Fear-based messaging has become extremely frequent and easy in our era of social networking. It seems like not a day goes by that I am not hearing comments or being bombarded with e-mails about reasons to be “pro-organic” or “pro-conventional” farming. From my perspective it’s crazy how much time, money and lobbying is now being spent on trying to convince and or squash the other. My question is why can’t both organic and conventional farming happily co-exist in their respective domains. I was reading an interesting study the other day by plant pathologist Dr. Steve Savage. The report compared conventional farms to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic Survey from 2014, which reports various measures of productivity from most of the certified organic farms in the nation. Dr. Savage compared the data “crop-by-crop” and “state-by-state”. His findings are extremely revealing. There was a definite “yield gap” — poorer performance of organic farms — in 68 out of 59 crop varieties. And many of those gaps, or shortfalls, were fairly significant: strawberries -61% less than conventional; fresh tomatoes -61% less; tangerines -58% less; carrots -49% less; cotton -45% less; rice -39% less; peanuts -37% less. Savage noted that in order to have raised all U.S. crops as organic in 2014 would have required farming of an extra +109 million more acres of land. That is an area equivalent to all the parkland and wildland areas in the lower 48 states, or 1.8 times as much as all the urban land in the nation. On top of this, in a study published in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences found that the potential for groundwater contamination can be dramatically reduced if fertilizers are distributed through the irrigation system according to plant demand during the growing season. But organic farming depends on compost, the release of which is not matched with plant demand. The study also cited that intensive organic agriculture relying on solid organic matter, such as composted manure that is implemented in the soil prior to planting as the sole fertilizer, could result in significant down-leaching of nitrate” into our groundwater supply. I understand the organic movement gets a lot of good PR as a “green” activity, but on a large scale it also generates a significant “carbon footprint” and large amount of greenhouse gasses. Another prevalent “green myth” about organic agriculture is that it does not employ pesticides, when in fact many organic producers use insecticides and fungicides to prevent predation of its crops. More than 20 chemicals – mostly containing copper and sulfur are commonly used in the growing and processing of organic crops. I’m not trying to say that conventional is better than organic or that one is better than the other, but I am trying to say there’s a lot of lies and propaganda being deployed amongst our nations youth and urban core, that is tough to digest. I honestly believe there is a place for both practices to co-exist and the money being spent to topple or dispute the other could be used in much better practice. In fact I suspect there’s a lot we could all learn from one another if we would simply put down the gloves and shares our ideas. I hope the powers that be will eventually stop trying to manipulate the minds of the consumer and recognize that both farming practices are needed and warranted for sustainability. Constantly taking shots at one another is only creating more of longer-term social and ethical issue for the entire ag industry. Bottom-line, I believe there is a huge space for “organic” and that it’s percentage of market share will continue to grow, but I see no need in using scorched earth tactics or “fake news” and or false propaganda to grow. Toxic advertising and media is just as damaging as bad agronomic practices… No one wins! (Source: Forbes; National Review; Texas Ag Talk)
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