Organic Agriculture = Natural, localized, sustainable, non-intensive, chemical-free agriculture! When discussing this question let’s consider: The Environment Protection of Biodiversity Conventional farming practices, including the use of mono-cropping and GM (Genetically Modified) crops, ultimately lead to soils depleted of natural minerals and nutrients, reliance on increased usage of pesticides, the creation of “super-resistant pests”, and total contamination of the affected ecosystem. On the other hand, organic farming practices, including composting or topsoil production, inter-cropping, the use and preservation of traditional and adapted varieties, and natural methods of pest control, promote diversity and allow for the holistic consideration of the earth and all living organisms. Protection of Water: Agriculture is the heaviest consumer of the world’s fresh water, currently exploiting 72% of the global supplies. This is primarily due to depleted soils that lack any water-holding capacity, as well as intensive, ill- placed cropping practices that disregard any climate suitability of crops (eg. drought tolerant species of crops should be grown in the tropics and water-demanding crops in temperate regions). Moreover, many pesticides and fertilizers leach into groundwater, polluting drinking water systems with various disease-causing chemicals. “Scientists say that nitrate runoff from Midwest farmers (from nitrogen fertilizers used to boost corn production) is already a big reason why as much as a 7,000-square mile area in the Gulf of Mexico suffers oxygen levels so low that it’s been called a “dead zone”, with most sea creatures at the bottom of the food chain dying.” Energy Consumption: Conventional farming requires approximately 10 calories of fossil energy to produce 1 calorie of food energy. It is the biggest consumer of fossil fuels than any other industry in the world. On the other hand organic farming generally uses little or no fossil fuels, its main necessity being manual labor, which in turn creates more jobs, and organic matter, which is converted into green manures for fertilization (instead of highly polluting chemical fertilizers). Health “By the year 2000 experts estimated that 4/10 of cancers were linked to our moving away from whole foods (whole grains, fruits and veggies)” – Frances Moore Lappé According to the World Health Organization there are an estimated 20,000 accidental deaths worldwide each year from pesticide exposure and poisoning. Pesticides are designed to kill living organisms, and thus have been found to cause cancer, birth defects, nerve damage, genetic mutation and many other health risks. The effects of pesticides and fertilizers not only affect those of us consuming chemical-ridden foods, but are an even greater hazard for farmers and agricultural workers. On the other hand, organic farming nourishes the soil, which nourishes the plant, and ultimately our bodies and our palates. Organically grown crops contain higher levels of essential nutrients, trace minerals and vitamins, including iron, calcium, and vitamin C, while at the same time supplying many antioxidants which are known for their cancer-prevention benefits. Organic foods are noticeably tastier, while industrial farming creates produce only for uniformity, ease of shipping, and cosmetic appearance, not flavor. “Worldwide, 95% of our food requirements are met by fewer than 30 plant varieties.” – Frances Moore- Lappé Culture and Society “Food is the one central thing about human experience that can open up both our sense and our conscience to our place in the world.” – Alice Waters Rural livelihoods: Thousands of farmers have given their life in India in the last two decades because of the debt incurred due to their dependence on buying seed from multinational seed companies. As an insurance against such vulnerability, organic farming methods allow for the conservation of biodiversity and the protection of small farmers through methods such as seed-saving, ensuring that we all have access to healthy, diverse, local, safe food. Job creation: While mechanized industrial farming replaces people with machines, organic farming depends on the labor of people, in turn creating and supporting livelihoods. Empowerment of women: By re-establishing traditional agricultural systems women regain their strength and independence as the seed keepers and preservers of traditional knowledge and farming techniques. Organic food and localization equal community integration. True Economics “Today, consumers don’t realize we pay for our food not just once, but many times. We pay at the store,yes. But we pay again in taxes going to subsidies for the biggest producers, who don’t need them. We pay a third time in the costs of pollution we endure from large farms destroying our soil, water, and air. Then we pay again in social services for those squeezed out by factory farms. And we pay again in the costs of urban crowding and sprawl.” –Jean-Yves Griot While organic foods might seem more expensive, conventional food prices do not reflect the hidden costs of production. Other hidden costs include pesticide regulation and testing, hazardous waste disposal and clean-up, and environmental damage. Food security: Organic farming is the only sustainable solution to maintain the world’s food supply. Instead of producing mono-culture crops , a variety of crops are sown in a given field thus resulting in a diversity of food, nutrients and general diversity in the surrounding environment. If one crop is attacked by pest and yields plummet, the other crops are there to ensure our sustenance whereas in mono-cultures, this is not possible Yield: “GM crops have always come with promises of increased yields for farmers, but this has rarely been the case. A three-year study of 87 villages in India found that non-BT cotton consistently produced 30 per cent higher yields than the (more expensive) GM alternative. It is now widely accepted that GM soybeans produce consistently lower yields than conventional varieties.” Reverting to smaller-scale organic farming implies the use of seed-saving practices, which in turn results in the development of local varieties of crops which are better suited and adapted to their environment. Seed-saving also gives a greater independence to the farmer who no longer needs to buy his or her seeds year after year and therefore directly reduces input costs.