by guest blogger Coach Mark Smallwood, Executive Director of the Rodale Institute.
Buying organic is a powerful change-making action, but it’s also a relatively easy one. You put the organic food in your cart, hand over the cash, and head home with a bag full of food you can feel good about. Defending your choice to support organic can sometimes be a little trickier. Early on, the trend was to attack the quality of organically grown food—bug-eaten lettuce and scabby apples. In just 20 years, the criticism has become the polar opposite, that organic food is gourmet and only for the rich.
The latest “feed the world” scare tactic has been a really good way for Big Ag folks to shut down arguments for any agricultural path other than the one they promote. And we’re now seeing it repeated verbatim as a fact over the dining room table, across the kitchen counter, and in the grocery store aisles.
Here are a couple of good sound bites to throw back the next time friends, family members, or even strangers tell you we need super-chemicals and GMOs to feed the world:
- Chemical farming isn’t “feeding the world” now. Despite more than 70 years of chemical- and petroleum-reliant farming practices, about 1 billion people are malnourished or starving in today’s world.
- It takes three calories of energy to create one calorie of edible food with conventional farming.These facts from a report from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health don’t even include the energy used in transportation or processing. Our current system relies on practices that actually diminish the resource base that is needed to sustain it.
- Biotech crops falter and fail without expensive herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and irrigation. While enormously productive in ideal conditions, biotech crops gobble up incredible amounts of resources to produce that yield.
- Organic methods can produce harvests 180 percent larger than chemical farming in communities that struggle to feed themselves. Although global population is on the rise, population in the developed world is actually on the downturn. Most of the growth is in the developing world, where organics have been shown to have the most beneficial effects.
- We could double food production in just 10 years using organic practices and other agroecological farming methods, according to a report from the United Nations. Agroecological practices, such as organic farming, attempt to mimic natural processes and rely on the biology of the soil and environment rather than synthetic sprays and other inputs.
- Organic farming creates more of the resources on which our food supply relies, while conventional farming destroys them. Conventional farming leeches nutrients from the soil, puts a strain on our water supplies, and relies heavily on fossil fuels to make it work; organic farming builds better, more self-sufficient land, creates cleaner water, recycles nutrients, and leaves us with a cleaner atmosphere.
In our 30-year research trial at Rodale Institute we found that for corn and soybeans, organic yields matched conventional yields, organic outperformed conventional in years of drought, and organic farming systems built rather than depleted soil organic matter, used 45% less energy, and were more efficient. Organic fields were more profitable than conventional, and while conventional growers battle herbicide-resistant superweeds with bigger, badder chemicals, the organic crops held their own against weeds, producing just as much food as the conventional fields without the assistance of herbicide.
Even in the face of a rising global population, organic techniques provide a more secure, more stable, and more sustainable food system. A food-production system based on organic principles is the only hope the world has, according to a global study produced by the United Nations World Food and Agriculture Organization. We like to say, “Organic has the strength to not only feed the world, but feed the world well.”
Coach Mark Smallwood has been dedicated to environmental sustainability, efficiency and conservation for decades. Since joining Rodale Institute in December 2010, he has brought heritage livestock back to Rodale Institute’s 333-acre farm, expanded and enhanced Rodale Institute’s research efforts, as well as launched “Your 2 Cents,” a national campaign to support and promote new organic farmers. In recognition for his sustainability efforts, Coach was chosen as a messenger for Al Gore’s Climate Project presenting to over 15,000 people on the effects of Global Warming. Last, but certainly not least, as a long-time organic farmer and biodynamic gardener, Coach has raised chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, and driven a team of oxen.
