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February 20th, 2017 / Genetic Literacy Project, US

Many consumers believe that buying organic is “voting with their dollars” for a more environmentally desirable form of farming. That belief is promoted in organic marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, those consumer intentions are not supported by a realistic assessment of state-of-the-art environmentally optimal farming methods.

The standards that govern organic farming, set in agreements between the US Department of Agriculture and organic groups, include some important limitations, which preclude some of the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly farming practices. Neither “organic” nor “conventional” are monolithic categories as both include a range of practices. However conventional farmers are free to utilize all the good farming options allowed in organic, while also having access to some useful ecologically sensitive tools that fall into the “synthetic chemistry” and “GMO” categories, but are not available to organic farmers. In many cases those tools are needed in order to implement the most advanced science-guided strategies for the benefit of the environment.

What are the environmental tradeoffs between organic and conventional/GMO systems in terms of pesticides, land-use efficiency, soil building, water quality and greenhouse gas emissions? See more