Organic food is supposed to be grown using very strict standards by farmers such as no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics, genetically modified organisms, etc. There is growing evidence leading to the fact that conventional farming methods are more harmful to the environment by polluting the waters and destroying the soil. Another concern is the use of genetically modified organisms in traditional farming and the environmental damage it can have by disrupting the natural environmental process. Although there are obvious advantages to growing organic food, once concern to think about when trying to buy organic food to help the environment is to consider the distance the food travels. The distance that food travels from the field to the grocery store can often times offset the benefits of growing organic crops.
The question should rather be, are organic foods beneficial for the environment overall or not at all? The recent popularity of the idea brought many supporters, however few people wish to talk about all the downsides of organic foods, and one can easily see many.
Overpopulation can be a serious problem. Although currently the agricultural supply per person is on a rising trend, food reserves are at a 50-year low with the needs expected to increase by 50% by 2030, and by 70% by 2050. Most of the recent growth in food production is caused by the green revolution, a large portion of which can be attributed to the spread of artificial fertilizer and pesticide use. Now, removing those effects, when in fact we are looking to increase food production, will hardly help. Even with smart crop rotation, it would be hard to achieve yields from fertilized crops. Pesticides have been developed and used for a reason – without them, crops can be affected by pests and infections. If organic food production grows large enough for pests to be able to spread between their areas unprotected by pesticides, only a miracle will stop an epidemic. Removing herbicides is unlikely to improve food yields either.
The part that is the most troublesome to me is the ban on genetically modified food. For example, giving one normal plant, which is vulnerable to a pest or infection, a gene from another normal plant, which is resistant to those threats, should not harm the environment in any way. For the extremely rare case where the enzymes coded by the resistance gene result in some unexpected negative effects due to interplay with the regular chemicals in the vulnerable plant, there is always extensive testing and studies of the genetically modified food before the release on the market. This genetic modification could result in reduced need for all those chemicals that the other answer lists – “synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics” – that are actually often harmful to the environment. So instead of using this holy grail of green, environmentally-friendly technology, organic food promoters decided to ban it.
Overall, I’d say that most of the principles of organic farming have good merit, but should be used in moderation rather than an all-out ban. If the soil is very poor and no amount of crop rotation can fix it, you’ll have to use fertilizers. If there’s an infection or pests appearing anywhere near your land, apply what’s needed as fast as you can. And if there’s an artificially enhanced variety of your crop that may alleviate the need for dumping toxic chemicals into the soil, and is proven to be safe, and on top of that probably yields twice as much food, there’ no reason why you wouldn’t want it.
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