A little over a week ago Henry I. Miller wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal titled “Organic Farming Is Not Sustainable.” As you can imagine there is a bit of controversy over this statement. I won’t post the full article here, but I will include bullet points and key excepts below.
- Organic farming is touted as being sustainable and a method to contribute to sustainable food security, however, available information does not support that notion
- Organic matter used as fertilizer has resulted in an increase in nitrates in groundwater, which is troublesome in areas experiencing drought
- Large scale composting produces significant amounts of methane and nitrous oxide (both greenhouse gases). Composting can also deposit pathogens in groundwater, which can lead to food poisoning.
- Output from organic farms is 20-50% less than conventional agriculture. This leads to increased water consumption, as well as higher ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions, nitrogen leaching, land use, eutrophication and acidification potential per product unit. All of which, with the exception of water consumption, are higher than conventional farming.
- Organic farming used some pesticides that are very toxic to either mammals and/or fish.
Perhaps the most illogical and least sustainable aspect of organic farming in the long term is the exclusion of “genetically modified organisms,” but only those that were modified with the most precise and predictable techniques such as gene splicing. Except for wild berries and wild mushrooms, virtually all the fruits, vegetables and grains in our diet have been genetically improved by one technique or another, often through what are called wide crosses, which move genes from one species or genus to another in ways that do not occur in nature. Therefore, the exclusion from organic agriculture of organisms simply because they were crafted with modern, superior techniques makes no sense. It also denies consumers of organic goods nutritionally improved foods, such as oils with enhanced levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Organic farming is for ‘social elites,’ and is not following the advances in agriculture that are “more environmentally friendly and sustainable than ever.
Reading the first few paragraphs I thought it was likely this piece was written by someone who is anti-organic farming and pro GMOs, hence this very biased piece. When I got to the quoted paragraph I knew I was right. Technology is great when used properly, but the safety of GMOs is unfounded nor is the impact of heavy pesticides on humans, the environment, or wildlife. In short, be very leery of the information you take in and always pay attention to who is writing and their interests or you may be mislead by bias.
Have you read this article? Share your thoughts in the comments!