According to the Organic Trade Association, sales of organic food products in the USA have grown from just $1 billion in 1990 to a whopping $26.7 billion in 2010. With promoters that include The Prince of Wales, Michelle Obama, Angelina Jolie, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Julia Roberts, there’s no doubt that organic is in-style. But what are the actual benefits?
Here are 27 scientific reasons organic, sustainable farming methods are better. Better for the environment, for you and your family, and for farm animals.
Better For Our Environment
1) Non-organic agriculture pollutes our water sources
The EPA reports that “agricultural nonpoint source (NPS) pollution is the leading source of water quality impacts on surveyed rivers and lakes, the second largest source of impairments to wetlands, and a major contributor to contamination of surveyed estuaries and groundwater.”
2) Chemical pesticide runoff can accumulate in fish
According to the National Library of Medicine, “pesticides in runoff can accumulate in fish, which can expose people who eat the fish to high levels of these chemicals.”
3) Pesticides and other chemicals can contaminate groundwater
According to a brochure from the University of Missouri-Columbia, pesticides can accumulate in groundwater, which can harm wildlife, crops, animals, and humans.
4) Chemical pesticides kill birds
Pesticides kill an estimate 72 million birds per year.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that 72 million birds are killed by pesticides
in the United States each year.
5) Fertilizer runoff is a primary contributor to dead-zones in the ocean
Scientists have found about 200 “dead zones” in the ocean – areas where marine life (including fish) has difficulty living. Scientists blame agricultural runoff as one of the main causes.
6) Organic farms have more abundant wildlife
A review of scientific studies found that organic farms are host to 50% more wildlife than their non-organic counterparts.
7) Organic and sustainable farming methods reduce erosion
Soil in the US is being washed away about 10x as fast as it is being replenished. Organic and sustainable farming methods significantly reduce soil erosion.
According to a Cornell University study
, The United States is losing soil 10 times faster than the natural replenishment rate. USDA organic standards require the use of methods that reduce erosion on farm land.
8) Organic and sustainable farming methods improve soil quality
A panel of scientists at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science concluded that “growing body of sophisticated research” allows us to conclude that “organically farmed soils display improved soil health.”
9) Conserve energy and fossil fuels
Organic farming uses about 30% less energy that conventional farming methods.
10) Many of the worst environmental pollutants are chemical pesticides
8 of the 12 most dangerous persistent organic pollutants (chemicals that don’t break down, and so pose a long term threat to the environment) are pesticides.
11) Save the bees!
Bees and other pollinators are declining around the world, in part due to pesticides.
12) Science shows organic farms foster a much healthier ecosystem
Studies show that organic fields have deeper vegetation, more weed cover, and contain 88% more ‘epigeal arthropods’ (squiggly soil creatures such as earthworms).
13) Organic farms have richer plant and wildlife populations
A report by Britain’s Soil Association shows that wildlife is substantially richer and more varied on organic farms than on conventional farms. A typical organic field has five times as many wild plants, 57% more species, and 44% more birds in cultivated areas than a regular farm.
Better For You And Your Family
14) Reduce children’s exposure to toxic chemicals
A University of Washington study found that children fed a diet of organic foods were exposed to six to nine times less toxic pesticides than children fed a conventional diet.
15) Better tasting food
While taste is subjective and influenced by many factors, organic, sustainable foods often taste better, due to richer soil, varieties chosen for flavor instead of storage, and other factors.
16) More nutrients
Sustainable farming practices means foods are grown on healthier soil, varieties are chosen for flavor and nutritional value, and foods are harvested when fully ripe and processed to maintain flavor and nutrition. While choosing organic doesn’t guarantee higher nutrient content, organically grown foods often contain more nutrition, and science backs this up.
17) Eat foods without pesticides
USDA tests show that 63% of product samples have detectable pesticide residues.
18) Reduce your child’s risk for certain health problems
Several studies have found that children exposed to certain agricultural chemicals may have a higher risk for learning and memory deficits, and ADD.
19) Avoid genetically modified foods
Numerous scientific studies suggest that genetically modified foods may be harmful to the environment and human health. Certified organic foods are GMO-free.
20) No artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors
Organic foods are not allowed to contain artificial ingredients. Artificial food additives have been linked to certain health issues.
Better For Animals
21) Sustainable farming means that animals are treated humanely
Organic farming means raising animals in a healthy, natural, free-range environment.
Organic farms don’t crowd animals in small cages or pens where they can be exposed to high levels of manure and toxins.
22) Animals have access to fields/free range
Organic cows are required by USDA guidelines to be allowed to graze at least 120 days a year.
23) Animals aren’t fed artificial hormones
A study by the European Commission (EC) found that hormones in meat “poses a serious threat to the public, particularly vulnerable groups like pregnant women and prepubertal children.”
24) Animals aren’t fed antibiotics
Scientists have found that administering antibiotics to animals, especially via medicated feed, poses a number or risks to the health of animals, humans, and the environment.
25) Happy, low stress animals means better food
Scientific research has identified links between animals who are treated well and better, safer food.
26) Sustainable breeding
Aggressive breeding of animals to produce more food (milk, eggs, beef, etc) has resulted in animals which are more susceptible to disease. Chickens have been bred to grow so fast their legs are often unable to support them.
27) No inhumane practices
Unsustainable farming practices have led farmers to do things such as remove chicken’s beaks and cow’s tails. Sustainable methods allow animals to live in a natural, humane environment.