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.