22Pros and Cons organic and conventional agriculture[1]


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mehreen (9 years ago)

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The Pros and Cons of Organic and Conventional Agriculture By Vena Webber

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What is organic agriculture? Organic farming is an agricultural production systems used to produce food and fiber. Organic farmers are not permitted to use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Several agricultural products are produced organically, including produce, grains, meat, dairy, eggs, flowers, fibers such as cotton, and processed food products. A detailed recordkeeping system tracks all crops and livestock products from the field to point of sale.

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What is conventional agriculture? Conventional agriculture is the most common agricultural practice in the United States. Conventional agricultural normally involves the following: removing trees, tilling the soil, installing an irrigation system, and planting crops. Using insecticides and pesticides to keep insects and animals from eating the crops is a common practice in conventional agriculture.

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Examples of organic products All kinds of agricultural products are produced organically, including produce, grains, meat, dairy, eggs, and fibers such as cotton. It's not just fruits and vegetables these days that carry the organic label. There are even organic processed foods such as cereals, pastas and even corn chips. Organic produce is no longer confined to specialty shops or remote counters in supermarkets.

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Examples of conventional products Some examples of crops which undergo conventional agriculture are corn, wheat, rice, bananas, soy bean, and tomato. Farm animals such as cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys.

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Problems associated with organic agriculture Despite what most people believe organic foods are not pesticide free. Pesticides are in the air and in our environment so no crop can be totally free of chemicals. Prices are usually higher for organic than conventional products. In addition to the higher price, there are two main criticisms of organic food. First, some people argue that eating such products increases your exposure to biological contaminates, putting us at greater risk for food borne illness. Manure is a main concern and a carrier of human pathogens.. Fungicides are not permitted in the production and processing of organic foods. However, studies have not shown that consuming organic products leads to a greater risk of contamination from mold.. E.coli bacteria found in the intestinal tract of animals, is a concern. As it turns out, both conventional and organic foods are susceptible to contamination by E.coli. The second criticism of organic agriculture is that organic farmers can't produce enough to feed everybody. Organic farming is not economically or socially viable in poorer countries.

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Problems associated with conventional agriculture Use of chemical fertilizers to the soil to grow their crops Spraying with insecticides to protect crops from pests and disease Using synthetic herbicides to control weed growth According to Science Daily Magazine (2007), traditional agricultural methods and a need to feed a rapidly growing world population are depleting the Earth’s soil supply.

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Positive side of organic agriculture The reasons more and more people are turning to organics are linked to the public fears about genetically modified foods, irradiation and the antibiotics fed to animals. It make use of crop rotation, mechanical tillage and hand-weeding, as well as , mulches, and other management methods to control weed growth Unlike conventionally raised livestock, organic livestock must be kept in living conditions that accommodate the natural behavior of the animals. For instance, cows, sheep and goats must have access to pasture. Although they may be vaccinated against disease, organic livestock and poultry may not be given antibiotics, hormones or medications in the absence of illness. Instead, livestock diseases and parasites are controlled largely through preventive measures such as rotational grazing, balanced diet, sanitary housing and stress reduction According to the USDA, organic food production allows farmers to lower input costs, decrease reliance on nonrenewable resources, capture high-value markets and premium prices, and boost farm income. According to Rodale Institute (2008), organic agriculture also has many important environmental benefits: it can remove about 7000 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air and preserve an acre of farmland per year.

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Positive side of conventional agriculture Federal regulations make it unlikely that conventional produce, such as apples, harbor harmful pesticide levels by the time they reach consumers. The untreated manure used in organic agriculture contains harmful bacteria (E. coli, for example) that could pose more of a safety threat than conventional produce. Most organic products cost more than conventionally produced products because of the labor intensive farming practices. For example, a box of organic cereal may cost $5.19 and the same box of a conventional agriculture box of cereal will coast $3.79. Dairy cows raised on organic farms produce less milk, since they don’t receive hormones. The cows are raised on organic feed, which requires more farmland. The more cows the more cows’ emission which adds to greenhouse gases.

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Growth of organic agriculture in the United States The Feast of Fields is an annual fundraising event costing $100 a person. Their objective is to promote organic food. According to USDA, as of 2007, there are approximately 13,000 certified organic producers in the U.S. The growth in the number of organic farmers has increased steadily, similar to the growth of the U.S. organic industry, which has increased by rates of approximately 20% per year for more than 10 years. When OFRF (Organic Farming Research Foundation) first began tracking certified organic producer numbers in 1994, there were approximately 2,500 -3,000 certified organic growers in the U.S. Food labels that assert that a food is “natural," "pesticide-free," or "hormone-free," these terms are not the same as "organic". The USDA defines organic foods as products that are at least 95% organic according to the standard usage of the term. In the U.S., the most commonly purchased organic foods are fruits and vegetables, which account for over 70% of organic food purchases. Because of the standards required to produce organic foods, these foods are generally more expensive than their non-organic products.

