|Organic vs Conventional -
Organic: Size is relatively small-scale, independent operations e.g. the family farm .
- Methods: no use of purchased fertilizers and other inputs; low mechanization of the growing and harvesting process
- Markets : often local, direct to consumer, through on-farm stands and farmers' markets (see also local food ), and through specialty wholesalers and retailers (eg: health food stores)
Conventional: Size is large-scale, often owned by or economically tied to major food corporations -
- Methods: intensive chemical programs and reliance on mechanized production, using specialized equipment and facilities
- Markets : wholesale, with products distributed across large areas (average supermarket produce travels hundreds to thousands of miles) and sold through high-volume outlets
The contrast is as much economic as it is between methods of
production. Until the last decade, organic farming has been typically small business, often based in local economies, whereas conventional farming is big business (often called agribusiness, or, negatively, corporate farming) that is closely integrated with all aspects of the global food industry. However, the situation is changing rapidly as consumer demand encourages large-scale organic production.
The development of modern organic farming techniques is also a
function of economics. Most of the agricultural research over the last
century has concentrated on chemical-based methods little funding and
effort have been put into using current scientific tools to understand
and advance organic agricultural approaches.
Principles of plant cultivation, in many situations identical to
those of organic farming, are appliedusually, though not necessarily,
at a smaller scalein the practice of organic horticulture.
| Main article: History of organic farming
The organic movement
began as a reaction of insiders (agricultural scientists and farmers)
against the industrialization of agriculture. For some time it remained
below the awareness of the food buyer. As the contrasts between
organics and the new conventional agriculture grew, so to did public
awareness of organic farming. This led to a distinct organic market,
and, eventually, a grassroots consumer cause.
Advances in biochemistry, (nitrogen fertilizer) and engineering (the
internal combustion engine) in the early 20th century led to profound
changes in farming. Research in plant breeding produced hybrid seeds.
Fields grew in size and cropping became specialized to make efficient
use of machinery and reap the benefits of the so-called green revolution.
While some indigenous cultures had been farming organically for
centuries, organic agriculture began to develop consciously in Central
Europe and India in the early twentieth century as a reaction to
industrialization. The British botanist, Sir Albert Howard often called the father of modern organic agriculture studied traditional farming practices in Bengal, India. He came to regard such practices as superior to modern agricultural science and recorded them in his 1940 book, An Agricultural Testament .
In Germany, Rudolf Steiner's Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture , published in 1924, led to the popularization of biodynamic agriculture, one of the first organic farming systems. In 1939 Lady Eve Balfour,
influenced by Sir Howard's work, launched the first scientific,
side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional farming in England.
Called the Haughley Experiment, it was documented by Lady Balfour in her book, The Living Soil . Its influence led to the formation of the Soil Association, a key international organic advocacy group.
The first use of the term organic farming is usually credited to Lord Northbourne, in his book, Look to the Land (1940), wherein he described a holistic, ecologically balanced approach to farming.
Technological advances during World War II
spurred on post-war innovation in all aspects of agriculture, resulting
in such advances as large-scale irrigation, fertilization, and the use
of pesticides. Ammonium nitrate, used in munitions, became an abundantly cheap source of nitrogen. DDT,
originally developed by the military to control disease-carrying
insects among troops, was applied to crops, launching the era of
widespread pesticide use.
During the 1950s, sustainable agriculture became a topic of scientific interest, although research focused on developing the new chemical approaches. In the US, J.I. Rodale popularized organic gardening among consumers.
