With the consistent surge in the world’s population, the topic of sustainable agriculture continues to garner much attention and discussion in the agricultural sector. While many believe organic food production is the solution to a greener earth, one has to question its sustainability, given our human activities and consumption.
Our Earth’s surface is being adversely affected by rising global temperatures, unsustainable organic production methods, and an excess of carbon dioxide co2 in the atmosphere. It’s up to us as a collective to take action and make sure we sustain our planet for future generations.
Are organic foods sustainable? How practical/feasible is it for organic foods to match up with the demands of the ever-increasing global population? All these questions will be answered in this article. Follow closely.
What are Organic Foods?
The term “organic foods” has become a trend among the ‘healthy bunch’ in recent years. While many believe organic foods simply refer to foods that are “healthy” or “clean”, this is not entirely correct.
Organic foods are simply USDA-certified foods. The certification from the United States Department of Agriculture is what makes a farm produce to be certified as ” organic.”
Here are some criteria a farm produce must meet to be USDA certified as an organic food:
- It must be certified to have been cultivated on soil that does not contain prohibited substances.
- For at least three years before harvest, no pesticide, synthetic fertilizers, or any prohibited substances must have been added to the soil.
- If a situation arises that requires the farmer to use a synthetic substance to solve a specific problem, the substance must first be approved. The approval would be based on whether or not the substance is inimical to human health and the environment at large.
However, while organic foods have many notable benefits, it completely disregards other sustainable farming systems like aeroponics and hydroponics, which do not require soil for cultivation at all
What then is sustainable farming?
What is Sustainable Farming?
A sustainable system of farming seeks to improve the resource base and the cultivation depends on the overall quality of the environment. It must also be economically viable, provide basic human foods, and satisfy fiber needs.
Sustainable farming should not only affect food production but also improve the quality of life for society and farmers in the long run. It embraces various initiatives in agricultural work to improve productivity and food choices. Planting trees and shrubs where animals are, serve as shade and their water resources.
Are Organic Foods Sustainable?
As opposed to conventional farming, organic farming practices tend to retain soil fertility and improve overall soil health. This healthy practice meets the tenets of sustainable farming; meaning organic foods are sustainable.
Organic farmers do not use pesticides or synthetic fertilizers to control pests and improve food production. Their soil is protected from harmful chemical substances that cause greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution, as well as exposure to toxins in the chemicals used in conventional farming. This shows improvements in the overall wellness and quality of life of the foods produced, the people involved in the production, and society at large.
Sustainability entails improvements in the quality of crops, among others. Plants and animals that are organically grown, taste better and contain nutrients (which is the whole essence of farming), such as omega-3 fatty acids.
Meanwhile, since organic farming features crop rotation and the cultivation of a wide variety of crops, it also enhances biodiversity. This naturally helps with erosion, weed control, and pest control. All of these make organic food production a more sustainable alternative.
Organic Foods vs. Conventional Foods
The eco-friendly practice of growing food organically has always been in a long-standing debate with conventional agriculture.
Organic farming requires more land to grow the same amount of crops that conventional farming will produce. Such practices are a waste of finite land that is required to feed a continuously increasing population.
As the demand for food supply continues to increase, deforestation becomes the next option to create more space for growing crops and rearing animals. The more trees we remove, the more greenhouse gasses are emitted into the atmosphere, leading to severe climate change.
While various experts believe that organic foods contain a little more nutrients than conventional foods, they also believe that organic farming releases more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere than conventional farming. This is because of the tilling that organic farming practices employ.
Carbon is sequestered in large amounts in topsoil. This means that when topsoil is tilled off the ground while weeding, lots of carbon emissions are released into the atmosphere.
Asides from carbon emissions, tilling the topsoil also gives room for erosion.
All of these may make you wonder if the benefits of organic agriculture truly outweigh its shortcomings.
If we must keep up with the rising demands of food consumption, we need to look past debating whether an agricultural system is good or bad. Organic producers and farming are sustainable, but so are conventional, hydroponics, aeroponics, and every other farming system that is used to grow foods.
We can’t depend on one source alone. We need to find a way to harness various environmentally friendly agricultural farming systems so our supplies can meet up with society’s ever-increasing food consumption demands.