Organic Farming and Food

 

In organic farming, crops, meat and other food are produced without chemicals. Fertilizers, pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics are forbidden. During thousands of years of civilization the raising of animals and growing of plants have always been organic.

Chemicals for farming first came up at the turn of the 20th century. Widespread use of chemicals began after World War II.

In the 1950s and 60s farmers started using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Recently, however, more and more farmers have been returning to more natural ways of producing farm products.

 

Organic farming methods

Instead of chemicals, organic farming uses a lot of organic matter to give crops the nutrients that they need to grow. Clover, for example, has a lot of nitrogen in it and farmers use it to make the soil better. Manure from animals and compost are also used to enrich the soil. These fertilizers also help conserve the soil, not destroy it after a few years.

Clover has a lot of nitrogen in it

Clover has a lot of nitrogen in it - Alvesgaspar

 

Organic farmers also use crop rotation to preserve the good qualities of soils and avoid monoculture.

Chemical pesticides destroy or weaken many of the natural enemies of pests, like birds or frogs. They also can kill those insects that control a great number of pests.

Organic farming creates new living areas for wasps, bugs, beetles and flies by giving them water and food.

Weeds are controlled by using special machines. Hay, straw and wood chips are put between the rows of plants to stop weeding.

Many agricultural products can be produced in an organic way. Meat, dairy products and eggs come from animals that are fed organically and can graze outdoors. They live in conditions that are natural to them. Cows, for example, are kept in pastures and fields. Vegetables and fruit are also produced with organic methods.


Conventional vs. organic farming

 

Conventional farmers

  • apply chemical fertilizers to soil to grow crops
  • spray crops with insecticides and pesticides to prevent them from being damaged by pests and disease
  • use herbicides to stop the growth of weeds

 

Organic farmers

  • build soil with natural fertilizers in order to grow crops
  • rely on the natural enemies of pests
  • use crop rotation to conserve soil
  • pull out weeds by hand

 

Organic vegetables at a food market in Argentina

Organic vegetables at a food market in Argentina

 

Advantages of organic farming

  • Farmers can reduce their production costs because they do not need to buy expensive chemicals and fertilizers.
  • Healthier farm workers.
  • In the long term , organic farms save energy and protect the environment.
  • It can slow down global warming.
  • Fewer residues in food.
  • More animals and plants can live in the same place in a natural way. This is called biodiversity.
  • Pollution of ground water is stopped.

 

Disadvantages of organic farming

  • Organic food is more expensive because farmers do not get as much out of their land as conventional farmers do. Organic products may cost up to 40% more.
  • Production costs are higher because farmers need more workers .
  • Marketing and distribution is not efficient because organic food is produced in smaller amounts.
  • Food illnesses may happen more often.
  • Organic farming cannot produce enough food that the world’s population needs to survive. This could lead to starvation in countries that produce enough food today.

About 1-2% of the world’s food is produced with organic methods. The market however is growing very quickly - by about 20% a year. In Europe, Austria (11%), Italy (9%) and the Czech Republic (7%) are the countries in which organic food production as it its highest.

 

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Related Topics

Words

  • agricultural = farming
  • amount =how much of something, quantity
  • antibiotics = medicine that is used to kill bacteria
  • apply =here: to work with
  • avoid = keep away from
  • beetle =an insect with a round hard black back
  • biodiversity = many plants and animals that live in a place
  • bug =a small insect, like a beetle
  • century = a hundred years
  • clover = a small plant with three or four leaves
  • compost =a mixture of dead plants and leaves that are put on the soil to make it better
  • condition =state, the situation that something is in
  • conserve = save, keep
  • conventional = a method that has been used for a long time
  • create = make
  • crop = a plant like wheat or rice that we use as food
  • crop rotation = you change the crops you grow every year to save the quality of the soil
  • dairy products = products that come from a cow, like milk and butter
  • distribution = when goods and products are brought to shops and stores so that they can be sold
  • efficient = well-organized
  • enrich = to make better
  • environment = the world around us
  • fertilizer = material that is put into the ground to make plants grow
  • forbid = not allow
  • graze = to eat grass in a field
  • ground water =water that goes into the ground after it has rained
  • growth hormone = a chemical that makes you grow
  • herbicide = a chemical you use to kill unwanted plants
  • illness = disease
  • in the long term = not in the next few days or weeks , but in the next years
  • insecticide = a chemical that you kill insects with
  • instead of =in something’s place
  • manure = waste materials from animals
  • marketing = advertising and selling of a product
  • monoculture = to grow the same plants every year
  • nitrogen = a gas that has no colour or smell ; it forms most of the earth’s atmosphere
  • nutrient =a chemical or food that gives us what we need to grow
  • organic = made in a natural way , without chemicals
  • organic farming = growing food without using chemicals
  • organic matter = material that comes from living things
  • pasture = field
  • pest = a small animal or insect that destroys plants or crops
  • pesticide = a chemical substance that you use to kill insects and small animals that destroy crops
  • pollution =the situation of making air and water dirty
  • preserve = save
  • prevent = stop
  • raise = to feed animals and sell them as food
  • recently = in the last few years or decades
  • reduce = cut
  • rely on =depend on, need
  • residue = rest; what is left over
  • row =in a line
  • soil = the top layer of the earth on which plants grow
  • starvation = hunger
  • straw =dried stems of plants that are used for making baskets, hats and other things
  • survive =to live on
  • wasp = a black and yellow insect that can sting you
  • weaken = to make weaker
  • weed = wild plant that grows between other crops
  • weed = wild plant that grows between other crops
  • widespread = common