In the 1970s, global movements concerned with the environment
championed organic farming. As the distinction between organic and
conventional food became clearer, one goal of the organic movement was
to encourage consumption of locally grown food, which was promoted through slogans like "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" . In 1972, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), was founded in Versailles,
France. IFOAM was dedicated to the diffusion of information on the
principles and practices of organic agriculture across national and
In the 1980s, various farming and consumer groups worldwide began
pressing for government regulation of organic production. This led to
legislation and certification standards being enacted beginning in the
Since the early 1990s, the retail market for organic farming in
developed economies has grown about 20 per cent annually due to
increasing consumer demand. While small independent producers and
consumers initially drove the rise of organic farming, increasingly
organic market growth has led to the participation of agribusiness
interests. As the volume and variety of "organic" products grows,
production is increasingly large-scale.
|Farming Methods - Organic farming methods
Organic farming involves fostering natural processes, often over extended periods of time, and a holistic approach. Chemical-based farming focuses on immediate, isolated effects and reductionist
strategies, often based primarily on the desire for profits. In large
commercial operations, technology is used to regulate local conditionshybrid seed,
synthetic chemicals, high-volume irrigationwhile sophisticated
machinery does most of the work, and operators' feet may seldom touch
the ground. Beyond the strictly technical aspects, the philosophy,
day-to-day activities and required skill sets are quite different.
Enhancing soil health is the cornerstone of organic farming. This is a biological process, driven by microorganisms, that allows the natural production of nutrients in the soil throughout the growing season, and has been referred to as feeding the soil to feed the plant. A variety of methods are employed, including crop rotation, green manure, cover cropping, application of compost,
and mulching. Organic farmers also use processed natural fertilizers
such as seed meal, and various mineral powders such as rock phosphate
and greensand, a naturally occurring form of potash.
Differing approaches to pest control are equally notable. In chemical farming, a specific insecticide may be applied to quickly kill off a particular insect pest.
Chemical controls can dramatically reduce pest populations for the
short term, yet by unavoidably killing (or starving) natural predator
insects and animals, cause an ultimate increase in the pest population.
Repeated use of insecticides and herbicides and other pesticides also encourages natural selection of resistant insects, plants and other organisms, leading to increased use, or new, more powerful, controls.
|Pest control targets animal pests (including insects), weeds and
disease. Organic farming tends to tolerate some level of pest loss,
rather than aiming for total eradication. Organic pest control involves
the cumulative effect of many techniques, including, allowing for an
acceptable level of pest damage, encouraging beneficial organisms, careful crop selection and crop rotation, and mechanical controls such
as row covers and traps. These techniques generally provide benefits in
addition to pest controlsoil protection and improvement,
fertilization, pollination, water conservation, season extension, etc.and these benefits are both complementary and cumulative in
overall effect on farm health. Effective organic pest control requires
a thorough understanding of pest life cycles and interactions.
|Crop diversity is also characteristic of organic farming. Planting a
variety of vegetable crops supports a wider range of beneficial
insects, soil microorganisms, and other factors that add up to overall
farm health, but managing the balance requires expertise and close
|Organic farms that raise livestock and poultry, for meat, dairy and
eggs, provide animals with "natural" living conditions and feed. Ample,
free-range outdoor access, for grazing and exercise, is a distinctive
feature, and crowding is avoided. Feed is also organically grown, and
drugs, including antibiotics, are prohibited by organic standards.
Animal health and food quality are thus pursued in a holistic "fresh
air, exercise, and good food" approach.
Horses and cattle used to provide labor, for hauling and plowing,
fertility, through recycling of manure, and fuel, in the form of food
for farmers and other animals. While today, small growing operations
often do not include livestock, domesticated animals can enhance biodiversity and contribute to sustainability: the ability of a farm to function as a self-renewing unit.
|Organic farming systems - There are a number of formal organic farming systems that prescribe
specific techniques. They tend to be more specific than, and fit
within, general organic standards. Biodynamic farming is a comprehensive approach, with its own international governing body. Natural Farming is a no-till system for small-scale grain production. French intensive and biointensive methods that go beyond organic principles and approach sustainability.
Large-scale agriculture and organic farming are not mutually exclusive. For example, Integrated Pest Management is a multifaceted strategy that can include synthetic pesticides as a last resortboth organic and conventional farms use IPM systems for pest control.
|Organic Standards and Organic certification
- Increasingly, organic farming is defined by formal standards
regulating production methods, and in some cases, final output. Two
types of standard exist, voluntary and legislated. As early as the
1970s, private associations created standards, against which organic
producers could voluntarily have themselves certified. In the 1980s,
governments began to produce organic production guidelines. Beginning
in the 1990s, a trend toward legislation of standards began, most
notably with the European Union.
