Friday, December 1, 2006

Organic vs Chemical agriculture - Some environmental facts

Organic agricultural production benefits the environment by using earth-friendly agricultural methods and practices. Here are some facts that show why organic farming is "the way to grow."

  • Organic agriculture can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by effectively locking more carbon into the soil rather than releasing it into the atmosphere, as happens in conventional agriculture. A study showed that if organic fertilizer were used in the major corn and soybean growing regions of the United States, annual carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could be reduced by an estimated 2%. The study also found that organic farming uses 50% less energy than conventional farming methods.

  • 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.

  • A study of apple farming published in an issue of Nature has found organic orchards can be more profitable, produce tastier fruit at similar yields compared to conventional farming, and be better for the environment. In the six-year study, three experimental plots of Golden Delicious apples were farmed using organic, conventional, and "integrated" growing methods. Although the organic system took longer to reach profitability, it ranked first in terms of environmental sustainability, profitability and energy efficiency by the end of the study.

  • The Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has released a report entitled "Pesticides: Making the Right Choice for the Protection of Human Health and the Environment." "As many as 16 separate pesticide applications may be made on apples each year to combat the apple scab. Where possible, organic products should be chosen." It added, the advantages of organic farming are many: reduced soil erosion, retention of soil nutrients, surface and ground water that is uncontaminated by pesticides."

  • Pesticide sprays "encourage life-threatening bacteria to grow on crops,". Research at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg found that bacteria thrived in some formulations of synthetic pesticides diluted with water.

  • Toxic chemicals are contaminating groundwater on every inhabited continent, endangering the world's most valuable supplies of freshwater, according to a Worldwatch paper, Deep Trouble: The Hidden Threat of Groundwater Pollution. Calling for a systematic overhaul of manufacturing and industrial agriculture, the paper notes that several water utilities in Germany now pay farmers to switch to organic operations because this conversion costs less than removing farm chemicals from water supplies.

  • An epidemiological study in Sweden indicates that environmental factors, such as chemical pollutants and unhealthy lifestyles, have a greater impact on the likelihood of contracting cancer than hereditary genetic factors.

  • The Consumers Union in May 2000 reiterated that pesticide residues in foods children eat every day often exceed safe levels. An independent analysis of some fruits and vegetables found high levels of pesticide residues. The Consumers Union urged consumers to consider buying organically grown fruits and vegetables.