Do you know where your food comes from? Most people prefer going to stores like Wal-Mart to buy conventionally grown food because it is abundantly available and relatively inexpensive. Most of these conventional products such as papayas, soybeans and corn are genetically modified – that is, they are GMOs: Genetically Modified Organisms. Most processed products, such as flour, high fructose corn syrup and sweet corn, in most stores are GMOs; they have inserted a Bt gene that is used for pest control. Unless it is specifically labeled as “organic,” the sweet corn is probably Bt corn – but it won’t be labeled that way.
What about meat? Most of us may think that it is a healthy, natural source of nourishment, but this is not totally true. Meat is not solely harmful to animals; it is also equally harmful for people.
What is “organic?” Well, organic foods are essentially grown in healthy soil. According to USDA organic certification, organic soils have not had any synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, or fungicides applied within three years of receiving certification. Organic foods are expensive because farmers who grow organic food do not use conventional methods to fertilize or maintain crop health. For instance, organic farmers frequently cultivate or pull the weeds, do crop rotations and spread manure or compost. Crop rotations help to build overall soil health. This process requires a lot of time and patience under the sun. It costs more because it requires intensive labor and careful chemical management. Organic farming methods are capable of producing yields similar to those of conventional farming methods. According to K-State’s data regarding tomatoes, and Rodale Research Institute’s data regarding corn and soybeans, organic methods are even capable of producing higher yields than those of conventional farms.
According to a study done by Cornell University, conventional farming’s dependency on chemical fertilizers destroys topsoil, which generates a $40 billion annual loss. If organic methods were used, we would see an increase in the healthiness of the topsoil, which could lead to produce higher in antioxidants. In addition, organic farming results in sequestration of more carbon, mitigating climate change. In conventional farming, the ground water is easily contaminated due to leeching of excess nutrients. However, in organic farming, the focus is on reducing potential of ground water contamination.
The adage, “Feed the soil, not the plants” describes much of the philosophy of organic farming. Healthy soil produces healthy plants and, in turn, healthy people and a healthy environment. Everyone should start trying organic food. Even organic meat, eggs and dairy products should be considered as they are produced from animals nourished with feed free of poisons.
We live in the world of conventional agriculture, yet still people are starving. Generally people may think that organic farming will not be able to feed everyone, but this is untrue. We could feed our entire population through urban agriculture alone. Grow food, not lawns! People in cities have a responsibility to localize food systems and return nutrients back to the soil through composting. We cannot simply rely upon processed, packaged and irradiated food. Industrial agriculture cannot feed the world; organic farming can.
“There are lots of reasons to try organics, including food safety and safety for the environment,” Rhonda Janke, professor of horticulture, said. “Lots of people are realizing it now, and that is why surveys show at least 70 percent of Americans are buying at least some organic foods.”
Monocultures cannot guarantee nutrition and food security as long as biodiversity can. For example, The Irish Potato Famine – or the Great Famine of Ireland – was caused by planting only one type of potato. Dangerous chemicals like pesticides were developed to kill life forms during wartime; these should not be applied to our crops to promote an outdated method of growing our food which places mankind in a vulnerable position.
Ecologists often use biodiversity as a measure of the health of an ecosystem. So if we destroy the health of the ecosystems where we grow our food, what does that imply for our own health? Local, organic food is better for our health and the long-term sustainability of our population. We can no longer rely on chemicals and synthetic fertilizers to feed our population.