An international framework for organic farming is provided by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
(IFOAM), the international democratic umbrella organization established
in 1972. For IFOAM members, organic agriculture is based upon the Principles of Organic Agriculture and the IFOAM Norms.1 The IFOAM Norms consist of the IFOAM Basic Standards and IFOAM Accreditation Criteria.
The IFOAM Basic Standards are a set of "standards for standards."
They are established through a democratic and international process and
reflect the current state of the art for organic production and
processing. They are best seen as a work in progress to lead the
continued development of organic practices worldwide. They provide a
framework for national and regional standard-setting and certification
bodies to develop detailed certification standards that are responsive
to local conditions.
Legislated standards are established at the national level, and vary
from country to country. In recent years, many countries have
legislated organic production, including the EU nations (1990s), Japan
(2001), and the US (2002). Non-governmental national and international
associations also have their own production standards. In countries
where production is regulated, these agencies must be accredited by the
Since 1993 when EU Council Regulation 2092/91 became effective, organic food production has been strictly regulated in the UK. (pdf).
In 2002, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) established production standards, under the National Organic Program (NOP), which regulate the commercially use of the term organic .2 Farmers and food processors must comply with the NOP in order to use the word.
|Farming Productivity - A 22-year farm trial study by Cornell University published in 2005
concluded that organic farming produces the same corn and soybean
yields as conventional methods, but consumes less energy and contains
no pesticide residues. However, a prominent 21-year Swiss study found
an average of 20% lower organic yields over conventional, along with
50% lower expenditure on fertilizer and energy, and 97% less pesticides 3 - .
A major US survey published in 2001, analyzed results from 150 growing
seasons for various crops and concluded that organic yields were
95-100% of conventional yields 4 - . Comparative yield studies are still scarce, and overall results remain "inconclusive".
The issue of productivity is more complex than a summary of yield
(production per land area), which was the measure used in these
studies. Instead, productivity could be calculated in labour time
rather than by land area. Organic methods often require more labor,
providing rural jobs but increasing costs to urban consumers. Also,
grain forms the majority of world agricultural production, and most of
that is fed to animals, not humansbroad calculations of how much
agriculture is feeding people is therefore complicated when feeding
animals to feed people is factored in.
The hidden costs of conventional agriculture are seldom addressed in
productivity calculations. Conventional agriculture is based on
importing energy, particularly in the form of fertilizer and other
agrichemicals, machinery and fuel, and long-distance transport. The
full cost of these inputs are not included. For example, maintenance of
the airports and highways that allow easy transport are not factored
into food costs. If airports were shut down, or highway systems
compromised, however, there would be an immediate affect on the cost of
food. More indirectly, it is argued that the cost of the side effects
of chemical agriculture, like health care and environmental clean up,
should be included in the cost of agribusiness. Instead, these hidden
costs are paid by the public in other ways, such as through taxation to
fund services like pollution control measures, and increased health
care costs. Of course, many of these hidden cost factors are disputed,
and they are difficult to investigate.
Related to this is the amount of money that actually reaches the
farmer. Currently, large-scale farms receive around 10-20% of the
supermarket retail price. The other 80-90% is absorbed by the food
distribution system for processing, transport, packaging and marketing.
The organic argument holds that more efficient distribution, through
decentralization of production (e.g. family farm vs. factory farm), and
development of local and regional markets, would put more money in the
hands of farmers, allowing for increased productivity.
|Farming Issues - All aspects of organic farming and organic food are under debate.
Environmentalists, food safety advocates, various consumer protection, social justice
and labor groups, small independent farmers, and a growing number of
food consumers are ranged against agribusiness and current government
The controversy centers on the overall value and safety of chemical
agriculture, with organic farming popularly regarded as the "opposite"
of modern, large-scale, chemical-based, vertically integrated,
corporate food production. As public awareness increases, there are a
number of obstacles to an easy grasp of the overall situation.
In recent decades, food production has moved out of the public eye.
