Friday, June 3, 2011

Organic vs. Conventional Farming: At What Price Pesticides?

The go-to argument for proponents of conventional (read: chemical) farming is that the use of pesticides is the only way to feed the world's seven million people. Opponents of biodynamic and organic farming claim these safer ways of farming can't produce the necessary crop yields.

Yet, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence showing this isn't true. Unfortunately, oversized marketing and public relations budgets sometimes prevent the truth from being heard. Here are the first four paragraphs of "Organic Farming Finds a Growing Fan Base in India," which appears in today's International Herald Tribune:

"On Thakur Das’s farm in northern India, rice fields stretch into the distance, creating a chartreuse sea of waist-high stalks. Mr. Das, 59, gazed out at the crops on his small farm, about 16 kilometers from the city of Dehra Dun, where he grows rice, wheat and corn in rotation, as well as turmeric and beans. It looked to be another plentiful harvest. 'Too much growth,' he joked.

"The bounty was all the more fruitful because Mr. Das’s farm, 10 miles from the city, is organic. He has not used chemical pesticides or fertilizers since 2002, when he joined Navdanya, a nonprofit biodiversity center and organic farm, a few kilometers away, to learn how to farm organically. Since he went organic, Mr. Das said, his crop yields, and his profit, have doubled.

"Before Mr. Das switched to organic, one acre, or about 0.4 hectare, of land yielded 600 kilograms, or 1,300 pounds, of rice; now it yields 1,200 kilograms. He practices crop rotation and intercropping, or growing different crops together in the same field, and uses natural pesticides and fertilizer, like compost produced by worms.

“'Organic is best benefit. Taste is different. Size of grain is bigger,' said Mr. Das. 'Most farmers use chemicals. Soil is totally dead.'”
Click here to read the entire article and then click here to read "Chemicals in Farm Runoff Rattle States on the Mississippi," an article in today's New York Times which should make us all wonder, "At what price pesticides?"

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