"If everybody switched to organic farming, we couldn't support the earth's current population - maybe half."
Nina Fedoroff, Scientist
Organic farming (often also referred to as organic gardening) can be defined as growing plants in an organic matter and without the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or other substances that could contaminate the soil and also our food.
Even though organic gardening has many important advantages, it also implies some issues. In this blog post, the pros and cons of organic farming are examined.
One major advantage of organic gardening is that it can significantly improve the health levels of many people on our planet.
Since farmers who engage in organic gardening usually avoid the use of chemical pesticides and other harmful substances, chances are that the end-products will be healthier since less harmful elements will be contained in our organic vegetables and fruits.
In turn, all kinds of health issues could be prevented and overall life expectancy would also likely increase.
Through conventional farming practices, the soil is often contaminated with harmful elements from chemical fertilizers or herbicides. In the long run, this soil will get damaged and will no longer be suitable for farming at one point in time.
Thus, in order to protect the soil and to guarantee crop yields in the long run, it is crucial to refrain from the use of chemical substances and to use natural fertilizers instead. Therefore, organic farming can also avoid or at least mitigate the problem of soil pollution.
Since the chemicals from pesticides, herbicides and fungicides will contaminate the soil, they will also eventually end up in our groundwater. This could lead to significant problems since millions of people rely on groundwater in order to get water for their daily life. Water will become an even scarcer resource in the future due to global warming.
Therefore, it is crucial that we refrain from the use of chemical substances in agriculture and switch to organic elements instead in order to protect our groundwater and to ensure the livelihood of millions or even billions of people on our planet.
Also our insects suffer quite a lot due to the excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These substances often contain elements which are quite harmful to insects and insect population vastly decrease in these areas.
In order to sustain our insect population, it is crucial to reduce the use of chemical substances in agriculture and to use natural fertilizers and pesticides instead.
By doing so, we can not only protect many insect species from extinction, we can also increase our crop yields since insects are a major factor for the pollination of crops.
Organic gardening can also be considered to be more sustainable compared to traditional farming practices. Since less or even no pesticides are used at all, the soil will be protected and will be suitable for farming purposes much longer.
Therefore, soil that is used for organic farming will be suitable for hundreds or even thousands of years, while soil that is used for conventional agriculture will soon become too contaminated and will lose its fertility in the long run.
Our natural resources can also be used more efficiently through organic gardening. For instance, natural materials like plant waste can be composted and reused as soil or fertilizer for the next year.
Every item that can be reused implies an improvement in efficiency since our resources are used more efficient compared to just disposing them into the garbage after just a single use.
Therefore, organic gardening can also reduce the overall waste levels since more of our waste can be recycled and reused.
Some advocates of organic gardening also claim that organic food tastes better compared to conventional food. This may be true since our organic food will often not be carried over long distances and will be rather sold close to the farm where it has been grown.
Thus, the vegetables and fruits can be harvested ripe. In contrast, our conventional vegetables and fruits are often carried over quite long distances and will often be harvested in an unripe state.
Therefore, it is quite logical that organic food may taste better since the crops had more time to ripen on average.
Since organic fruits and vegetables often grow slower, they have more time to develop high levels of nutrients and other elements that are beneficial to human health. Thus, compared to vegetables and fruits that come from conventional farming, organic crops often contain a higher concentration of healthy substances.
You can also save yourself plenty of money in the long run by growing your own vegetables and fruits in your garden or on your balcony. Most plants like tomatoes or peppers are quite resistant and do not require plenty of maintenance to grow well.
Thus, you can get significant yields in a rather simple way and can save plenty of money since you do no longer have to buy those fruits and vegetables in the grocery store.
Another problem of conventional agriculture is that genetically modified plants are used quite frequently. However, this GMOs are considered to be dangerous for human health in the long run by many scientists.
The use of GMOs might also pose a danger to our agricultural system since pests might be able to spread easier and the yield may significantly decrease in the long run.
Thus, by using organic agriculture instead, we could avoid the GMO issue and the implied adverse effects.
Organic farming is also considered to be better for our climate compared to conventional agriculture. Chemical fertilizers are often produced with the help of fossil resources and fuels, which in turn contribute to global warming. By avoiding those chemical fertilizers through organic farming, we could avoid the emission of greenhouse gases and therefore also slow down global warming.
Organic farming may also be better for the health of farmers compared to traditional farming practices.
Since traditional farming often involves the excessive use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, farmers may be exposed to those substances and these substances may end up in the lungs of farmers where they can cause lung cancer or other serious health issues.
Through organic farming, these adverse health effects could be avoided since there would be no use of chemical substances at all.