In developed nations, where most of the world's wealth, consumption,
and agricultural policy-making are centered, many are unaware of how
their food is produced, or even that food, like energy, is not
unlimited. If the methods used to produce food are rapidly destroying
the capacity for continued production, then sustainable, organic
farming is as crucial a topic as renewable energy and pollution
control. This proposition is at the center of most organic farming
It is useful to make a distinction between organic farming and
organic food. Whether organic food is tastier, safer or more nutritious
has little to do with the effects of chemical agriculture on the
environment. In any case, most food dollars are spent on processed food
products, the manufacture of which is beyond the scope of farming.
There are separate food and farming issues and lumping the two together only confuses the discussion.
The distinction between organic farming and organic certification is
also important. Defining organic farming with checklists of acceptable
and prohibited inputs and practices elicits similar criticisms as those
leveled at chemical farming. With rules come exceptions, whether
well-intentioned or purely profit-oriented, and critics hold that this
can only undermine organic principles. What is "more-or-less organic"?
Certification also allows agribusiness to lobby for favorable
definitionsanything that can be approved becomes "organic".
Of course, the issues, particularly the social ones, will shift if
agribusiness fully adapts to and dominates organic farming, and (in
early 2005) this is the current trend. Then, large-scale, certified
organic farms would probably operate much more like conventional farms
do today. Environmental benefits may accrue from a change in types of
pesticides and fertilizer used, more crop diversity, and the like, but
if the overall agribusiness philosophy remains essentially unchanged,
"organic farming" could become the norm, without any great
environmental or social improvements.
The following topics may be argued from both sides.
|Pesticides - Organic farming does not result in the release of synthetic
pesticides into the food supply or the environment, but it does allow
certain so-called natural pesticides, such as those derived from
plants. Critics claim that many synthetic pesticides are improvements
on natural pesticides, that they are less dangerous to humans and more
environmentally friendly, and that the distinction between "artificial"
and "natural" pesticides is arbitrary and has no bearing on their
safety to humans and the environment. Organic advocates respond that
they use natural pesticides as a last resort, growing healthier,
disease-resistant plants, using cover crops and crop rotation, and
encouraging beneficial insects and birds as the primary methods of pest
control. The most common organic pesticides, accepted for restricted
use by most organic standards, include Bt, pyrethrum, and rotenone.
Another argument against organic farming is that, while it works
acceptably at present because pests are kept under control in
surrounding conventional farms and thus do not spread into organic
farms, if it became universal, the "islands" they operate on would
disappear and pests would become a severe issue. This argument also
works in reverse, as organic farms can be islands of safety for predator insects and pollinators, without which, more pollination services
would be required, and ever-increasing quantities of pesticides would
be needed as pest populations acquired resistance to pesticides (to a
degree, in both instances this is already the case).
Workplace safety is a separate, related issue. Toxic agrichemicals
create a hazardous work environment. Chemical accidents and the effects
of long-term exposure are both well-known risks faced by many farm
workers. Also, the effect of chemicals, airborne after spraying, and in
the groundwater, on neighboring communities is a concern.
|Genetically modified organisms - Transgenic - A key characteristic of organic farming is its rejection of genetically engineered products, including plants and animals. On October 19, 1998, participants at IFOAM's 12th Scientific Conference of IFOAM) issued the Mar del Plata Declaration,
where more than 600 delegates from over 60 countries voted unanimously
to exclude the use of genetically modified organisms in food production
and agriculture. From this point, it became widely recognized that GMOs
are categorically excluded from organic farming.
"GMO-free" is also a popular marketing point for organic food. The
general argument against is that no one has a clue as to the full
impact of genetic engineering
on food quality, plant or animal health: GE could be preparing our food
supply for collapse. On the other side, the argument is that with a
rapidly expanding global population, genetic engineering to create
higher volumes of produce could be the key to ending world hunger. It
also could be the key to creating healthier food, and ensuring proper
nourishment, and has the potential to make farming more profitable,
allowing agricultural industries to survive in increasingly service
oriented economies. Often overlooked in this debate is the fact that
genetic engineering is a technique, not an essential characteristic of
the organisms it produces, and that humans have used selective breeding
to modify crops and livestock for tens of thousands of years.
