While consumers are snapping up organics and corporations are scrambling to give them what they want -- if not always exactly what they want -- a funny thing is happening down on the farm: growth in organic acreage isn't coming even close to keeping up with retail-sales growth. That is, existing farms aren't transitioning acres to organic -- and new farms aren't being rolled out -- at nearly the growth rate of organic-food demand.
This is an important point. One of the great motivations of "buying organic" is protecting the land, water, and air from the cascades of poison sprays and artificial fertilizers dumped on farmland each year. Shouldn't booming demand for organic food translate to a proportionate boom in organic land under cultivation?
In the U.S., organic food accounts for about 2.5 percent of all food sales. But out in the field, just 0.2 percent of farmland is under organic production. In Europe, by contrast, organic food accounts for a just-higher percentage of all food sales than in the U.S., but organic agriculture is more pervasive -- E.U.-wide, it occupies nearly 4 percent of farmland.