Study touts benefits of organic farming

Posted by David Gomez

The biotech and commercial food industries would like you to think the only way to feed the world is by using conventional farming systems. However, a new study from the Rodale Institute claims otherwise.

The results of the Rodale study are based on current data as well as information accrued from over  30 years of research. The three decade initiative - originally created to examine the transition from conventional to organic production - analyzes productivity, soil quality, energy and economics.

The current version was released on Sept. 16 and oddly enough, it didn’t get much attention from the mainstream media.
    
To sum it up quickly, the study basically states:

  • Organic yields match or surpass conventional yields.
  • Organic yields outperform conventional yields in years of drought.
  • Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system.
  • Organic farming uses 45 percent less energy and is more efficient.
  • Conventional agricultural systems produce 40 percent more greenhouse gases.
  • Organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional farming systems.

 

So after 30 years of a rigorous scientific comparison, the Rodale Institute concludes organic farming methods produce better quality food that is healthier for the local environment. The Institute also boldly claims organic farming creates more jobs than conventional farming.

"The Farming Systems Trial clearly documents in a replicated, scientific fashion, that many of the current myths are not true. Organic agriculture does not result in the grower losing money, does not result in lower yields, or more expensive management practices," says Dr. Elaine Ingham, Chief Scientist at Rodale Institute.

"The next step forward is to educate growers, whether they are conventional or organic, in the methods used in the Farming Systems Trial to assure equal or better yields through farming practices that do not harm the environment."

They may be skeptics out there who question the legitimacy of the Rodale Institute and their study of farming methods, but it is important to note that Cornell University’s David Pimentel authored a paper that was essentially a review of the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial. Pimentel concluded organic farming offered real advantages over conventional methods for corn and soybeans - two of the biggest cash crops.

In 2005 he stated: "Organic farming approaches for these crops not only use an average of 30 percent less fossil energy but also conserve more water in the soil, induce less erosion, maintain soil quality and conserve more biological resources than conventional farming does."

There is also an article from the March 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems where Rodale’s Farming Systems Trial is one of the foundations of an Agroecosystem modeling study, which means that Rodale’s research is more than scientifically valid, it's a starting point for other researchers.

The Rodale Institute may not attract a significant amount of mainstream attention for uncovering the scientific truth about organic farming, but its methods and claims appear to be well respected in the academic community. And there is nothing the biotech and commercial food industries can do about that.

Simply put: respected scientists are now realizing organic farming is actually more viable than commercial farming. While it would seem that this knowledge would help shift the balance of power in the food production sector, nothing will happen unless it is influenced by consumers, meaning, they have to choose organic over conventional.