Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Conventional Farming: The Green Alternative!

A thoughtful blog post on the Scientific American Website destroys the argument that organic farming is better for the environment than conventional farming. Ecologist and grad student Christie Wilcox first calls organic advocates hypocrites for refusing to endorse GMOs that could reduce the use of synthetic chemicals. Then she turns to what she calls the “real reason” organic farming is less green than conventional: drastically reduced crop yields.

“Right now, roughly 800 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition …,” writes Wilcox. “If we were to switch to entirely organic farming, the number of people suffering would jump by 1.3 billion, assuming we use the same amount of land that we’re using now. Unfortunately, what’s far more likely is that switches to organic farming will result in the creation of new farms via the destruction of currently untouched habitats, thus plowing over the little wild habitat left for many threatened and endangered species.”

Wilcox adds: “The unfortunate truth is that until organic farming can rival the production output of conventional farming, its ecological cost due to the need for space is devastating. As bad as any of the pesticides and fertilizers polluting the world’s waterways from conventional agriculture are, it’s a far better ecological situation than destroying those key habitats altogether.”

In her 3,200-word, footnoted post, Wilcox also debunks “myths” that organic farms don’t use pesticides and that organic food is healthier than conventionally produced food.

[Editor's Note: Biochemist and molecular biologist Bruce N. Ames, of the University of California, Berkeley, says, "99.9 percent of the toxic chemicals we're exposed to are completely natural -- you consume about 50 toxic chemicals whenever you eat a plant."]

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