We have had such great results with our minerals the most of any product on the market. pictures of the Highland garden is my personal garden… never have to spray… so safe we can let the grand kids craw on our yard ofter putting the ground rock dust on the lawn. my yields are almost double using the natures perfect. most important it taste better and NO CHEMICALS going into my body…. on only 10,000 sq ft I grow 80% of my food production…. this year it will be 100% and need only 15,000 sqft for family of 4
guy cobb 801-420-2743
Hi – Thanks for doing this list. Except I think you accept the GMO tales about better yields too easily (#3). I don’t think that’s been proven, and they’ve had several spectacular failures on that front. To me, it’s still an unproven claim. So I’d suggest getting some data on this then editing it to say something more tentative – for ex., can SOMETIMES get better yields. Just my suggestion. I’ve been writing on eco-topics including GMOs for many years… (Oh and I love Rodale’s good works!) Blessings – Patricia
I have the data. My own garden and what I am getting from my plants. My tomatoes are larger, getting more fruit per tree. I don’t care if some PHD in some college did it or not. I can only speak from my personal knowledge check out the web
naturesperfect.us I know it works for me.
Great, we’ve established again that organic is equal or better and always safer, now can we talk about monocrops v. polycrop/permaculture?
The picture up top looks like a monocrop to me and an organic monocrop can still have/create monocrop problems.
Organic would be fine if everyone had a backyard to grow gardens, as cities populations grow the organic supply cannot keep up with demand. Food will have to be mass produced and the acreage/manpower to organically feed 7 billion and counting simply is not available.
Want really great tasting Strawberries Use 2 table spoon full of Natures Perfect on each plant and watch they berries grow. Use 1/4 cup of Natures Perfect on a tomatoes and watch how fast the vine will grow and really product a lot more and most important it is ORGANIC means better tasting food and good for us.
I have always prefered organically grown fruits,food and animals.
Bush meat always tastes better than any other meat. Why?
Because they feed on natural vegetation.
When we lived in CA, I grew large quantities of rasberries, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and both potatoes and sweet potatoes. We had several heirloom plum trees in the yard and one peach tree. They were fertilized with mulch made from leaves and grass clippings. We now live in N.W. Washington and we still mulch, the recipe has changed though. We have a large old pine tree and the neighbors have fir trees. We now make mulch from grass clippings, pine and fir needles, and leaves. We also have a worm bin to place all food waste EXCEPT grease/fat, dairy, egg shells and bones. The worms are quite efficient at turning the orange peels, banana peels, left over crusts of bread that have started to go moldy into very good organic fertilizer and they are very low maintenance. You can also increase your home garden yield is to learn how to care for Mason Bees. You can learn about them at http://www.crownbees.com. Mason Bees are Native American bees. They don’t sting. They just pollinate like crazy. We started with two tubes of 12 bees last year. We now have 60 full tubes so we will probably be looking for some local farmers who need a little help from some little friends. Mason Bees like to stay close to home. The most difficult part of gardening in this neck of the country is the weather. Cool and rainy pretty much describes most of the year so cool weather cr.ops can usually be grown throughout the summer
Sorry for the misprint. This is the USDA grass fed farm connection.
India in present era sustaining Traditional crops,organic concept based on indigenous Cow breeding for the same.
world also inspired from Indus valley civilizations before 6000 years from India,
Lord Krisna had domesticated Cow first and livestock rearing for Agriculture ,all for humanity ,Rig-Ved ,Yajurved, a virtual road map is provided for the best cow rearing practices.The milk from cow”s udders is aready COOKED ,finds recognition in the latest trend in developed countries,for organic milk to be consumed raw upasteurized.
I hate to break it to you guys, but organic farming is not gonna be able to support the growing population. It is proven that by the next ten years, China will need to import 24 million tons of food annually to feed its growing population. The problem is, there’s only 20 million tons being exchanged globally today. The population in some areas of Africa is expected to triple in the same time period, double in the rest of the continent. Even if we manage to double our production it won’t be enough. Second, several countries still have mono culture or plantation agriculture, growing few crops. Who’s going to pay for them to change their entire farming practices? Third, today’s hunger problem isn’t a problem of supply, it’s a problem of distribution. There exists on this Earth at the moment enough food for everyone to have 1.5 times the number of calories they need. The problem here is it’s all concentrated in the core countries, and not being distributed well to the periphery. And everyone growing tomatoes in their back yards (assuming they even have yards), isn’t going to help.