In recent years, farmers across the country have abandoned fertilizers, hormones and synthetic pesticides in favor of using organic growing methods. These changes in food production have resulted in more naturally grown foods that are better for both the environment and our health.
Generally, organic food is produced without the use of genetically engineered materials, irradiation or synthetic chemicals. Instead, the food is grown using ecologically integrated practices. Products that carry an ‘organic’ label in the United States must contain at least 95 percent organic materials. Foods that are made of at least 70 percent organic materials may be labeled as being made with organic ingredients. Certified organic animal products must come from animals that have had access to the outdoors, have not been treated with antibiotics or hormones and have been fed only organic feed.
According to the Rodale Institute, organic farming helps reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Each acre used for organic farming can reduce the amount of the gas emitted into the air by 7,000 pounds each year. The Organic Trade Association asserts that if each of the United States’s 435 million acres of farmland were converted into organic farmland, the difference in carbon dioxide emission would be equivalent to taking one third of the world’s cars off the road.
Organic farming also uses less energy to produce food than conventional methods. In another study, the Rodale Institute found that organic farms use 30 percent less energy and far less water than non-organic farms. Other studies claim the difference is even greater and that organic farming practices may use up to 50 percent less energy than other methods.
The planet’s water also benefits from organic farming. The pesticides widely used in conventional farming often end up in our water sources. Nearly half of the population of the United States relies on groundwater for drinking water. In agricultural areas, this water can be contaminated due to surface water runoff, improper disposal of pesticides and improper application of chemicals used on farms. Organic farming eliminates these issues by not using pesticides.
Pesticides also contribute to soil erosion, which can destroy the soil’s productivity and vitality. A study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture confirmed that organic farming actually builds the levels of nitrogen and carbon in soil, resulting in higher crop yields. The nine-year study found that organic plots yielded 18 percent more crops than plots that had been treated with pesticides.