Changing the question, changing the conversation about organic farming.

Dahinda, IL: There is a new study out by Stanford University that says that there is “Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods.”This is another study where changing the question changes the conversation. Organic ag is nothing more that a method to grow crops in a way that does little damage to the environment and reduces our dependence on fossil fuel. There is an added benefit in having no pesticides in your food. In a strict sense, organic agriculture is distinguished from so-called conventional agriculture by using no synthetic pesticides or herbicides, less fossil fuel, growing food; fiber; etc. in a way that does little harm to the environment, and is humane to animals.

This study seems to have talked about the environmental and social benefits of organic ag and hit the news wires on a slow news day. The media seems to have downplayed the environmental part of the study to push their audience’s buttons about health. We live in an age of food scares with reports and studies coming in constantly that are often contradictory. We may see a study in the next year or so touting the benefits of organically grown food! The term “organic” is loosely defined anyway, and has been co-opted by big businesses who do not practice any sustainable methods in the spirit of what organic originally meant, and should be replaced by something else.

Another term, “sustainable,” is already widely in use. And since sustainable describes agriculture that uses less fossil fuel, and artificial inputs such as pesticides, it is better suited to promote the methods used in organic agriculture. Much research has gone into growing food organically including work done at the Rodale Institute and much of this research is nothing more than ways to grow more crops sustainably. Some of this research has been adopted by conventional ag including no till practices to reduce erosion. The more oil goes up in price, the more the price of sustainably grown organic food will be on par with conventionally grown food, and maybe even less. That will be the time that sustainable organic practices will be adopted more and more by conventional growers. Especially the pest and weed control methods.

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