PHOTO GALLERY



Earth Talk Today is November 24th, 2014|Hudson Valley Press - More Than News |Bookmark HVPress!



June 19th, 2013

Organic agriculture is still lagging far behind



Perceptions about how much healthier organic foods are than non-organic foods are impacting the growth of the sector. Even if the benefits of eating organic aren’t clear, the environmental advantages are. Credit: iStockPhoto

Dear EarthTalk: I understand that, despite the popularity of organic foods, clothing and other products, organic agriculture is still only practiced on a tiny percentage of land worldwide. What’s getting in the way?

- Larry McFarlane, Boston

Organic production may still represent only a small fraction of agricultural sales in the U.S. and worldwide, but it as been growing rapidly over the last two decades. According to the latest global census of farming practices, the area of land certified as organic makes up less than one percent of global agricultural land—but it has grown more than threefold since 1999, with upwards of 37 million hectares of land worldwide now under organic cultivation. The Organic Trade Association forecasts steady growth of nine percent or more annually for organic agriculture in the foreseeable future.

But despite this growth, no one expects organic agriculture to top conventional techniques any time soon. The biggest hurdle for organics is the added cost of sustainable practices. "The cost of organic food is higher than that of conventional food because the organic price tag more closely reflects the true cost of growing the food," reports the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF). "The intensive management and labor used in organic production are frequently (though not always) more expensive than the chemicals routinely used on conventional farms." However, there is evidence that if the indirect costs of conventional food production were factored in, non-organic foods would cost the same or as much as organic foods.

Other problems for organic foods include changing perceptions about just how much healthier they are than non-organics. "Many devotees of organic foods purchase them in order to avoid exposure to harmful levels of pesticides," writes Henry I. Miller in Forbes. "But that’s a poor rationale: Non-organic fruits and vegetables had more pesticide residue, to be sure, but more than 99 percent of the time the levels were below the permissible, very conservative safety limits set by regulators - limits that are established by the Environmental Protection Agency and enforced by the Food and Drug Administration."

Just because a farm is organic doesn’t mean the food it produces will be free of potentially toxic elements. While organic standards may preclude the use of synthetic inputs, organic farms often utilize so-called "natural" pesticides and what Miller calls "pathogen-laden animal excreta as fertilizer" that can also end up making consumers sick and have been linked to cancers and other serious illnesses. Miller believes that as more consumers become aware of these problems, the percentage of the agriculture market taken up by organics will begin to shrink.

Organic agriculture is sure to keep growing for years to come. And even if the health benefits of eating organic aren’t significant, the environmental advantages of organic agriculture - which are, of course, also public health advantages - make the practice well worth supporting.


Copyright 2006-2014 The Hudson Valley Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Reader Response
  • Vera Shaver
  • June 26th, 2013 Hi,
    I would rather eat Organic food I don't want the preservatives I like eating real food, I sure hope Organic food is here to stay.

    Reader Response
  • Amy Pearson
  • June 19th, 2013 The issue is about limited funding and the lack of the support by the government to support organic food farmers.

                  Let Your Voice Be Heard ... Fill Out the Reader Response Form Below
    Your name:
    Your email:
    Article Title:
    Comment Text:


    *Posts do not appear immediately







     













    Which Web browser do you use?
    Explorer
    Firefox
    Chrome
    Other/Don’t know


    Google

     

    HEADLINES

     





    HVPress.net | Copyright © 2006-2014 Hudson Valley Press. All rights reserved. | Use of this site indicates your agreement to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy for our Site. | HVPress.net