If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, I’m sure you’ve encountered some type of organic produce. Usually this stuff looks less than appetizing, but apparently people are buying it. Despite the fact that there is absolutely no health or nutritional advantage, organic sales have been increasing.
But, you say, maybe organic food is the way to go! Less fertilizers, less pesticides, less scary corporate farms! There are certainly a lot of people that would like all of our food to be produced organically.
Not so fast.
A study that was just published a couple days ago reveals that yields for organic farms can’t compete with conventional farms. The study found:
“Crop yields from organic farming are as much as 34% lower than those from comparable conventional farming practices, the analysis finds. Organic agriculture performs particularly poorly for vegetables and some cereal crops such as wheat, which make up the lion’s share of the food consumed around the world.”
If the study is accurate, it means that if we only produced food organically, there would be a significant decrease in the amount of food available. That might not be a problem for wealthier Americans or people that are already willing to spend more to purchase organic, but it certainly creates a problem for the millions of people around the world that are already struggling to buy enough food. (We won’t even mention Americans that buy processed food because it’s cheaper.)
Unless those yields are brought up to par with conventional farming, a massive swing to organic food could potentially mean that food prices would soar. Supply and demand. If the supply shrinks and demand stays the same (or grows with the human population…), the price is going to go up and up and up….
Of course, none of this considers what would happen if we did stop farming conventionally. I’d be willing to bet though that there would be an increase in pests in the environment, since conventional farming works to control the population. As an example then, an uncontrolled pest population may bring organic yields down even more.
In order to continue producing enough food to properly feed the world’s population, we need those advances in technology. Otherwise, someone isn’t going to get fed — and that will mostly fall on the poorest people in the world. As pointed out in the article, organic “yields are lower than in conventional farming, so producing the bulk of the globe’s diet will require agricultural techniques including the use of fertilizers….” So switching to all organic means less food, higher prices, and more starving people.
Chew on that next time someone suggests you should buy all organic.
Image: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This all, of course, is predicated on the idea that the current paradigm of consumption continues at the current rate. We throw away more food a year than some other nations consume. You're making the (deliberate) mistake of assuming pro-organic advocates suggest we simply switch to organic food production and keep right on truckin'. This is, of course, ridiculous and immature. BUT, because of your bias, you imagine that your beliefs take into account all complexities, whereas your opponents have immature and ill-conceived ideas without considering all the facts and nuance. This is illusion of asymmetrical insight leads you to confirm your already-held belief that anyone who disagrees with you is an idiot.Great. I'll continue grow my family's own food and be healthier for it, despite what you think. And a couple of hundreds years in the future, when we've polluted our rivers, stripped our soil, and ruined our environment and the consequences of our decadence come to fruition, zombie-me and zombie-you can have a good chuckle at how naive everyone is. Take care, and enjoy your chemicals.
Thanks for attempting to analyze my argument, but that doesn't make anyone miss the fact that you've missed the point. 1. We have been farming the same land for hundreds of years. It isn't poisoned, it isn't ruined. And it is in our best interest to keep it that way. We don't douse the fields in dangerous stuff. So when we use chemicals, we are using them responsibly — we aren't going to poison our own farms. We also eat the stuff we produce, so it is important to us that it is safe.2. Those chemicals have allowed us to produce more food more efficiently as time has continued. While you seem to think not wasting as much food will dramatically change the landscape (and, don't get me wrong, not wasting food is a good goal), it won't. That is a naive position. By 2050 we will need to produce as much food each year as we have in entire history of farming. That would be impossible with organic farming. The only scenario where organic farming works completely is when 34% of today's population starves (because you can only produce, AT BEST, 66% of what we can produce). That isn't an ethical position to have and I'm sorry you think that is ok (nor can you save enough food in little ziplock baggies to feed the starving 34%).3. Organic food is not nutritionally better than conventional food. While I'm sure having a garden is better because you consume more vegetables (which IS healthier), you aren't healthier simply because it is organic. Nonetheless, I'm glad you're here at the site and I hope you'll stick around and keep reading!