Organic farming commands more money. And in a time when farmers are suffering as a result of global climate change and unpredictable profits, it’s a welcomed addition to the farming industry.
Today, a growing number of consumers are looking for the organic label to ensure that foods are free of synthetic pesticides and GMOs and they’re willing to pay extra for foods that meet this need.
In all, 2 million of the world’s 1.5 billion farmers farm organically, with nearly 80 percent of it based in developing countries. This may seem like a small margin but the organic industry has shown enormous growth in the past 15 years.
Today, 164 countries have certified organic farms totaling $63.9 billion worth of crops versus 86 countries producing $15.2 billion worth of crops in 2000. While it’s still a small margin, agricultural analysts call it significant, with growth focused in developing nations.
“[There are] probably 500 million small family farms worldwide; most of those are traditional farmers who farm primarily through organic principles,” says Andre Leu, president of IFOAM, reported on Christian Science Monitor.
Each year, 200,000 organic farmers become certified. It’s appealing because it adds value to crops just as farm incomes have dropped significantly.
“Basically, organic farming anywhere in the world – if you are certified – is the one label that is most clearly defined,” Joel Gruver, a soil science professor at Western Illinois University in Macomb told the Christian Science Monitor. “Each nation has its own rules in how they define organic, but the general set of rules is very much the same,” he says.
Consumers are willing to pay extra for organic foods because they meet so many needs for health purposes and for environmental purposes.
“[T]here is more demand than supply,” says Anna Lappé, author of “Diet for a Hot Planet.” Ms. Lappé also points out that less than 1 percent of agricultural research funding now goes toward refining proven chemical-free farming methods, according to Christian Science Monitor.
Countries like Denmark and Sweden have set goals for the amount of land that will be set aside for organic farming in an effort to reduce the amount of pesticides polluting ground water and soil. Other countries are also more wary of GMOs, though that’s not the case in the U.S. Protecting soil through the use of organic methods safeguards farmland and allows it to remain productive for years to come.
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Image of an organic farm from Shuttershock