Caribbean News Now!

About Us Contact Us

Countries/Territories

Jump to your country or territory of interest

Advertise with us

Reach our daily visitors from around the Caribbean and throughout the world. Click here for rates and placements.

Contribute

Submit news and opinion for publication

Subscribe

Click here to receive our daily regional news headlines by email.

Archives

Click here to browse our extensive archives going back to 2004

Also, for the convenience of our readers and the online community generally, we have reproduced the complete Caribbean Net News archives from 2004 to 2010 here.

Climate Change Watch

The Caribbean is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels brought about by global warming. Read the latest news and information here...

Follow Caribbean News Now on Twitter
Connect with Caribbean News Now on Linkedin



News from the Caribbean:


Back To Today's News

EarthTalk: Is organic agriculture sustainable?
Published on June 6, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

earthtalk_organic_agriculture.jpg
Aside from its other benefits to our health and environment, organic agriculture -- which eschews synthetic pesticides and fertilizers -- can potentially reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent compared to conventional farming. Photo: CinCool/Flickr

Dear EarthTalk: Do you agree with the recent claim in the Wall Street Journal that organic agriculture isn’t actually sustainable? -- Chuck Romaniello, Pittsburgh, PA

Dr. Henry I. Miller’s May 15, 2014, opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal has indeed made waves in the organic farming community. Miller, former director of the Office of Biotechnology at the US Food & Drug Administration, argues that conventional farming -- which uses synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers and often genetically modified (GM) seed stock to maximize yields -- is actually better for the environment, producing more food and using less water compared to organic farming.

“Organic farming might work well for certain local environments on a small scale, but its farms produce far less food per unit of land and water than conventional ones,” says Miller. “The low yields of organic agriculture -- typically 20 percent to 50 percent less than conventional agriculture -- impose various stresses on farmland and especially on water consumption.”

Miller adds that organic methods can cause significant leaking of nitrates from composted manure -- the fertilizer of choice for most organic farms -- into groundwater, polluting drinking water. He also cites research showing that large-scale composting generates significant amounts of greenhouse gases and “may also deposit pathogenic bacteria on or in food crops, which has led to more frequent occurrences of food poisoning in the US and elsewhere.”

“If the scale of organic production were significantly increased, says Miller, the lower yields would increase the pressure for the conversion of more land to farming and more water for irrigation, both of which are serious environmental issues.” He adds that conventional farming’s embrace of GM crops -- a no-no to organic farmers -- is yet another way we can boost yields and feed more people with less land.

But, the Washington, DC-based Organic Center takes issue with Miller’s allegations about nitrates polluting groundwater: “Most studies that examine nutrient runoff show that organic production methods result in reduced nitrogen losses when compared to conventional crop production,” reports the group.

The Organic Center also disputes Miller’s claims about the organic farming’s carbon footprint, arguing that overall energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions are much less from organic farming than for conventional agriculture. The group also says that taking into account the greenhouse gas emissions that come from the production (not just the use) of synthetic fertilizer changes the equation entirely. The group cites a recent study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization which found that organic agriculture can potentially reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent compared to conventional farming.

Also, Miller’s statements about GM crops overlook the ecological problems associated with their use. “For example,” the Organic Center reports, “transgene movement from GM crops to wild, weedy relatives could increase the invasiveness of weeds.”

Also, genetic modification has led to higher pesticide use in agricultural systems and an increase in herbicide-resistant weeds. Some worry this is leading to a vicious cycle whereby farmers use more and more chemical herbicides to battle hardier and hardier weeds.

As the price of organic food continues to drop, more and more people will be able to afford it and the increased demand may well drive the conversion to organic agriculture more than policy or philosophy.

CONTACTS: Wall Street Journal; The Organic Center

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com).
Send questions to:
earthtalk@emagazine.com.
Subscribe:
www.emagazine.com/subscribe.
Free Trial Issue:
www.emagazine.com/trial
 
Reads: 1981





Click here to receive daily news headlines from Caribbean News Now!



Back...

Comments:

No comments on this topic yet. Be the first one to submit a comment.

Back...

Send us your comments!  

Send us your comments on this article. All fields are required.

For your contribution to reach us, you must (a) provide a valid e-mail address and (b) click on the validation link that will be sent to the e-mail address you provide.  If the address is not valid or you don't click on the validation link, we will never see it!

Your Name:

Your Email:

(Validation required)

Comments:
Enter Code



Please note that, if you are using an AT&T domain email address, e.g. att.net, bellsouth.net, sbcglobal.net, the verification email will likely not be delivered. This is outside of our control and the only remedy seems to be for readers to complain to AT&T





Disclaimer
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment author and are not representative of Caribbean News Now or its staff. Caribbean News Now accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Caribbean News Now reserves the right to remove, edit or censor any comments. Any content that is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will not be approved.
Before posting, please refer to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.



Other Headlines:



Regional Sports: