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Colin McPhillips

Professor Weatbrook
English 2010
8/8/2016
Benefits of Organic Agriculture
In todays consumer world, when purchasing food we have many options available to us
and our decisions have the power to influence our personal lives and the world around us.
Unfortunately, far too many people have some form of disconnect between the source of our
food and our dinner tables where we eat it. When we reach for those strawberries or that ear of
corn in the grocery store, many among us dont think twice about where that product came from
or how it was grown. The reality is that the type of food you buy, organic or conventional,
greatly impacts our own health and the world around us. Organic agriculture is a superior
alternative to chemical agriculture in many ways. It not only improves our health and wellbeing
as individuals, but it also benefits farmers and our environment in ways that conventional
agriculture cannot. The hope and intent of this article is to educate readers on the advantages
organic agriculture offers and try to encourage people to choose a diet based on organic food.
One noteworthy advantage that organic agriculture offers is in its benefits to farmers that
chemical agriculture fails to provide. An article by Organic Facts presents some interesting
information about these benefits in an economic realm to small scale farmers. In conventional
farming, most farmers use seeds that are patented by large and powerful corporations like
Monsanto and Dow Chemical Company; this requires farmers to purchase new seeds from them
every year. In organic farming, farmers may save their seeds from previous harvests. This saves
them money and allows them a lower capital investment than normal chemical farming. The
article states, in cases of natural calamity, pest or disease attack, or irregular rainfall, when there
is a crop failure, small farmers practicing organic farming have to suffer less as their
investments are low (Organic Facts). When less money is spent on buying new seed every year,
more is kept in the farmers pockets to protect against the financial damage of a poor harvest
year. Organic Facts is an organization based in India touted as a small team of dedicated
individuals who are passionate about health and nutrition, and want to spread awareness. They

appear to be fully committed to sharing their knowledge and experience with organic food and
products, which attests to their credibility as passionate proponents of organic agriculture.
Organic farming also benefits farmers because it exposes them to less toxic chemicals than
conventional agriculture. Non-organic farming relies heavily on the use of pesticides and
herbicides in controlling invasive weeds and bugs, and these chemicals are highly toxic to human
health. They can infiltrate farmers lives in many ways - by direct contact when working in the
field, by contaminating the water they drink and the food they eat, and by polluting the air they
breathe. An article written by Beyond Pesticides offers insights into the pros of organic farming
as well as the opposing dangers of conventional farming methods to farmers and their families.
The article states:
The population groups most affected by pesticide use are farmworkers and their
families. These people live in communities near the application of toxic pesticides, where
pesticide drift and water contamination are common. Farmworkers, both pesticide
applicators and fieldworkers who tend to and harvest the crops, come into frequent
contact with pesticides...Organic agriculture does not utilize these toxic chemicals and
thus eliminates this enormous health hazard to workers, their families, and their
communities.
Evidently, farmers operating conventional farms are exposed to a significantly greater level of
toxic chemicals that are known to cause health problems. What this article does fail to mention is
that some pesticides are allowed in organic farming; the catch is that these pesticides are natural
and deemed non-toxic by the USDA. Beyond Pesticides is a credible source because they are a
non-profit organization dedicated to protecting public health and the environment to lead the
transition to a world free of toxic pesticides, according to their mission statement. They educate
consumers with important and relevant information about the dangers of toxic pesticides to both
farm workers and consumers, and their article is a valuable source of health information that
helps increase public awareness about the consequences of decisions at the grocery store.
Another reason organic agriculture offers a superior alternative to conventional
agriculture and is worthy of our support is that organic produce has been shown to contain higher
amounts of healthy nutrients. In an article by Dr. Edward Group, he argues about the health
benefits of eating organic foods as opposed to those that are grown conventionally. He lists a

