Organic farming is a system of farming that emphasizes soil fertility. This is accomplished through crop rotations, compost, and cover crops. A strict emphasis on soil management is the foundation for providing food that the consumer can trust without worrying about synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, or irradiation. By using natural farming methods organic farmers are able to produce healthy, nutritious fruits and vegetables.
1. Protect Future Generations
The allowable level of pesticide detection on produce is based on adult weights. This means children receive a much higher percentage of allowable pesticides when they eat nonorganic fruits and vegetables. When compared to an adult, a child receives four times the exposure of eight widely used cancer-causing pesticides in food. The food choice you make will impact your child’s health in the future.
2. Prevent Soil Erosion
The Soil Conservation Service estimates that more than three billion tons of topsoil is eroded from croplands each year. That means soil is eroding seven times faster than it can build up naturally. Soil is the foundation of the food chain in organic farming. But in conventional farming the soil is used more as a medium for holding plants in a vertical position so they can be chemically fertilized. As a result, American farms are suffering from the worst soil erosion in history.
3. Protect Water Quality
Water makes up two-thirds of our body mass and covers three-fourths of the planet. Despite its importance, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that pesticides contaminate the ground water in 38 states, polluting the primary source of drinking water for more than half the country’s population.
4. Save Energy
American farms have changed drastically in the last three generations, from the family-based small business dependent on human energy to large-scale factory farms highly dependent on fossil fuels. Modern farming uses more petroleum than any other single industry, consuming 12 percent of the country’s total energy supply. More energy is now used to produce synthetic fertilizers than to till, cultivate, and harvest all the crops in the United States. Organic farming, on the other hand, is still based on labor-intensive practices such as weeding by hand, using green manures, and crop covers. Organic produce also tends to travel a shorter distance from the farm to your plate.
5. Keep Chemicals Off Your Plate
Many pesticides approved for use by the EPA were registered before extensive research linking these chemicals to cancer and other diseases had been established. Now, the EPA concludes that 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides and 30 percent of all insecticides are carcinogenic. A 1987 National Academy of Sciences report estimated that pesticides might cause an extra 1.4 million cancer cases among Americans. The bottom line is that pesticides are poisons designed to kill living organisms, and can also be harmful to humans. In addition to cancer, pesticides are implicated in birth defects, nerve damage and genetic mutation.
6. Protect Farm Worker’s Health
A National Cancer Institute study found that farmers exposed to herbicides had a greater risk, by a factor of six, than non-farmers of contracting cancer. In California, reported pesticide poisonings among farm workers have raised by an average of 14 percent a year since 1973, and doubled between 1975 and 1985. Field workers suffer the highest rates of occupational illness in the state. Farm worker health also is a serious problem in developing nations, where pesticide use can be poorly regulated. An estimated 1 million people are poisoned annually by pesticides. Several of the pesticides banned from use in the United States are still manufactured for export to other countries.
7. Help Small Farmers
Although more and more large scale farms are making the conversion to organic practices, most organic farms are small, independently owned and operated family farms of less than 100 acres. It’s estimated that the United States has lost more than 650,000 family farms in the past decade. And, with the US Department of Agriculture predicting that half of this country’s farm production will come from 1 percent of farms by the year 2000, organic farming could become one of the few hopes left for family farms.
8. Support the Local Economy & a Safe Food Supply
Although organic food might seem more expensive than conventional food, conventional food prices do not reflect hidden costs borne by taxpayers, including nearly $74 billion in federal subsidies in 1988. Other hidden costs include pesticide regulation and testing, hazardous waste disposal, and environmental clean-up.
9. Promote Biodiversity
Mono-cropping is the practice of planting large plots of land with the same crop year after year. While this approach tripled farm production between 1950 and 1970, the lack of natural diversity of plant life has left the soil lacking in natural minerals and nutrients. To replace these nutrients, chemical fertilizers are used, often in increasing amounts.
10. Taste a Better Flavor
There’s a good reason many chefs use organic foods in their recipes. They taste better. Organic farming starts with the nutrients of the soil which eventually lead to the nourishment of the plant and ultimately our palates.