It is believed that consumers who opt for organically grown foods over conventional ones do for a number of reasons. These include health and environmental concerns over fertilizer and pesticide use in conventional practice. There is also the perceived superior nutritional value of the organic foods. Due to this reason, organic foods are more expensive than their conventional counterparts.
Organic agriculture compared to conventional agriculture
Conventional agriculture and organic culture are two different ethos. The basic difference between the two can be summarized as follows:
- Harmony with nature
- Domination of nature
Description of organic farming
Organic farming is believed to improve the fertility of soil. This cannot be achieved by conventional farming techniques even if it done following a few ecological principles. Organic farming employs a number of methods like crop rotation, crops integration, inter-cropping, double-digging and mulching. The unique nature of organic agriculture is that there is a near complete prohibition of synthetic input and there is a compulsory rotation of soil building crops.
However, there can be exceptions on the use of synthetics in organic farming. All natural inputs may also not be tolerated. The latter may not only cause harm to human health but also to the environment. A prime example of this is arsenic. A few synthetic inputs can be regarded as essential and also consistent with the philosophy of organic farming. Insect pheromone is one such example. Even though many farmers only use natural products, this factor would not solely led the crops to be termed organic.
Modern farms have less use of skilled husbandry that was once the guiding principle of making any land a productive one. Stress is laid on productivity. Chemicals are literally poured in to the soil for high productivity and consequent monetary returns. Both of them tend to reduce over period of time. The all important considerations of what will happen to the land, food it produces, individuals who consume it and communities losing out, are overlooked.
Proponents of organic farming have consistently reported a number of beneficial findings like reduced nitrate content, greater amounts of Vitamin C, and also more mineral content like calcium, sodium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron in the organically produced foods. Same findings are reported for green leafy vegetables, strawberries, pears, wheat, peaches and apples.
The problem with comparing organically grown and conventionally produced crops is variability. Innumerable studies were conducted and conflicting results found. This happened due to the variability of the way these studies were designed and then executed. It is thus almost impossible to compare the findings.
The studies have found the presence of more mineral content like calcium, sodium, magnesium and iron in organic foods compared to the conventional foods. This study must be read in light of the fact that a majority of consumers purchase from supermarkets. A lot of variability exists in such conditions. Details like growing conditions, freshness, cultivar and even harvest maturity are ignored. Produces for sale in commercial environments are usually harvested at varying times, stored differently and shipped differently too. All of them affect the nutritional factors of the food meant for consumption.
The result of using fertilizers is an extremely common method of finding the superior quality of organic foods. Manure based and synthetic fertilizers are examined and the crops produced with their help are also taken into account. Use of manure results in greater presence of Vitamin A, C and B12 in a number of crops. It is seen that the phytochemical content in organic produce is also much greater compared to conventionally grown crops.