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organic gardening, permaculture, organic farming, sustainable agriculture


organic gardening, permaculture, organic farming, sustainable agriculture

Can Organic Farming Be Profitable? Melvin D. Saunders

........Initially, fertilizers and pesticides were foisted upon innocent farmers to provide an agricultural boost to their harvests for a few short years. But such a short term goal leaves an eroded soil, contaminated groundwater and a weakened crop resistance to pests and disease as a result. But before the 1st widely used synthetic pesticide DDT hit the market in 1946, American farmers lost about a third of their crops each year to insects, weeds and disease. Today, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides exceed a cost of $4 billion a year, and farmers still lose the same one-third amount of crops (U.S. News & World Report, 9/14/92). Obviously, chemicals waste money and destroy the environment, so how long will it take to wake farmers up? Every year modern agricultural methods are destroying the long-term ability of American farms to produce decent food, because about 98% of American farmers are farming with chemical pesticides and fertilizers. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that approximately 845 million pounds of pesticides and herbicides are used on American farmlands each year. The U.S.D.A.'s Economic Research Service calculates that about 45 billion pounds of synthetic fertilizers are also dumped on U.S. farms each year.

........As of 1990, only about 2% of U.S. produce was organically grown. Yet, organic farmers are on the rise, and they aren't going out of business like conventional farmers! Is organic farming more or less profitable than chemical farming? In years past, official government reports have continually convinced gullible farmers that organic farming ranked behind chemical farming in crop production. In Sept. 1989, the National Academy of Sciences' Board on Agriculture released a massive report to back up the view that farmers who use little or no chemicals are usually just as productive as those who pour chemicals on by the ton. The 448-page document goes on to praise biologically sound farming practices and recommends that federal policy be changed so that it supports rather than discourages such techniques. In informed circles, this kind of review about organic farming came as no surprise, but instead of being life-saving, headline news, hardly any farmers ever even heard about the findings!

........With an insidious big business attitude, chemical companies often sell toxic pesticides banned in the U.S. to other countries that have no such agricultural ban. In fact, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) allows companies to continue manufacturing banned pesticides as long as they are exported out of the U.S. Foreign buyers of such chemicals either ignorantly or knowledgeably poison their own populations and in some cases sell their harvests back to the U.S. for consumption, thus completing the circle of poison! In 1988, the EPA banned all domestic sales of chlordane and heptachlor, but Greenpeace reports that between 1987 and mid-1989, Velsicol, the manufacturer of the pesticides, exported more than 5 million pounds to at least 25 countries! Greenpeace further cites that 2 shipments of Honduran beef which were imported and distributed in the U.S. in 1991 with 8 times the allowable level of chlordane and heptachlor. Heptachlor contamination has also been detected on imported garbanzo beans, carrots, pineapples and cheese. FIFRA must be amended to stop such madness.

........In China's Jiangsu province alone, about 27,000 people are severely poisoned each year by pesticides, 10% of them fatally. A 1987 National Academy of Sciences report estimated that pesticides may be the cause of an extra 1.4 million cancer cases among Americans over their lifetimes, while pesticide poisoning among farm workers in California ranks as the highest rate of occupational illness in the state. World practice has shown that chemical pesticides non-toxic to man simply do not exist.

........There's simply no way that the planet can sustain chemical farming for too many more years. When you consider a mere 1% of the pesticides applied to crops ever reaches the insects they are designed to kill, you can readily understand how the other 99% can so easily pollute our air, soil, water and food. Chemicals spewed over farms are polluting groundwater, increasing erosion, depleting soil vitality and killing our wildlife. But thus far, it has been far easier for simple farmers to buy and spread chemicals over their crops than to bother understanding the mechanism of organic farming, and most farmers will simply take the easier road. Obviously, better farmer education is needed before organic farming can be fully realized. Over 600,000 farmers left their farms between 1981 - 1988, so the urgency is real. Ideally of course, as consumers demand safe, non-polluted foods at economical prices, more farmers will eliminate the use of carcinogenic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, livestock food additives and growth regulators. Since both farmers and consumers must become aware of the toxicity of such chemicals, a reeducational process must be implemented. Laws to regulate and reduce chemicals in the food production industry are unacceptable. They must be totally eliminated. Unfortunately, chemical companies have literally gone to political war to protect their right to poison America, and many of them have joined to form the Coalition for Sensible Pesticide Policy (CSPP), a powerful lobbying group to keep pesticide use active. A counter lobbying group, called the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides (NCAMP, 701 E St. SE, Ste. 200, Washington, D.C. 20003), was formed to stop the chemical industry's efforts in this direction.

........Plant pests don't occur because of a lack of pesticides on your vegetables anymore than headaches occur because of a lack of aspirin. If the vitality and health of crops are improved, they become naturally resistant to pests and disease just like a healthy human mind/body will resist affliction. Sensible farming practices like contour farming, crop rotation, avenues of trees to serve as wind breaks and moisture retainers all help to establish a better utilization of the land for agriculture.

........ There are only about 31,000 major farms in the U.S. that are NOT using chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Organic farming coupled with one of the many methods to increase crop production (electrical, magnetic, radionic, vortexian, biodynamic, etc.) can make resultant veggies not only tastier but actually more profitable for the farmer to grow. For instance, organic wheat can achieve up to 70 per bushel more. Since production per acre is comparable or better than chemical farming, the higher prices obtained for organic crops make profitability far higher for organic farming, especially when the cost of chemicals can be avoided.

........The participation of several supermarket chains in the National Toxics Campaign Fund program to stop the sale of produce grown with pesticides is a good sign of the growing sensitivity among businessmen to the shifting attitudes of consumers. Produce distributors, the EPA, the FDA and the Agriculture Dept. condemn such supermarket participation as infringing upon the government's responsibility for food safety. There's no surprise there, since the official position is that pesticides on food are not harmful to your health.

........More and more consumers are demanding organically grown fruits and vegetables, and are willing to pay the higher prices. As a consumer, the only way to be certain that your produce is pesticide-free is to buy fruits and vegetables from certified organic growers. According to the Organic Foods Production Association, organic foods are grown, processed, packaged, transported and stored to retain maximum nutritional value "without the use of artificial preservatives, coloring or additives, irradiation or synthetic pesticides." Since many states are now creating programs to certify when food is truly organically grown, ask your grocery store manager to show you documentation proving his produce is organic, if he advertises it is. For information on how to certify that food is organically grown, write: OFPANA, 125 West Seventh St., Wind Gap, PA 18091. For a free informational brochure, write: Growing Organically, Organic Gardening Magazine, 33 E. Minor St., Emmaus, PA 18098

........If more farmers raised organic foods around cities in a diversified way, their roadside stands could be relied upon to provide those same products to nearby urbanites at a reasonable price.

........The above subject is just one of the many creative alternatives mentioned in the new manual, Creative Alternatives For A Changing World.

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