So, I was talking with a friend the other day who was appalled at the cost of organic food. With this frustration, she was having trouble remembering the reasons why she buys organic food. This frustration is completely understandable. The cost can be ridiculous and the mark-up can be outrageous. Her other concern was how organic food is out of reach for some families who just can’t afford it because they can barely pay to keep shelter over their heads. Without a doubt, this is unfair. However, focusing on the cost of organic food can overshadow the importance of how supporting the demand for organic food will save the planet. It is a complex issue. You really have to sit down and remind yourself or re-read about how it works. It may be easier to follow the path that organic food doesn’t take during production, and then discuss the pros and cons.
First off, organic crops are not usually grown on mass scale where giant diesel polluting machinery is used to till, sow, and spray the land. During production of organic food crops, petroleum based pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides are not sprayed on the crops. Therefore, harmful chemicals do not end up sinking down into ground water or running off into our waterways. Huge quantities of beneficial insects and even small mammals and birds are not killed by these chemicals. “The environmental costs of using recommended pesticides in the United States are estimated to be $9 billion a year; included are 67 million birds killed each year from the recommended use of pesticides. (Pimentel, 1997.)” (Quoted from The Organic Trade Association) So, here we have major pollution of our water ways and destruction of ecosystems…not happening in organic farming. Yay!
Organic farming brings us away from large scale mass production of food and back to small scale local farming. It reduces pollution on our planet and supports surrounding eco-systems and the food chain. Organic food is healthier for us because we get fewer chemicals in our organic food, and we get more nutrient dense food. Recent long term studies are showing that organic food does in fact contain more vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants than their conventional counterparts. It is even quite possible that organic farming could feed the world if communities organized to sustain themselves with their own local organic farms. Studies show that more organic food can be grown per acre compared to conventional food.
Organic food is expensive and it will continue to be until most of the world is producing organic food. Organic food costs more because the farms use more labor to do what giant machines do on conventional farms…. fertilizing, removing weeds, and harvesting. Retailers charge what consumers are willing to pay since the demand is higher than the supply. Additionally, the government does not subsidize organic farms to lower prices like it does with conventional food.
However,“There is mounting evidence that if all the indirect costs of conventional food production—cleanup of polluted water, replacement of eroded soils, costs of health care for farmers and their workers—were factored in to the price of food, organic foods would cost the same or, more likely, be cheaper.” (Quoted from the Organic Trade Association). Sometimes the cost of organic food is about the same as conventional when the supply is high. You just have to know where to shop and to buy locally grown food in season. It is really good to get to know who your local farmers are and what their farming practices are. Some small farmers can’t afford to pay for organic certification, but they may not spray chemicals on the crops. You just have to ask. You can get some deals at your local Farmer’s Markets.
So, why can we save the planet by buying organic food? It is like investing in our children’s future. Increased demand causes more farms to become organic. More organic farms mean less conventional polluting farms. Less polluting farming practices mean less polluted air, water, soil, and more thriving diverse ecosystems. Buying organic food is like investing in the growth of a cleaner planet. If no one buys it because it is too expensive, the world does not change. We have to buy food according to our values to show industry what we want. The demand for organic food is growing stronger every year and this is why big agriculture business has converted some of their farms to organic. In 1980, organic farming was a 178 million dollar business. Now, it is a 17 billion dollar business and it is still growing. But, it won’t keep growing if we don’t continue to support it.
It is unfortunate that some people may not be able to afford organic food without spending more. Maybe the people that can afford it might just have to spend the money to make a better planet? There are ways to eliminate the most contaminated foods and to make it work on a budget, but it takes some careful planning. Let’s discuss ways to spend less when buying organic.
Can Organic Farming Save the World?
Buying Organic: Considering the Real Costs
The O’Mama Report
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