The contamination of organic farms with GM product, usually through
pollination, is an important issue. Contamination may lead to products
being incorrectly labelled as organic or GMO-free, or may reduce the
value of crop as it cannot be sold as organic, leading to losses for
The mechanism of cross-contamination is not understood, and only
beginning to be studied. Meanwhile, cases of cross-contamination have
been documented, while the extent is still unclear. A first-time study
of genetic cross-contamination, published in Feb. 2004, found that at
least two-thirds of conventional corn, soybeans and canola in the US
contain traces of genetic material from GM varieties. 5 - Along with commercial GM crops, trials for new GM plants producing food, pharmaceuticals (pharmacrops)
and industrial materials (eg: plastics), are being conducted in the US,
Canada, and elsewhere. With the genetic engineering of alfalfa (not yet widely grown), a primary green manure
fertilizer crop, not only primary crops, but the underpinnings of
organic agriculture are threatened. It is conceivable that genetic
contamination could make GMO-free farming next to impossible.
|The environmental argument, from the pro-organic view, holds that
conventional agriculture is rapidly depleting natural resources,
particularly fossil fuels and fresh water, and seriously polluting
soil, water and air. Cited are the large quantities of agricultural
chemicals in use (synthetic pesticides and fertilizers), water wastage
through high-volume irrigation, heavy use of petrochemicals for farm
machinery and long-distance transport, high densities of various waste
products from concentrated operations, and the list goes on. While
there is no argument that conventional agriculture relies on an
abundance of these resources and creates a high volume of waste,
agribusiness supporters (which naturally includes the majority of
conventional farmers) argue that the negative claims are exaggerated or
inaccurate. The fact that the current food industry exists and has fed
the world for several decades is the biggest pro-argument to date.
On the flip side, large-scale organic operations that don't follow
sustainable practices would require many of the same resources as
conventional operations. For example, an organic farm that made heavy
use of farm machinery and indoor production facilities (requiring
artificial heat and light), and shipped to far-off markets, would still
be a major consumer of energy resources. Also, it is debated whether an
organic farm using natural compost and manure on a large scale would
cause any less damage to ground water and soil than manufactured
Interestingly, many organic farms rely on inorganic manure to
continue fertilization due to the large requirement for manure and
relative unavailability of organic manure. This technically does not
violate the traditional definitions of organic produce because there
are no inorganic components added to the manure, although they may be
present in its composition. Studies of the effects of chemicals within
manure on organic produce is limited, although studies have shown that
many carcinogens are present in variable amounts in even organic
According to Dr. John Emsley, the former Science Writer in Residence
at the University of Cambridge, an organically farmed hectare of land
can feed approximately 10 people on an entirely vegetarian diet, they
are not eating the cows, while a hectare of agrochemical enhanced land
can feed up to 40. So, Emsley continues, the 40 people would be better
served by farming one hectare intensely with chemicals while the other
3 are reserved for woodlands and wildlife. Emsley also emphasizes the
affordability of the machinery necessary to produce the nitrogen rich
chemicals that aid in conventional farming, stating that [e]ven
low-income countries can afford Haber-Bosch factories, and these should
begin to turn around food production there, just as they did in
high-income economies. Emsley endorses organic farming only as a
method of reclaiming nitrogen from animal leavings that would otherwise
Next, author Anthony Trewavas of the Institute of Cell and Molecular
Biology at the University of Edinburgh claims that a conventional farm
can match an organic farm using only 50-70% of the farmland. Because
of this land is left over which is used for willow plantations, this
woodland serves as a home for a wealth of wildlife. The willow is later
cut and tended, or coppiced, to encourage the growth of many branches
which are then used for fuel. Trewavas concludes that [w]ith this
novel conventional approach, now in commercial operation throughout
Europe, total fossil-fuel use and carbon dioxide production are much
lower than in organic farming, and because of carbon recycling it is
much more sustainable.
