People often pose the question, “Why organic?” After all, don’t we have what is claimed to be “the safest food system in the world”? However, many claim that we may have designed a food system which is capable of producing massive amounts of foods of lesser nutritional value, and which carries the unknown cargo of pesticide residues and the unknown long-term effects of genetic modification.
Organic standards of production were originally defined by an informal coalition of consumers and growers who were concerned about the effects of modern agriculture on humans and upon the Earth. These methods combined traditional, millennia old, techniques with a modern scientific understanding of how and why they are effective in producing wholesome, nutritious foods and protecting and maintaining our environment. Modern testing is confirming the intuition of the “organic pioneers” by showing that nutritional levels of well produced organic food is higher than that of conventionally produced food. It also has confirmed that all recognized indicators of soil health and stability are improved under good organic management, as compared to generally accepted conventional management.
NOP (National Organic Program) organic rules of production require a list of “Thou shalt nots”—production materials and practices that are prohibited in certified organic production. These include: acid-extracted or salt-based fertilizers, chemical pesticides (weed killers, insect killers, fungicides, etc), GMOs (genetically modified organisms), and sewage sludge, among others.
Good organic growers go beyond the “basic requirements” and include diversified crop rotations, green plowdown crops to improve and protect the soil, compost and “raw rock fertilizers” to maintain fertility, wildlife planting to increase populations of beneficial insects and birds, and selection of higher nutritional value crop varieties.
The result is a somewhat lower yield of higher nutrient density foods, and a less negative impact on the environment.
People who have become concerned about how the foods they consume impact their health—negatively or positively—are the main supporters and drivers of organic food production. They have made conscious decisions that they don’t want to face the unknown risk of consuming pesticide residues in their foods or existing with pesticides in their environment. And, they have decided those choices are worth a higher price to compensate for the increased costs of producing those foods.