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Organic Farming vs. Industrial Agriculture: Which Method Wins?

Organic Farming vs. Industrial Agriculture: Which Method Wins?

Since 1981, the Rodale Institute has been doing side-by-side trials of organically-grown and conventionally-grown corn and soybeans to see how organic farming really stacks up against industrial agriculture and GMOs. What they are finding might surprise you.

You can check out the entire report here (pdf), but these are a few of the key points:

  • During times of drought, organic farming outperforms conventional methods by 31 percent.
  • Organic farming yields are about the same as conventional yields under normal weather conditions.
  • Organic farming uses 45 percent less energy than conventional.

Researchers think that the higher yields during drought are due to improved soil quality from organic farming, which makes the soil better at holding on to water. The organic soil retained 15 to 20 percent more water than soil on the conventional land.

The other area where organics outperformed conventional plants was in weed tolerance. Because organic farming principles include biodiversity and crop rotation, the organic crops were naturally more weed resistant. That’s in stark contrast to industrial farming, where pesticide overuse is breeding superweeds.

Of course, there are big bucks in conventional agriculture, especially the expensive proprietary seeds and the fertilizers that go with them. It’s no surprise then that the pro-GMO lobby is hard at work trying to convince us that GMOs are the key to feeding our world’s exploding population. One argument that I see a lot from the pro-GMO crowd is that if you’re anti-GMO you’re anti science. Thirty years of side-by-side trials strikes me as some pretty solid science.

What do you guys think? Do you think that organic farming can feed the world?

Image via The Farming Systems Trial

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


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12:40PM PST on Dec 18, 2012

Now let's really look at what changes we might have to be making. Check out the huge Three Gorges Dam in China on Google Earth. Now check out what is surrounding the dam on the mountains. It's thousands of rice patty fields. They have to have them on the mountains, because the flat land is taken up by farms to feed people. China is huge & it's full of farms. We have more people on the planet every second. What about the rubbish dump we create by over packaging things & not being responsible for our rubbish which has resulted in a huge floating rubbish mass larger than Texas full of plastic bottles & plastic bags in the ocean. Are you recycling your envelopes and reusing paper for notes where you can? Check out Google Earth again and see for yourself how much forestry has been cut down in Indonesia alone, let alone Borneo and other places. Brazil has just signed a deal to cut down a lot of their forestry which will be going to China to use. Have you noticed fish starting to run out all over the world? In Australia we have to get calamari from China because Australian waters don’t have the demand for the people here. These are the REAL CHANGES WE HAVE TO MAKE, WE HAVE NO CHOICE! Do we need to eat bacon & eggs for breakfast and hamburger or meat sandwich for lunch then meat and vegies for tea? No we don’t. It’s all there to see on Google Earth. The truth of what we’re doing to this living being planet Earth.

6:35PM PDT on Oct 28, 2012

Organic can feed the world if population growth is managed.

12:15PM PDT on Oct 6, 2012

I know organic farming can feed the world. Little holes and misshapen fruit/veg never killed anyone.

4:54PM PDT on Sep 22, 2012

Remember also, ORGANIC is only as good as the soil, water, air quality where it is grown

2:46PM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

....and of course...,industrial is less than organic asyoucan see of the picture. We have been lied too for so long, GMO is stronger, tolerate sickness and give more food etc. JUST lie`s. Organic/natural is far better than industrial/GMO. With GMO the makers can make the grain die when they want, make the grain only live for one season so the farmers must buy new seed every year. It Is so much lie`s....................

2:34PM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

Stop with all that nonsence about overpopulation. The earth is NOT full! For one; it's resources are simply bottlenecked and mis-used by greedy corporations and kings. Second; we produce a hell of a lot more than we can use and go straight to the junkyard. Most of the grain goes to cows and so on. I give you an example of how many we are; We can put the whole worlds population in to the state of Texas - 167,672,913.14 approximate total land area in acres in Texas, 6,997,946,647 people in the world, results in 0.02 acres per person! Don`t we have enough land in the rest of the world to feed us? Stop overproduction and we have room for a lot more people than 7 billion. Don`t you see how we are being lied to?

9:13AM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

Go organic!

6:42AM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

Perhaps organic farming can feed the world, but we desperately need to reduce the world population, whether this is possible or not.

6:06AM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

Restore soil fertility everywhere. How about Organnex's TOPSoil plan?

4:31AM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

It really is a no brainer.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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