Since our ancestors never had chemical fertilizers but rather engaged in organic farming, this kind of farming can also be considered to be the most original way. Thus, it might also be logical that our body will be better able to digest organic food since humanity has been used to this kind of food for millions of years.
Organic farming also implies the protection of many insect species since it refrains from using chemical substances. Thus, since there will be more insects around, the pollination of crops will be much easier and more effective with organic farming compared to conventional farming practices where excessive amounts of chemical substances are used.
Even though organic farming has many important advantages, there are also some problems related to it.
One disadvantage of organic farming is that it can be quite costly to get all the necessary equipment and to fulfill the regulatory standards in order to declare and sell your products as organic.
Thus, many small farmers may not able to afford this kind of investments and certifications and may stay trapped in conventional farming due to that.
Since no chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used in organic farming, the yields are often smaller compared to conventional farming practices.
Thus, especially in regions where the local population heavily relies on the vegetables and fruits from agriculture as their main food source, organic farming might be rather a problem than an advantage since it could lead to a shortage of groceries in those regions.
Therefore, depending on the geographic conditions and the overall circumstances, organic farming may not suitable for some poor regions on our planet.
Organic farming may also contribute to the spread of pests and a large fraction of the yield may be lost due to pests. Many plants may die off or may only produce a low yield due pest infestation. Thus, also pests may contribute to lower crop yields, which could be a huge problem for farmers who rely on stable crops yields as their single source of income.
Organic fruits and vegetables are often much more expensive compared to conventional ones. Thus, especially for people with a low wage, these food items may not be affordable. Therefore, especially in regions where people are quite poor, organic farming may not be the way to go since the majority of the local population may not be able to afford organic food and may suffer from hunger due to that.
In many countries around the world, the regulatory standards regarding organic farming are quite high. This may be a big problem since many farmers might not be able to comply with those high standards.
Thus, even though many farmers might be willing to switch to organic gardening, they might not be able to do so since their infrastructure might not allow it.
Organic farming businesses often also need a certain kind of certification in order to be officially considered to produce organic food. However, this certification can be quite expensive and might be unaffordable, especially for small farmers in poor countries of our planet.
Moreover, there are also plenty of controls regarding the compliance of farmers with the organic farming standards. All those certifications and controls might make it hard for small farmers to successfully operate an organic farming business.
Due to these high regulatory standards and the costs of organic certifications, some small farmers may even go out of business since they might not be able to meet those high standards.
Moreover, if there are big organic food companies in those regions, small farmers may also not be able to stay competitive and may lose their livelihood due to that.
Since for organic farming, no chemical pesticides are used, farmers have to monitor and manually intervene much more in order to keep their plants healthy. Thus, organic farming can be considered to be much more time-consuming compared to conventional farming since the processes require a higher level of manual work.
Organic farming can also be considered to be more complicated compared to conventional farming. In conventional farming, most pests are controlled through the use of excessive amounts of fertilizers and it is therefore rather easy to keep the plants healthy.
However, in organic farming, it is much harder to fight pests since no chemical pesticides are used. It needs a high level of knowledge and experience for organic farmers to ensure sufficient crop yields and to control pests and other issues.
Thus, for organic farming, farmers have to acquire plenty of knowledge in order to be successful.
Through the use of organic fertilizer, there might also be a rather unpleasant smell related to organic farming. Quite often, the manure of animals is used for farming purposes. One can imagine that the nearby area will be covered by significant smell and many people who are not used to this may significantly suffer from this kind of air pollution.
Organic farming also implies a high level of uncertainty regrading the yield and the quality of the crops. For instance, in years where pests are a big problem, yields can be significantly lower and farmers may suffer from severe financial losses.
This problem is less serious for conventional farmers since they can simply use their chemical pesticides and stabilize their yields to a certain extent.
Thus, organic farmers often have to deal with higher levels of uncertainty regarding their yields and their overall financial situation.
Organic Farming Pros
Improvements in health
Protection of insects
Sustainable form of agriculture
Less crop losses due to pests
Protection from animals
Less crop imports necessary
Efficient land use
Less habitat destruction
Yields all year long
Organic Farming Cons
Expert needed to set up systems
High initial costs
High maintenance costs
Organic food is expensive
Loss of competitiveness of small farmers
May imply unpleasant smell
Significant swings in quality and yields
May not be suitable for poor regions
Organic farming can be a great alternative to conventional farming practices. However, it also implies serious downsides. Even though there is a huge trend towards organic food right now, the future will show whether this trend will continue or if people may prefer conventional fruits and vegetables in the long run.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master's degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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