Organic is another term very much heard of these days. Organic food stores, Organic clothing, organic makeup etc… the list is long.
What is Organic? To many it means a return to the way things were 100 years ago when man lived off what the land provided and took care of it; nothing artificial, no enhancements, no fertilizers and no pesticides – basically a return to natural way of life.
The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows:
“Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.”
Before we talk about organic way of life which was the way we were eons back, let’s take a look at how we got here. When man first started to settle down after his hunter gatherer stage and farm food he was totally dependent on nature. Farming was done based on the land and the seeds were the ones which was collected from existing plants.
As per Karl N. Stauber et al. in, “The Promise of Sustainable Agriculture,” in Planting the Future: Developing an Agriculture that Sustains Land and Community, Elizabeth Ann R. Bird, Gordon L. Bultena, and John C. Gardner, editors (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1995)
Philosophical underpinnings of industrial agriculture included assumptions that ”
a) Nature is a competitor to be overcome;
b)Progress requires unending evolution of larger farms and depopulation of farm communities;
c)Progress is measured primarily by increased material consumption;
d)Efficiency is measured by looking at the bottom line; and
e) Science is an unbiased enterprise driven by natural forces to produce social good.”
- In the 20th century with the advent of genetic engineering there was a major shift in the way we looked at agriculture. It became about better yield, better resistance to diseases, faster maturing etc… Genetic engineering enabled scientists to create plants, animals and micro-organisms by manipulating genes in a way that does not occur naturally. It lead to the creation of high yielding varieties of plants and animals.
- Simultaneously there was also the development of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These were used incessantly without thought of what happened to it once it was sprayed or applied.
- The prevailing agricultural system, variously called “conventional farming,” “modern agriculture,” or “industrial farming” has delivered tremendous gains in productivity and efficiency.
- Food production worldwide has risen in the past 50 years; the World Bank estimates that between 70 percent and 90 percent of the recent increases in food production are the result of conventional agriculture rather than greater acreage under cultivation.
- In the U.S. consumers have come to expect abundant and inexpensive food.
- Conventional farming systems vary from farm to farm and from country to country.
- However, they share many characteristics: rapid technological innovation; large capital investments in order to apply production and management technology; large-scale farms; single crops/row crops grown continuously over many seasons; uniform high-yield hybrid crops; extensive use of pesticides, fertilizers, and external energy inputs; high labor efficiency; and dependency on agribusiness.
- In the case of livestock, most production comes from confined, concentrated systems.
- In spite of all these advancements almost 20% of the world’s population goes hungry.
- The concerns are numerous :
- Agriculture is the largest single non-point source of water pollutants including sediments, salts, fertilizers (nitrates and phosphorus), pesticides, and manures.
- Pesticides from every chemical class have been detected in groundwater and are commonly found in groundwater beneath
agricultural areas; they are widespread in the nation’s surface waters.
- Arid dead zones due to nutrient runoff affect many rivers, lakes, and oceans.
- Reduced water quality impacts agricultural production, drinking water supplies, and fishery production.
- Lots of the pests become resistant to these pesticides there by becoming indestructible.
- Forests being cleared for agriculture leads to ecological issues like global warming.
- Economically small farmers have found it harder and harder to survive during the past decades.
- Farms in the US have become
- Agriculture has been considered the backbone of every nations growth.
- Potential health hazards are tied to sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animal production, and pesticide and nitrate contamination of water and food. Farm workers are poisoned in fields, toxic residues are found on foods, and certain human and animal diseases have developed resistance to currently used antibiotics.
- Historically, farming played an important role in the development and identity of a nation.
Now Organic life style does not mean just buying organic food. Organic living also includes being kinder to the environment with the choices you make every day, buying organic cotton sheets and apparel, buying organic seeds, plants and fertilizers, buying organic mattresses and organic cosmetics.
Organic products mean a production method which is sustainable. Organic farming would mean using non-hybrid seeds, making the farming soil free of pesticides and insecticide (takes 3 years to be accepted as certifiable organic). As per John Ikerd, as quoted by Richard Duesterhaus in “Sustainability’s Promise,” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation (Jan.-Feb. 1990) “capable of maintaining their productivity and usefulness to society indefinitely. Such systems… must be resource-conserving, socially supportive, commercially competitive, and environmentally sound.”
“Environmental sustainability implies the following:
- Meeting the basic needs of all peoples, and giving this priority over meeting the greed of a few.
- Keeping population densities, if possible, below the carrying capacity of the region.
- Adjusting consumption patterns and the design and management of systems to permit the renewal of renewable resources.
- Conserving, recycling, and establishing priorities for the use of nonrenewable resources.
- Keeping environmental impact below the level required to allow the systems affected to recover and continue to evolve.