|Food quality - Although organic food
is a topic in its own right, there are concerns related specifically to
the quality of raw, fresh food. Without conclusive science either way,
some organic supporters believe that the overall nutritional and
health-promoting value of food is compromised by chemical-farming
methods. This involves areas like micronutrients and trace elements,
plant physiology, the way plants grow and the process of human
nutrition. The common sense appeal is that food grown in unnatural,
sheltered, chemically assisted ways isn't as "good" for people as
"naturally grown" food, as some things are different or missing. The
counter-argument is that, by currently accepted standards of food
science, there has been no demonstration of a functional difference
between organically and conventionally produced food, and that assisted
food is actually healthier and thus, more nutritious.
Some critics point out organic food could be less safe than
non-organic food, by increasing the risk of exposure to biological
contaminants and food-borne diseases.
But the main problem for Food contamination is the manipulation with good higienic standards,
and good cleaning habits will be healthy.
In particular health concerns are related to the use of manure, well known for carrying human pathogens
and presence of mycotoxins from molds. One large, influential French
study, evaluating organic and conventional food during 1999-2000,
warned that biological toxins in certain organic products (apples,
wheat) should be closely monitored 6 - .
Food contamination is usually caused by unhygienic handling and
storage, including use of contaminated water, which can occur on-farm,
in transit, and at the point of preparation. And there is no general
evidence of food contamination being caused or increased by organic
|Children's Health - A 2001 study
demonstrated that children fed organic diets experienced significantly
lower organophosphorus pesticide exposure than children fed
conventional diets. Additionally, in 2005 the EPA's "Guidelines for
Carcinogen Risk Assessment" showed that children receive 50% of their
lifetime risks of cancer during their first two years of life (7).
These studies and others like it have helped spur a growing organic
baby food trend in the United States. Mothers are more and more
hesitant to feed their children potentially dangerous food, given that
their small bodies are especially vulnerable to toxins.
|Soil conservation - The practice of ploughing (see tillage) to prepare soil for planting is claimed to increase soil damage compared to using herbicides, like glyphosates.
In fact, this argument applies primarily to large-scale, chemical-based
agriculture, where huge areas are repeatedly tilled and planted with
the same crops. By using artificial fertilizer rather than replacing
organic material, the soil structure is progressively destroyed, and
becomes increasingly susceptible to wind and water erosion. Use of
herbicides to kill weeds, instead of plowing them under, may present a
short-term solution to this problem. However, repeated use of
herbicides also kills microorganisms that contribute to the
decomposition of plant residues that help rebuild the organic matter
that holds the soil together. It also encourages the selection of the
most herbicide-resistant weeds, which necessitates increased herbicide
|Government subsidies - Some organic farming advocates believe that, even if yields are
currently lower, these results are obtained without the huge subsidies
paid to conventional farmers, and expect yields to be equivalent or
higher if organic farming were subsidized to the same level.
It should be noted that the conventional, chemical-based approach is
also widely practiced in countries that do not heavily subsidise their
farmers, such as Australia, as well as many other countries which are
not mentioned here.
|Rural infrastructure - Critics condemn agribusiness practices for putting small,
independent farmers out of business, destroying rural communities in
the process, and causing the "art of farming" to be lost. According to
these critics, small-scale organic farming encourages local economies,
and provides social and employment alternatives to concentrated,
energy-dependent urban living, thus improving the quality of life for
As discussed previously, the entry of large-scale businesses into
production of organic food undermines the belief that a preference by
consumers for organic food will necessarily translate into a
substantive change in the nature of agribusiness. This is where the
distinction between organic farming, organic food, and organic
certification becomes tricky. If the strong consumer trend represents
simply the desire for an "organic" stamp on their food, then the trend
to large-scale, global, corporate farming, certified organic or not,
will continue. If consumers embrace a broader concept of "organic",
which includes fresh, local food, substantial changes in the food
industry would have to follow to meet this demand.
|Sustainability - Although it is common to equate organic farming with sustainable agriculture,
the two are not synonymous. Sustainability in agriculture is a broad
concept, with considerations on many levels, such as "environmental
health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity." 8 -
With regard to organic farming methods, one goal of sustainability
would be to approach as closely as possible a balance between what is
taken out of the soil with what is returned to it, without relying on
outside inputs. An organic operation that imports the manure it uses to
replace the nutrients taken out of the soil by crops, must factor in
the resources required to produce and transport that manure, when
calculating sustainability. Organic farming today is a small part of
the agricultural landscape, with a relatively minor impact on the
environment. As the size of organic farms continues to increase, a new
set of large-scale considerations will eventually have to be tackled.
