Is Being Organic, The Ultimate “Planet Saving” Solution?

Posted on June 27, 2012 in Environment

By Subodh Jain:

Whenever we use the term ‘organic‘, an immediate thing that strikes our mind is the reduced use of chemicals. And here lies the actual misconception. In real terms, organic products today involve much more than that. In an increasingly crowded world, the common tendency is to get more out of less.

A third of planet is used for agricultural activities. Fertilizers, irrigation and mechanization are key factors responsible for the huge production of crops. Today, as environmental issues are on an uprising, we are switching our perspectives, and embracing organic products as better for the planet. I have heard many people of the opinion, “I will prefer organic food over conventional crops”. Further they add, “though it costs more, but it’s not above the satisfaction obtained from the thought that we contribute in saving our planet”.

Scientists from McGill University in collaboration with University of Minnesota conducted a survey on 34 crops including fruits and legumes. It was concluded that productivity gradually decreased with organic farming. For instance, cereal crop like wheat showed a downfall of more than 25%. Further observations highlighted the actual reality. Conventional farming consumes about 171 million metric tons of synthetic fertilizer every year, and all that nitrogen leads to faster yield, compared to slower release of nitrogen from the compost used in organic farming. The second major setback with organic farming is that despite covering more land, it gives lesser crops. Though the organic product sales have increased up to 26.7 billion dollars, it is very evident presently, that organic farming won’t save the planet. In fact it won’t feed the planet. Steve Savage, a critic and biologist says, “I never have any problem with anybody farming, including organic farming, just as long as people aren’t under the illusion that they’re saving the planet that way.”

Present conditions stress that organic products will not help in saving the planet. A couple of issues associated with this are cost and productivity. Firstly, in country like India where a major portion of the population starves for days; buying such organic products is something out of thoughts for them. In recession era, paying a premium amount on food is unaffordable. Next, with the continuous increment in population, meeting the needs of every human with organic farming is really a challenging task which requires strong economics and sound policies. On this Steve comments “Organic food is like private school — nice if you can afford it.”

What this means is that organic consumption is increasing but it is not efficient. So the ideal system, till the date organic products meet the conventional farming prices and productivity, is a change in life style. Not just adopting modern healthier life style will help but adopting an “eco-friendly” life style will prevent harmful chemicals from entering the ecosystem.