy organic. The more people purchase organic products, the more demand they will create. Shopping locally also minimizes the processes between farm and table, where imported produce is often stored in a warehouse for months, and some are chemically ripened when preparing for sale.
Look for the USDA Organic Seal wherever you purchase your food, and make it a point to buy local and organic when you can. It is healthier for you, and you can support the local economy by supporting local growers and farmers in your area.