How Organic Food Works

By: Robin Brett Parnes

Why Should I Care if a Food is Organic?

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. Organic agriculture also has many important environmental benefits:

  • It promotes sustainability by establishing an ecological balance to prevent soil fertility or pest problems. In the long run, organic farms tend to conserve energy and protect the environment by maintaining ecological harmony.
  • It enhances biodiversity, or the presence of multiple plant and/or animal species. Having a highly diverse genetic pool becomes useful in the future when beneficial characteristics can be tapped (that is, growing a diverse mix of crops helps to support beneficial organisms that assist in pollination and pest management).
  • Because organic agriculture utilizes practices such as crop rotations, inter-cropping, symbiotic associations, cover crops and minimum tillage, the length of time that the soil is exposed to erosive forces is decreased, which minimizes nutrient losses and boosts soil productivity.
  • By not using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, organic agriculture reduces pollution of groundwater.
  • Organic agriculture helps to minimize the greenhouse effect and global warming through its ability to sequester carbon in the soil.