Updated: Feb 17
Organic food is increasing in demand but only about 1-2% of all the food produced world wide is organic. The market for organic foods in the US has grown from $3.5 billion in 1996 to over $50 billion in 2018, according to the Organic Trade Association. Organic products are now not only sold in specialty stores but also in conventional supermarkets. Despite the increasing popularity, there are some great disadvantages on the environment of organic farming.
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Lets start with what is organic farming:
Organic farming is an alternative agricultural system which originated early in the 20th century in response to rapidly changing farming practices. It is defined by the use of fertilisers of organic origin such as compost and manure. It places emphasis on techniques such as companion planting and crop rotation. Biological pest control and the fostering of insect predators are encouraged. Organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances.
One of the largest disadvantages of organic farming is the high costs. There is no use of pesticides so, the crops are far more vulnerable to pests and other diseases. The farming can be a lot more labour intensive as a lot is done by hand. These costs are passed on to the customer making organic food more expensive than conventionally produced fruits and vegetables. This can sometimes be up to 40% more.
2. Certification process
In order to be certified as organic, farms need to be accredited by the USDA. For organic farms, that means that they need to hire a organic certifying agent to verify that the farming methods meet the current organic standards that have been authorised. These cost of the initial authorization can be up to $1,500 and there are also annual certification fees that must be paid. The latter is based on the total organic production value of the farm, which means some farmers may pay these $1,500 fee every year.
3. Local growing systems.
The quality of the organic crop produced is depends heavily on the skills, knowledge, and wisdom of the farmer. In organic farming (and even farming of fruits and vegetables in general), the farmer must monitor crop growth patterns during every stage of crop growth. If a farmer is unable to recognize a problem in his/her crop, that may occur, the value of the crop may be reduced or the amount of harvest might be (severely) affected. In extreme circumstances, the entire crop might be lost.
The type of soil differs heavily per state/country and sometimes even per region. So, the farmers must also have local knowledge about soil systems, ecology (what insect occur in the region), meteorology, and even other influential factors that can affect how certain crops grow.
4. Synthetic chemicals
Synthetic chemicals might still be used. Organic farmers who can proof that natural pesticides have not worked to control the pest in their crop are permitted to use synthetic products. These farmers need to show proof that their cultural management practices and other organic practices have failed multiple times.
This means that some organic foods being sold are exposed to the same chemicals and processes that conventional crops have. With the price of organic crops.
5. Shorter shelf life
Conventional foods are treated with preservative and waxes to maintain their freshness during the shipping process. Often even clingfilm is used to extend the shelf life even further. Organic foods can’t receive these treatments. This means organic fruits and vegetables will spoil faster than conventional ones. If product arrivals are delayed or mistreated for some reason, then an entire shipment of crops might be never reach the consumer.
So, even though there certainly are benefits of organic farming there is no doubt that these downside will make you think. So what is your best option? Go to your local organic farmer. I am lucky enough that I can purchase some fruits and vegetables directly at the farm bypassing several of these disadvantages. I hope you can do the same.