Five facts you should know about organic agriculture.
From small-town farmers’ markets to grocery stores alike, organic products are everywhere. People seem to love organic produce because they are grown ethically, they are generally better for the earth and they are healthier, right? Here are five things you should know about organic fruits and veggies.
The Webster’s Dictionary definition of organic is “of, relating to, yielding, or involving the use of food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics or pesticides.”
According to the USDA regulations on organic products, every item labelled must adhere to the National Organic Program requirements and the location where the product originated must be inspected and certified yearly.
Organic allows pesticides.
One common misconception about organic produce is that it’s better simply because no pesticides touched the food. Here is a brief list of allowed pesticides for use on organic crops, courtesy of the USDA:
The full can be found list here. All the pesticides allowed for organic production are non-synthetic, meaning everything used was found naturally.
Because there are no synthetic pesticides applied to organic produce, organic producers are exempt from tolerance levels and regulations. The EPA sets limits on the amount of synthetic pesticides allowed on a given crop. Since the pesticides are non-synthetic, the EPA does not regulate amounts applied, frequency applied or residue.
Organic farming practices are more sustainable.
According to the USDA, the basis of organic agriculture is to “integrate cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.”
In a nutshell, organic farming helps sustain the future of earth. Organic farmers utilize cover crops to hold down the soil. Then they rotate different crops on their field to prevent monocropping. Many organic farms are no-till, which means there is less erosion of soil and less runoff into streams and reservoirs.
Organic costs. A lot.
A Washington Post article from 2016 revealed organic farming to be exponentially more profitable than conventional farming. Conventional corn brought in $139 per bushel, whereas organic corn was $367 per bushel.
While a portion of that profitability can be attributed to the savings on pesticides, herbicides and soil amendments, organic does come with a price. To certify a farm as organic, a farmer must purchase a $750 certification fee in its first year. Organic farmers are also expected to pay annual re-certification fees that can be upwards of $575 according to the USDA.
Organic produce isn’t healthier because it’s more expensive.
The premium price of organic produce entices consumers to believe it is healthier than conventional produce. A 2012 Stanford Medical study showed that organic produce contained 30% lower pesticide residue than conventional produce, yet the conventional produce was still within boundaries of EPA regulations.
Linc Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @LincThomas1