number of reasons to choose organic produce, one of which is this added nutrient boost. He
writes, organic fruits and veggies contain 27% more vitamin C, 21.1% more iron, 29.3% more
magnesium, 13.6% more phosphorus, and 18% more polyphenols [than their conventional
counterparts]. These nutrients pack the potential to improve our health and the fact that research
suggests organic produce contains more of them only bolsters his argument supporting it. He
goes on to explain how organic food is not contaminated with pesticides or herbicides, poses less
risk of acquiring food borne illnesses, and is better for both the environment and your
conscience. He says, When youre aware are of the devastation brought by agribusiness to
animals and the environment, surely your conscience suffers - and the fact is that a bad
conscience is bad for your health. Dr. Group founded and is the CEO of Global Healing Center,
an online network of advice on consumer health and nutrition, and has an extensive background
in medicine and nutrition, having attended both Harvard and MIT. He also has received
diplomates from the American Board of Functional Medicine and the American Clinical Board
of Nutrition. All of these accomplishments speak to his credibility as an advocate for organic
foods, and he contributes important advice to the online world of people seeking ways to
improve their health. We ought to support organic agriculture in part because of these added
health benefits Dr. Group presents.
Perhaps the most important reason organic agriculture is superior to conventional
alternatives is its reduced toxic impact on the environment. The Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations (FAO) writes an article explaining the critical benefits that
organic agriculture poses to our natural world. They state:
The impact of organic agriculture on natural resources favors interactions within the
agro-ecosystem that are vital for both agricultural production and nature conservation.
Ecological services derived include soil forming and conditioning, soil stabilization,
waste recycling, carbon sequestration, nutrients cycling, predation, pollination and
habitats. By opting for organic products, the consumer through his/her purchasing
power promotes a less polluting agricultural system.
The authors claim that organic methods such as crop rotations and inter-cropping play an
important role in creating stable soil systems (preventing erosion) and fostering soil biodiversity.
Organic practices eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers and thus reduce groundwater pollution.

They also help to lower the greenhouse gas effect in the environment and its associated issue of
global warming as a result of carbon sequestration in the soil. As an internationally recognized
agency operating under the umbrella of the United Nations, the FAO is undoubtedly as credible
as it gets. With a history of working to improve the sustainability of agriculture systems and
reducing poverty and hunger worldwide, the FAO strives to be a leader in attacking some of the
worlds largest problems. Their article contributes important insights to my research on the
environmental benefits of organic agriculture and promotes the support of the organic movement
as a whole.
I conducted a phone interview with Janice McPhillips, an outreach coordinator and
educator for Holly Hill Farm, a small organic farm located in Cohasset, Massachusetts. My most
significant takeaway from this interview was her answer to my question, What is the most
important thing people ought to know about organic agriculture? In response to this, she
explained the concept that many people are reluctant to purchase organic products because they
are more expensive, yet they make this decision without considering the many hidden costs that
come with conventional agriculture. Conventional farming methods use an abundance of known
carcinogens in the forms of pesticides and herbicides, and these chemicals have been linked with
cancer in research done with mice. The other problem these chemicals create is the
environmental damage done by runoff; when they trickle downstream they can severely harm or
kill aquatic and animal life, they degrade the quality of drinking water, and they contribute to air
pollution. Unfortunately, the costs of these environmental impacts are not visible on the surface
when comparing price tags at the grocery store, but they are real and significant and not enough
people are aware of them, according to McPhillips.
As we have seen, organic agriculture is predominantly a force for good in our world and
serves as an improved alternative to conventional farming methods. Organic foods are not only
better for our health, but they offer more benefits to both farmers and our environment. It is the
mark of an educated, informed, and conscious consumer to support organic agriculture. Though
divisive, this is one of the most important issues of our time and that we as a society should unite
around the organic agriculture movement.

Works Cited
"Benefits of Organic Farming for Small Farmers." Organic Facts. N.p., 02 Oct. 2007. Web. 02
July 2016. <https://www.organicfacts.net/organic-products/organic-cultivation/benefits-oforganic-farming-for-small-farmers.html>.
Group, Edward, Dr. "6 Health Benefits of Eating Organic Food." Global Healing Center.
N.p., 30 Sept. 2013. Web. 02 July 2016. <http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/6health-benefits-of-eating-organic-food/>.
"Health Benefits of Organic Agriculture." Beyond Pesticides. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 July 2016.
<http://www.beyondpesticides.org/programs/organic-agriculture/why-organic/health-benefits>.
McPhillips, Janice. Personal Interview. 04 July 2016.
"What Are the Environmental Benefits of Organic Agriculture?" Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 July 2016.
<http://www.fao.org/organicag/oa-faq/oa-faq6/en/>.