Demand for organic food has increased in the last few years. However, very few people fully comprehend what organic food is. Many households have embraced organic food, leading to increased demand. According to Organic Monitor (2010), demand increased before the GFC in 2009.
This paper will discuss organic food from a scientific perspective and evaluate the yields of organic farming, as well as associated problems. In addition, it will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of organic food, consumer attitudes towards organic food, and finally discuss its ethical implications.
What is organic food?
Australian Organic Limited defines organic farming as a food production approach, which aims to minimize environmental pollution by avoiding synthetic chemicals and relying on natural processes. The approach utilizes both modern and traditional farming methods to produce healthy food. Approaches such as the use of resistant crop varieties and crop rotation apply to eradicate weeds instead of using pesticides.
Organic farming focuses on soil health by harmonizing farming methods with natural processes. Producers of organic food register for government certification in order to sell products to target consumers.
Certification creates confidence and trust in consumers. In addition, it signifies that high prices charged on organic food are worthy and appropriate. In Australia, certification is carried out by two organizations. OGA Certified Pty Ltd (T/A Organic Growers of Australia Small Producer Program) deals with small-scale producers while Australian Certified Organic Pty Ltd deals with large-scale producers.
Yields in organic farming and problems encountered
Yields in organic farming are determined by farming methods used. A study conducted to compare yields between organic farming and conventional farming found out that yields of organic farming are 25% lower than conventional farming. Differences in yields depended on country of study.
For example, yields from organic farming are 25% lower than conventional farming in developed countries while in developing countries, organic farming yields are 43% lower. Low yields discredit the potential of organic farming to provide sufficient food supply for the growing world population. To guarantee high yields, adequate knowledge and good management practices are necessary.
Farmers encounter several problems. First, it takes at least three years for an organic farm to produce high yields because of soil instability.
Second, lack of nitrogen in soil affects growth of crops and reduces yields. Moreover, methods used to increase nitrogen content in soil are risky. For example, green manure may introduce destructive microorganisms that interfere with proper growth of crops. Microorganisms may also contaminate produce and adversely affect health of consumers.
Advantages and disadvantages
An advantage of organic farming is the elimination of the need to use fertilizers or large amounts of water. This is because of low soil salinity associated with methods of organic farming.
Organic crops are highly resistant to diseases. Resistance to diseases guarantees the production of high quality produce. Methods used in organic farming nourish the soil. For example, crop rotation involves the alternation of crops grown on a certain piece of land every growing season.
This practice introduces different nutrients to the soil. Use of green manure also provides soil nourishment. Lastly, organic plants can tolerate adverse weather conditions unlike plants grown in conventional farming. One of the disadvantages of organic farming is that it is time consuming.
In addition, it is laborious. It requires a lot of attention and time. For example, it takes long for soil to undergo required changes that support plant growth. Another disadvantage is that organic farming is expensive. This is made worse by the fact that yields are low compared to conventional farming.
Consumer attitudes towards organic food
Research has shown that many consumers have positive attitudes towards organic food. A positive attitude is attributed to three reasons. First, organic food has high quality. Second, it promotes environmental conservation. Third, there are no reported cases of adverse effects on the health of consumers. Organic food is not grown using synthetic chemicals.
In addition, companies that grow organic food are closely monitored to ensure that they produce quality food products. Close monitoring convinces consumers that the products they consume are healthy and safe. Many consumers support organic food because it does not destroy the environment.
Research has also revealed that adolescents have positive attitudes towards organic food. Their attitude is based on four reasons. Taste of food, long storage life, appearance, and pricing. Generally, organic food is accepted in many societies.
First, it is unethical to label organic food safer and healthier than food produced through conventional farming. Critics argue that these labels are strategies for producers to charge high prices.
Also, high prices compensate for the high cost of production. Another ethical issue is the use of vast land for farming. These limits the use of land for more productive farming or activities. Low yields create doubts as to whether organic farming can provide adequate food supplies to feed a growing global population.
Lastly, clinging to the idea of organic farming prevents people from adopting more efficient and productive farming methods. For example, a pesticide that kills weeds fast and has negligible environmental effects has been discovered. However, proponents of organic farming have dismissed it and discouraged farmers from using it.
Organic farming advocates for traditional farming methods, which undervalue benefits of embracing technology in farming. It is important to conduct more research on the topic to develop practices that guarantee the production of farm products that will be sufficient for a growing global population.