Market Musings Blog

Why organics are worth it

The Pioneer Press posted an editorial on June 9 by James Greiff of the Bloomberg View entitled Organic food might not have the effects you expect. It’s yet another article about how organic food isn’t really “worth it.”

Anytime one industry is growing faster than its competing industry, there will be naysayers.  But this one is just comical.  The author has conveniently left out the primary reason most people seek out organic foods – avoiding pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics and genetic modification.  Instead, he focuses on how organic farms could be responsible for creating dead zones in bodies of water and could still have lead contamination in the soil.  Theoretically, yes.  This is possible.  But, here are the reason why it is unlikely.

Organic agriculture requires farmers to prevent water quality contamination, soil runoff, and nitrogen leaching.  The standards specifically address the requirements for application of manure and compost to minimize any nitrogen leaching (National Organic Standards §205.203(c)(2).  An organic farmer can’t just put some poop on an organic field and hope it doesn’t run off into a river.  On a non-organic farm?  Anything goes.

It’s important to remember that organic certification is an agricultural & processing certification. Farmers and processors certify their methods in order to market their products based on the care they took in that process – not to claim the end result is pure.  The final products are not perfect and are specifically never marketed as “toxin-free” as the author’s title states.  Even with rigorous and thorough standards and record-keeping requirements,   contamination will always be a reality in agriculture.  Our rainwater is polluted.  Our soil is filled with arsenic and lead.  There are genetically modified seeds blowing in the wind.  However, just because agriculture can’t be perfectly pure, doesn’t mean we should not try.  Organic agriculture is our best method for reducing exposure to toxins from our food and agriculture (Pimentel, et al., 2005).

So are organic farms perfect? No.

Do they reduce the usage of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and fossil fuels while building topsoil and protecting water quality and animal wellbeing?  Yes.

Here is a great source for research on organic agriculture: http://eorganic.info/

 

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