Response to Op-Ed: 'Organic' Isn't Clean and It Isn't Toxin-Free

Photo Credit: Dwight Sipler Photo Credit: Dwight Sipler

The piece in Bloomberg View titled “'Organic' Isn't Clean and It Isn't Toxin-Free” takes a narrow, incomplete, and largely uninformed view of the many benefits of organic farming especially as they relate to the environment and human health.

For example, the nitrate leaching study referenced in the article only looked only at intensive greenhouse production, and cannot be used to draw conclusions about field agriculture. In fact, most studies that examine nutrient runoff show that organic production methods result in reduced nitrogen losses when compared to conventional. 

Greenhouse gas emissions is another issue raised, but if overall greenhouse gas emission levels from organic operations are compared to those of conventional, studies consistently find that organic systems are less energy intensive and emit less greenhouse gases.  The production of synthetic fertilizer used in conventional practices is extremely energy intensive and results in higher greenhouse gas emissions than the use of compost, especially when the carbon sequestration of composting is taken into account. 

Research also shows that organic production is beneficial to soil quality.  One study, for example, showed that organic soils have higher health-related qualities, such as lower acidity and higher amounts of carbon, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous and calcium than conventional soils. 

The comments that non-confined animals pollute  the soil more because they “do their business wherever nature calls” is clearly not based on any scientific evidence or real knowledge about livestock production. Numerous studies show that confined animal operations pose a much greater risk for groundwater contamination through their concentrated manure  pools.

Finally, the suggestion that there’s no distinguishable difference in nutritional value between organic and conventional food is negated by mounting evidence showing that some food categories and crops that are produced organically can be richer in nutrients, such as Vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. For instance, a recent research article found that organic whole milk contained significantly higher concentrations of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids compared to milk from cows on conventionally managed dairy farms. Meanwhile, another research article found organic soybeans have a healthier nutritional profile from conventionally grown or genetically modified Roundup Ready soybeans.

The cherry-picked studies outlined in this article do not begin to tell the complete story of the meaningful benefits of organic food and farming.

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