To be or not to be, organic, why is that the question?

Seems like there has been a lot of talk, hype, musing, etc, on organic farming being the savior of the planet and the answer to all our food and environmental needs. Can there really be one simple answer to all of our woes? If you listen to the those that firmly believe in the organic lifestyle, you would think so. But I think that any reasonable person would think that there is a place for a fully organic style of farming and a place of more “conventional” means. There is even a place for biotech crops, if used wisely and judiciously. I have many farmers I work with that use Roundup Ready crops (crops you can spray with Roundup to kill weeds but won’t kill the crop) to help with weed control. But they can’t plant just these kinds of crop all the time in every field. The weeds would evolve to being resistant to Roundup and that system would not work any more. So we rotate in and out of these crops. Is there a chance that the Genetically Modified (GM) crop would escape and grow wild and pollute the gene pool of natural crops? Well, there isn’t much wild corn or cotton around so that seems to be a false premise to me. Most crop plants do not do well outside of a farmer’s field anyway. They are bred to be pampered. Now, there are some social issue I have with GM crops, especially in poor countries where farmers really can’t afford the strings attached to these crops. But that is for another post. Genetic modification has been going on a long time in farming. This new kind of genetic modification I think can be a good thing and shouldn’t be labeled as something evil.

Now back to organic farming. Why is it better than other types of farming? I’m not really sure. People say they like organic because there are no pesticides. Well, that is a myth the organic farming machine does little to dispel. In fact, on the organic crops I look at, I generally use more pesticides than on the other crops. Organic pesticides do not work as well and do not last as long as the chemically made ones. So you use more. Better for the environment or the food? I don’t really know. I do know that the toxicity of many of the regular pesticides I use are not any more toxic than some of the organic ones. I do try hard to use the least toxic ones available. Chemical fertilizer is bad for the soil? I haven’t seen that directly. If a farmer is using chemical fertilizer alone, I do see that the soil gets worn out faster. But most farmers are not doing that. Chemical fertilizer is just one tool they use in the whole program. Most farmers need to maximize yield to the fullest extent to pay the bills and that is hard to do on a purely organic program. Which is why organic food costs more. You need to use more expensive organic inputs and the yields are generally lower. The market is also not as big for organic food, as many people can’t afford them, so they can’t put all their crops into that market. Most of the growers I know who grow organic produce also grow non-organic crops as well because they can’t find a market of everything in the organic arena.

There is a big bandwagon going around now that we need to all eat local, organic food. Well, I like that idea of a farmer’s market where you go and buy directly from the farmer and all is happy happy touchy feely. But there are a lot of people that needs to be fed in this world. Farmers are having a hard time making money as it is. We cannot support our whole ag industry just on locally grown food. We need to sell to other places and export as well. Organic, local, etc, has a place but it is a place in the picture, not the whole picture. If we can’t find a way to support all of our agriculture, we may see that we can’t sustain any of it.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I could not agree with you more on this. ALL methods of farming are sound…big, little, organic, conventional. I don’t understand the mentality of running another person down to make yourself better… it will only come back to bite you in the rear. There are a lot of farmers out there who farm organic on some acres and conventional on others. Can’t we all just get along?

    Reply

  2. Posted by Evident arias on August 14, 2015 at 7:19 am

    I just stumbled into your blog. What a refreshing attitude. Very nice to hear from a pro with no ax to grind. I was well aware of everything you stated, but I don’t carry the same gravitas because I am”just” a gardener, even if I am very well read. Thanks.

    Reply

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