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Organic vs Conventional Farming

20/03/2013

Guest Blog Post By Josiff Penchev

4724301184_800f37b7de_b The main advantages of organic farming are obvious. First of all, it’s far more ecological. Second, it sustains the health of soil, ecosystems and people, and relies on biodiversity rather than synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, plant growth regulators, like hormones, livestock antibiotics and food additives, which have quite adverse effects. We all feel that most of the food we buy from the big supermarkets with our hard earned money is pure garbage. As for me, I`ve been feeling it for a very long time. That’s why I like and embrace the idea of farmhopping – to bring the farmers and the consumers closer together.

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It’s always good to know where your food is coming from and how the plants and the animals are taken care of. Organic farming combines tradition, innovation and science in order to benefit the environment. The structure of the organic farm reflects a natural ecosystem with all its integrity and independence, whilst in conventional farming, synthetic chemicals are used to increase the growth of plants or animals. Organic farming supports the so called polyculture, i.e. planting of variety of vegetable crops that attract beneficial insects and birds, soil microorganisms, and other factors that add up to the overall farm health.

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Conventional farming is about mass production and fast profit with less care for the environment or the people that will actually consume the production of these farms. However, the main challenge organic farming faces is its lower yields compared to conventional farming while the growing world population constantly increases its demands. There is an urgent 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. The critics argue that organic agriculture may have lower yields and would therefore need more land to produce the same amount of food as conventional farms, resulting in more widespread deforestation and biodiversity loss, and thus undermining the environmental benefits of organic practices.

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But in fact, this matter is far more complicated, because a lot of “organic” food is grown using conventional farming techniques and a lot of “conventional” crops benefit from agronomic practices developed by organic farmers. The word “organic” on the food labels means that the products have been grown without the aid of synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and was produced without the use of genetically modified organisms or chemical food additives. The biggest problem with the debate over “organic” and “conventional” crops is that it suggests there are only two ways to grow food: a “good” way and a “bad” way.

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The reality is far different. Perhaps the most important question is: What’s the best way to increase the production of healthy, nutrient-dense food, while simultaneously reducing the amount of land, water and energy required? First, the farmers, academics and society must find long term solutions to make agriculture more sustainable, to decrease diseases and cancerous elements and to produce more nutritious food. One way is to cultivate the best seeds possible through both breeding and biotechnology – together and separately, seeds that produce strong, healthy plants resistant to diseases, seeds that can stand up to tough environmental conditions and realize their highest potential. Another way is to improve the farm-managing practices through modern technology, proper tillage, planting depth and density, as well as maintaining the soil health and seed selection for every particular soil against erosion.

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It’s also very important to encourage and support organic farmers. We need to stimulate the small producers and make them competitive to the industrial farms. Organic foods not only promise to give you and your family a healthy meal, as they are not genetically modified and do not contain any preservatives, but also help you protect the environment, the natural resources and animal welfare.

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Nowadays it’s our sacred duty to support all ecological initiatives such as organic farming despite the difficulties because this is the only way to mend the disharmony and damage we caused to nature. We must use our local resources in the most efficient way, like the Zeitgeist idea of a resource based economy, which is a real chance to reduce the hunger worldwide.