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International Perspective

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International Perspective The International Federation Organic Agriculture Movements IFOAM began in Versailles, France, on November 5, 1972. The late Roland Chevriot, President of Nature et Progre’s, took the initiative. There were 5 founding members representing different organizations: Lady Eve Balfourre representing the Soil Association of Great Britain, Kjell Arman representing the Swedish Biodynamic Association, Pauline Raphaely representing the Soil Association of South Africa, Jerome Goldstein representing Rodale Press of the United States, and Roland Chevriot representing Nature et Progre’s of France. The founders hoped that the federation would meet what they saw as a major need: a unified, organized voice for organic food, and the diffusion and exchange of information on the principles and practices of organic agriculture across national and linguistic boundaries. It is the worldwide organization uniting more than 750 member organizations in 108 countries China Organic Agriculture intends to achieve revenue growth both through organic expansion, as well as by acquisition of complementary product lines and companies. China Organic has experienced significant growth since its inception in 2002. As the company continues to strive for growth, China Organics' new CEO is positioning the Company to expand its sales in mainland China, the special administrative region of Hong Kong and other Asian countries as well.

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Things to consider when buying organic or conventional foods If you chose to buy organic products look for the word organic on vegetables or pieces of fruit, or on the sign above the organic produce display. The word "organic" may also appear on packages of meat, cartons of milk or eggs, cheese and other single-ingredient foods. Foods labeled “100 percent organic” must contain only organic ingredients. Products containing at least 70-percent organic content can be labeled made with organic ingredients. Those foods labeled simply “organic” must have at least 95-percent organic ingredients. Anyone who knowingly sells or labels a product "organic" that is not produced and handled in accordance with these regulations can face a civil penalty of up to $10,000 Organic and conventional food must meet the same quality and safety standards. Just because the label says 'free range,' doesn't necessarily make the product 'organic' Lean said there are no standards for use of the word "natural" in farm products. The only way to be sure is to know the farmer. Organic food differs from conventionally produced food simply in the way it is grown, handled and processed. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that it is more nutritious or safer than conventional food. According to the National Research Council, the traces of pesticides left on conventionally grown products are unlikely to cause an increased cancer risk. Also, if fruits and vegetables are properly washed, most of the chemicals can be removed At this time, there is no research available to make a clear case that an organic peach, pear or apple is safer than a conventional one., and the USDA says its organic seal is simply confirmation of a method of production, not a safety endorsement

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Examples of possible organic and/or conventional contaminations 1. E. coli Apple juice, Cabbage, Lettuce, Cress sprouts, Cilantro.   2. Salmonella Tomato, Alfa sprouts, Cabbage, Chili, Eggplant, Spinach, Fennel, Parsley, Strawberries, Watermelon, Cantaloupe 3. Bacillus cereus Cucumbers, Mustard sprouts, Soybean sprouts, Cress sprouts. 4. Staphylococcus Alfa sprouts, Carrot, Onions sprouts, Radish,  Parsley Sources of contamination: Contamination of products can occur in the field, during harvesting, post harvest handling, processing, storage or marketing. The most common sources of contamination being: Fecal contamination of soils due to grazing animals or human waste. Contamination from un-composted manure used as fertilizer. Irrigation water contaminated with runoff from areas grazed by animals. Handling by workers practicing poor personal hygiene. Contaminated wash water in the processing facility. Drip or splash from contaminated floors, drains, overhead pipes or cooling systems

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Laws/Treaties/Protocols Organic products, though, do have to meet certain standards. Those that do, will carry a sticker on the packaging that says "Certified Organic." To qualify as certified organic, a field of corn, for example, would have to: be free of commercial fertilizers for three years ,be free of herbicides for three years, seed would not be from genetically modified seed ,include a “buffer” zone between organic plants and non-organic plants . To be certified as an organic grower, a farmer has to pay several hundred dollars a year. Much of that money goes to the inspectors who make sure the organic standards are met. In December 2000, the National Organic Standards Board of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established a national standard for the term "organic." Organic food, defined by how it cannot be made rather than how it can be made, must be produced without the use of sewer-sludge fertilizers, most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, genetic engineering, growth hormones, irradiation and antibiotics.

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To learn more about agriculture laws and treaties 2007 Farm Bill The USDA's website contains a section on the 2007 Farm Bill proposals, including legislative language, fact sheets, and viewpoints. 2002 Farm Bill The official 2002 Farm Bill site from the U.S. Department of Agriculture outlines the main features of the act, including the controversial commodity program, under which farmers are reimbursed when their crops fall below a "target price." A less-noted section of the bill addresses conservation. Farm Bill: An Investment That is Working The Farm Bureau details the workings of the current U.S. farm bill and includes suggestions to make the 2007 bill even more effective. WTO: An Agreement on Agriculture The WTO member countries' Uruguay Round Agreement for the international trade of agricultural products is outlined.

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REFERENCES 1. Anderson, K. (200). The Risks of Farming. Science Magazine, 316, 13-15. 2. Holt, Rinehart, Winston. (2005). Earth Science Text: Eye on The Environment. Austin Texas 3. Holt, Rinehart, Winston. (2005). Life Science Text: Environmental Problems and Solutions. Austin Texas 4. Mitchell, J. (2007). Organic or Not. Science World, 63, 6-9. 5. Pearlstein, J. (2008). Surprise Conventional Agriculture Can Be Easier on the Planet. Retrieved November 30, 2008, from http://www.wired.com 6. United States Department of Agriculture. (2008). Organic Agriculture. Retrieved December 01, 2008, from http://www.ars.usda.gov 7. University of Washington. (2007). Conventional Plowing is “Skinning Our Agricultural Fields.” Science Daily. Retrieved December 02, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com 8. Woodmansee, M. (2008). Examing the Environment. Rhodes magazine 15 (3), 21-24

Summary: The Pros and cons of organic and conventioal agriculture

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