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Eight Major Myths About Organic

Written by Steven D. Savage, Ph.D., author of the blog, Applied Mythology

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Organic crops are grown without the use of pesticides Pesticides are widely used on Organic crops, the difference is that the list of options is limited to what qualifies as natural. There is a large overlap between what pesticides are used on Organic and conventional crops including many very soft products in terms of the environment and human safety. Some of the fungicides used extensively in Organic are actually far more toxic and potentially damaging to the environment than the options that are available to conventional growers. Organic farming practices are better for the environment The environmental footprint of Organic is not consistently better. For row crops Organic is not as easy to farm without tillage of the soil. That leads more energy consumption, to more erosion and to the related issue water pollution. Depending on weather conditions, Organic fertilizers can either be better or worse than synthetic fertilizers in terms of ground water or surface water pollution. Organic yields tend to be significantly lower which leads to more demand for increasing the area of farmed land. Organic foods have superior nutritional characteristics Numerous, extensive studies have failed to show any consistent nutritional advantage of Organic foods Organic food is safer for you and your family Comprehensive studies on pesticide residues on food show that there is a huge margin of safety and this includes both the pesticides that can be used on conventional crops and those that are used on Organic. In terms of microbial contamination and related health issues, there is no real difference in risk between Organic and conventional both require substantial care to avoid problems. There are some international food imports as dry ingredients, concentrated fruit sweeteners, and frozen vegetables which are of potential concern as they become increasingly common in the US diet. This concern exists for both conventional and Organic with such ingredients being a major part of the growth of Organic sales in recent years particularly from China. Organic food is raised on small family farms The vast majority of Organic produce or processed items sold in the US market today is produced by large companies that are also the major suppliers of conventional options. The amount of food that comes from local suppliers, CSRs etc is actually very small.

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Organic food is a rapidly growing part of the overall food supply After at least three decades of rapid growth of the commercial Organic industry, it still represents under 0.6% of US cropland. The chances of Organic becoming more than a niche are very small. Organic farming practices are better in terms of addressing climate change Organic nitrogen fertilizers do not involve as much fossil energy as is required for conventional mostly only for hauling. However, the net carbon footprint of those fertilizers is much higher because of the methane emissions that occur during steps like manure storage or particularly during the process of composting. Incorporation of Organic fertilizers into the soil can lead to substantial emissions of both methane and nitrous oxide. Lower yields of Organic would lead to carbon emissions from indirect land-use change if Organic were ever to be widely used. Organic is no solution to climate change. Organic farming is how all the world was fed for millennia prior to modern agriculture Most pre-industrial farming methods, and particularly those used in the US, were not sustainable because of the extent to which plow-based agriculture degraded soils. Organic, as developed in the 1920s-1950s, represented a truly novel focus on building up the health of a soil in terms of organic matter and desirable soil physical properties. This approach essentially requires the importation of organic matter from other sites in the form of manure, compost etc. Methods have since been developed that allow cutting-edge conventional farmers to build the same soil properties without imported organic matter (no-till, cover crops, controlled wheel traffic ).

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