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