By Mary Wales
Sustainability and the environment are top of mind for many today. Issues like smog, rising global temperatures, water pollution, and oodles of plastic waste have many concerned. Many people also question how their food is grown whether through conventional or organic means —and if it’s grown sustainably or not. Organic food offers a more sustainable, long term solution for 4 main reasons:
- Organic farming rebuilds soil health and stops harmful chemicals from getting into our water supplies. Water and soil are two extremely important resources necessary for growing food.
- Organic farmers don’t rely on non-renewable oil-based fertilizers and pesticides we may not always have access to.
- Organic farming results in greater biodiversity
- Organic farming releases fewer greenhouse gas emissions
Reason # 1: Less Soil and Water Pollution
Soil and water pollution are two major problems today, and non-organic food production is surely a big part of this problem. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN FAO), about 1/3 or the world’s soil has already been degraded because of “chemical heavy” farming techniques, and deforestation, which increases erosion and global warming.
- Soil is such an important resource for growing food, and the UN FAO reports that to generate just 3 centimetres of top soil takes 1000 years!
- Our water, another extremely valuable farming resource, is also at risk. In a long-term study by the United States Geological Society, pesticide compounds were found in streams almost 100% of the time.
Organically grown and produced food uses a lot less of the toxic fertilizers and pesticides that can deplete soils over time and pollute our water supplies. Organic farmers follow strict regulations and work to rebuild soil health naturally. The choice is simple!
Reason # 2: Oil-Based Fertilizers and Pesticides
For many people, whether or not something is sustainable depends on whether it could last for generations to come. Many agree oil isn’t something that’s going to last for generations to come, and the world will eventually face an end of the “oil era”. As the world moves away from oil, gas and coal and towards more renewable forms of energy, like wind and solar, many people are also looking food grown without the use of oil-based fertilizers and pesticides. Under organic production, synthetic, oil-based pesticides and fertilizers are not allowed. Rather, organic farmers produce food with natural fertilisers and less energy, and they must follow strict rules about what inputs can be used.
Reason # 3: Greater Biodiversity
It’s no secret that our wildlife is under threat because of chemical agricultural practices. A recent study found that birds in France, for example, have declined by a third in the past 15 years because of changes in agricultural practices, including pesticide use. Another study published last year also found that vast numbers of insects—including helpful pollinators like bees—are dying off.
Organic farming is beneficial for wildlife: According to scholar John Reganold of Washington State University, organic agriculture results in greater biodiversity of plants, animals, insects and microbes. An analysis of 66 scientific studies showed that organic farms have 30% more species on average than non-organic ones.
Reason # 4: Fewer Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Climate change is a serious global threat—with agriculture and food production being major contributors to this threat and the release of greenhouse gases. Although estimates vary, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research reports that 1/3 of our greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and food production, which agricultural production and growing food accounting for the “lion’s share” of emissions. The UN FAO reports that unless we make an effort to reduce these greenhouse gas emissions, they could increase greatly in the near future.
Studies like this one here have found that organic farms release a lot less greenhouse gas emissions than non-organic farms. Healthy soils are a major source of carbon storage, and organic farming results in increased carbon sequestration. The U.K.’s Soil Association estimates that if all U.K. farming was converted to organic, at least 1.3 million tonnes of carbon would be taken up by the soil each year. That’s the equivalent of taking nearly 1 million cars off the road!
The Choice is Clear
Eating organic is eating sustainably! Organic food is a long-term solution resulting in less soil and water pollution, a decreased reliance on oil-based fertilizers and pesticides, greater biodiversity, and less greenhouse gas emissions.