Large organic farms that rely on machinery and automation, and
purchased inputs, will have similar sustainability issues as large
conventional farms do today.
|Certification - Organic certification, particularly where mandated by law, as in the
US and the EU, is increasingly being seen by individual organic farmers
and consumers as a contentious issue. Where the push for regulation was
originally a grassroots effort by organic producers and buyers looking
to uphold standards and prevent fraud, the complex regulations and
opportunities for loopholes that have emerged have lead to charges
being levelled against major certifiers and government programs. In the
US, where standards became law in 2002, serious complaints have been
lodged with the USDA against the largest US certifying agency, and the
USDA itself has been taken to court, based on such challenges. A
leading US proponent of organic farming, Eliot Coleman,
who served as an adviser to the USDA during the drafting of the
original organic guidelines in the US in the 1980s, and served a term
as Director of IFOAM, more recently stated: "The label 'organic' has
lost the fluidity it used to hold for the growers more concerned with
quality than the bottom line, and consumers more concerned with
nutrition than a static set of standards for labeling."9
Concern about the "watering down" of standards to facilitate
large-scale production is currently a significant aspect of organic
|Farming future - Organic farming is at a crossroads. Despite the growth in the
organic food market over the last decade, the future of the small,
independent farmer, organic or otherwise, is as much in jeopardy now as
it has been in recent decades. The local infrastructure to support
small farmers is all but non-existent in most developed nations - the
current food distribution system favors high-volume production, and
large farming operations. What is commonly known as "organic farming"
may change quite dramatically in the coming few years.
Organic farming is now gaining popularity and is being accepted by people all over the world. In Deborah Koons Garcia's film The Future of Food 10 - ,
it is stated that the American market for organically grown food
amounted to $1 billion in 1994, and $13 billion in 2003. A growing
consumer market is naturally one of the main factors encouraging
farmers to convert to organic agricultural production. Increased
consumer awareness of food safety issues and environmental concerns has
contributed to the growth in organic farming over the last few years.
|Kuepper, George and Gegner, Lance. "Organic Crop Production Overview", ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service: August 2004.
| Principles of Organic Agriculture (pdf) atIFOAM (2005).
|Maeder, P. et al Soil Fertility and Biodiversity in Organic Farming fromScience v296, 31 May2002, 1694-1697.
|the Information Bulletin of the Organic Farming Research Foundation.
| BBSRC - the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
|Le Dossier juin/juillet 2001 (in French).
|What is Sustainable Agriculture?.
| The Future of Food.
|Emsley, John (April 2001). Going One Better Than Nature. Nature - 410 - : 633-634. -
|Smil, Vaclav . Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and the Transformation of World Food , MIT Press.
|Trewavas, Anthony Much Food, Many Problems. Nature - Urban Myths of Organic Farming. Nature
|Back to the land
|WWOOF - World-Wide
Opportunities on Organic Farms or Willing Workers on Organic Farms, an
organization which facilitates placement of volunteer workers
|neem cake - Neem Cake Organic Manure
|Organic Farming in Europe
Definition and methods for organic farming in several languajes. da de et el en es fr it lv lt hu nl pl pt sk sl fi svi.
|International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
| Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF)
| Organic Consumers Association
| Organic Volunteers A catalog of internships on organic farms
| The Organic Way
|Regional and special interest: -
|Agroecological approaches for small farmers in the developing world
|AMERC Organic farm in Poland
|Cuban Organic Support Group
|map of chefs and restaurants who directly support local, sustainable agriculture Mapped on Platial.
|Nutrients in Organic Farming
|The Great American Milk Wars