Why is organic farming bad, if it is? We have been told that organic farming is good for our health. Proponents have trumpeted the message that organic farming is good for the environment. How could it possibly be bad?
It seems that, increasingly, life is being divided into traditional and alternative. Each side claims their methods to be better than the other’s. Each tries to win people to their side. Traditional schooling fights alternative schooling. Conventional medicine fights alternative medicine. Mainstream culture fights alternative subcultures.
Farming, too, is involved in a battle, conventional farming against organic farming. Environmentalists and those concerned with their health assure us that organic farming is preferable in many ways. But others argue that organic farming is bad.
Why is organic farming bad?
In 2002, Swiss scientists at the Research Institute for Organic Agriculture published in “Scientist” a highly publicized study. Their study, which covered 21 years, compared four types of farming. Two of those types were organic farming. The other two types were conventional farming.
Reporters quickly stated that the study proved organic farming was more efficient. Organic farming’s advocates said the study showed that organic farming uses 50% less energy. The facts?
1. Conventional farming is 20 percent more productive than organic farming.
2. Crop yields were significantly lower in organic farming.
3. The above two facts meant energy savings in organic farming were actually only about 19 percent per unit of crop produced, not 50 percent.
4. The study did not test organic farming against the most current methods of conventional farming. If it had, experts say, the 19 percent advantage of organic farming would disappear.
5. Current conventional farming matches organic farming when it comes to environmental advantages. Both have beneficial insects, produce less pesticide and fertilizer runoff, and reduce soil erosion.
6. Food quality was almost identical in conventional and organic farming. Advocates of organic farming had long claimed their food was far superior.
7. Current conventional farming methods produce the same or greater yields mentioned in number 1 above.
This research does not, of course, conclude that organic farming is bad. On the face of it, the conclusion is more that organic farming is not very different from current conventional farming. There most be other reasons for people believing organic farming is bad.
Organic Farming Can Kill
Many took from the Swiss study a realization that, as Cambridge chemist John Emsley said, “the greatest catastrophe the human race could face this century is not global warming, but a global conversion to ‘organic farmin