There is a common misconception in agriculture, that organic farming can’t sustain our growing population. Most people understand the benefits of organic growing, but are misguided to believe that it is a luxury only for those who can afford it. Conventional farming, with its ability to out-perform organic only in the short-term, has convinced us that fast and cheap is the only way to feed our hungry. We’re here to set the record straight.
“ Numerous reports have emphasized the need for major changes in the global food system: agriculture must meet the twin challenge of feeding a growing population, with rising demand for meat and high-calorie diets, while simultaneously minimizing its global environmental impacts “
In this article, we will position organic growing, not only as a more sustainable method, but also as a superior growing method. We will shed light on current research findings in renewable agriculture, and discover what a complete shift from convention to organic agriculture would look like for the future of farming.
Let’s dive deeper into organic vs. convention farming.
If a mom in a grocery store had to choose between a chemically-treated head of lettuce, or an equally appealing, economical, naturally-grown product, the choice would be simple. It’s in our nature to gravitate towards natural alternatives, especially when it comes to feeding our families.
Unfortunately, the organics section of our stores often has smaller, less appealing products, with inflated costs and diminished shelf-lives. It’s not surprising that 9 out of 10 shoppers still reach for conventionally farmed products, as the economic advantages, for them, have to outweigh the environmental.
This leads us to examine the source of this problem. A mother with a limited monthly budget may not have the option to choose organic. Neither may a small farmer being out-sold by an agricultural giant. We can’t leave the future of agriculture to those without the freedom to make better choices. Changes must be made on a global level, and these changes have to happen higher up.
The Agricultural Revolution(s)
One could argue that the first Agricultural Revolution took place as early as 10,000BC when humans moved from hunter-gatherers to stationary communities. This allowed for a spike in population growth, better standards of living, and increased health during these early years. Their growing practices were simple, but crops allowed them to consistently provide food for their families. This became the basis for the farming industry.
As populations grew, along with a focus on developing tools and growing practices, history saw a jump in technological advancement. The Agricultural Revolution took place during the 18th century and was a period of great growth in farming practices. Technological improvements lead to an increase in crop yields and crop productivity, as was needed during these periods to feed the expanding populations across the globe.
Farming is a labour-intensive industry. Even with the development of modern technologies such as machinery and automation, farming on a large scale still requires hands-on labour. For this reason, farming has always been expensive due to the human capital requirement.
The Case Against Conventional Farming
In farming today, we have created advancements in conventional farming that are not sustainable or feasible at the current rate. Farmers and industry leaders are constantly searching for ways of reducing costs, improving productivity and crop yields, and increasing profitability. We have turned to agrochemicals to quickly produce what we need today, ignoring the needs of the future.
In The Significance of Soil, we talked about how all of the world’s topsoil could be gone in less than 60 years if we continue to damage our land through conventional practices. We have first-hand cases, in recent history, where rapid production has lead to unfathomable natural disasters. Yet still, for the sake of profit, we continue to use the same detrimental growing practices.
One of the many controversial practices used in conventional growing is the use of toxic pesticides. The first example of farmers using toxic chemicals to solve man-made problems was in 1867. A common arsenic paint pigment was packaged and labeled as Paris Green. Without any regulation, this toxin was applied on potato plantations to combat the Colorado potato beetle infestation that destroyed much of the potato crop on the east coast of America during this time.
Since then, toxic chemicals, growth hormones, and antibiotics have been used to treat both crops and livestock on farms across the world. Just last year, one of the biggest take-overs occurred, as Bayer purchased industry-giant Monsanto for $66 billion. Monsanto was an American company that was founded in 1901, primarily an agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology firm with points of presence throughout the world.
Since the takeover, Bayer has been working to dissolve the Monsanto name, due to the negative attention it has received in the last few decades. Roundup Weed Killer, also known by many other names, is one of their most controversial products.
A growing list of countries and states have either banned Roundup outright or placed strict regulations on the product since its introduction in 1974. This product has been widely used in agriculture as a broad-spectrum herbicide, with the controversial active ingredient, glyphosate. In 2015, The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer reported that glyphosate is a “probable carcinogen” in humans. Yet since then, it is still used widely amongst farmers and horticulturists.
Though Health Canada maintains that there is no risk to Canadians in the concentrations that accumulate in our food, Roundup is still being actively investigated around the world. With questions raised on scientific reports being biased and influenced by agricultural companies, there is still much uncertainty of the research findings surrounding this chemical.
“ A French court has banned the sale of Roundup Pro 360 — a weedkiller that contains the controversial ingredient glyphosate — to professional gardeners and farmers.” – Nature
Failure in Farming
Unfortunately, conventional farming practices are failing societies and our environment. The use of synthetic chemical fertilizers, heavy irrigation, and the tillage of the soil, is not sustainable for future generations. The result of these practices contributes to climate change and more volatile weather conditions, which we are facing today in droughts and wildfires.
Conventional farming methods have also infiltrated homes and businesses. Millions of people now choose genetically engineered foods and products, as part of an affordable staple diet. Farmers and home-growers alike can now find chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides for purchase at any home and garden store. Society needs a reset when it comes to farming.
How BlueSky Organics Can Help
At BlueSky Organics, we have personally seen organic growing practices out-perform conventional farming techniques. We believe in our products and the natural science behind them. The old saying ‘what you sow is what you reap’ is truer today than ever before. We invite you to grow with us and experience consistently superior, organic harvests.
Stay tuned for Organic vs Conventional Farming: Part II, and our case for organic farming.
“Organic food production has several documented and potential benefits for human health, and wider application of these production methods also in conventional agriculture, e.g., in integrated pest management, would, therefore, most likely benefit human health.” 2017 Review
- Seufert, V. et al. (2012). Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture. Nature 485:p229-234.
- Chappine, P. The Agricultural Revolution: TImeline, Causes, Inventions, & Effects. Study.com – History Courses.
- White, N.J. (2014). 43 – Malaria. Manson’s Tropical Infectious Diseases (Twenty-Third Edition).
- Roumeliotis, G. and Burger, L. (2017). Bayer to Buy Monsanto, Creating a Massive Seeds and Pesticides Company. Scientific American.
- Environmental Defence Contributors (2018). What’s in your Lunch? How a harmful weed killer finds its way into your children’s food. Environmental Defence and Equiterre.
- Jamal, S. (2019). Part 1: Three more reasons why we can’t be confident in Health Canada’s conclusion that glyphosate is safe. Environmental Defence.
- Kogevinas, M. (2019). Probably carcinogenicity of glyphosate. The BMJ.
- Government of Canada Contributors (2019). Statement from Health Canada on Glyphosate. Health Canada.
- Casassus, B. (2019). French court bans sale of controversial weedkiller. Nature International Journal of Science.
- Government of Canada Contributors (2015). Impact of climate change on Canadian agriculture. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.