Environmental degradation due to unsustainable agriculture necessitates the need to replace conventional methods with organic farming practices. According to a Greenpeace Environmental Trust report, organic farming doesn’t require the use of chemical aids such as fertilizers and pesticides for farming, hybrid seeds, restriction of farm animals to enhance growth and use of machinery for harvesting. The report contends that use of these substances has “destroyed wildlife and crop diversity, poisoned people and ruined the soil” (p. 4).
Consequently, organic farming advocates natural alternatives for improving soil fertility and increasing production. To maintain the required ecosystem equilibrium the report advises that farmers should shift from using chemical aids to crop rotation, use of antagonistic plants, intercropping, use of physical barriers and biological control agents to control pest infestations and diseases. Manual weeding and handpicking are also encouraged rather than using herbicides and machinery. Further use of green manure and compost to improve soil fertility and practicing mixed livestock farming for improved productivity is recommended.
Benefits of and Challenges Towards Organic Farming Adoption
The main advantage of organic farming practices over conventional methods is thus in addressing environmental concerns of farming. Though appropriate application of chemicals in agriculture may not have immediate harmful impacts on the environment, their cumulative effects may prove hazardous. By effective use of alternatives to chemicals in controlling diseases and pests, the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture are minimized. The focus of organic farming on maintaining ecosystem equilibrium may thus be the best action to minimize the depletion of existing natural resources, to promote environmental integrity.
Secondly organic farming as advanced in the report could have an ethical edge over its conventional counterpart. The humane treatment of farm animals and use of manual labour to prevent unnecessary replacement of human resources with machinery confers organic farming with a superior ethical rating. Further the concern for environmental outcomes of farming buttresses the ethical argument of organic farming practices. In a different journal commentary, however, the argument that organic farming takes farming out of reach of the ordinary farmer, hence depriving them off their income, counters its ethical rating.
On the drawbacks of adopting organic farming practices productivity and cost aspects rank high. It is argued in the commentary that the agrarian revolution advances employed in modern day farming helped to increase productivity with limited resources. For organic farming practices to achieve such a productivity rating then massive land and manual labour input may be necessary. In locations where the land and labour availability are limited the economical benefits of farming would not be readily realized with an organic farming approach.
Secondly, by using cost intensive production techniques organic farming products attract exorbitant prices in the market. This is irrespective of their nutritive superiority over conventional foods being largely perceived rather than evidence-based, as argued in the commentary. Such high prices of organic foods may thus outstrip the purchasing ability of many families. With these propositions the applicability of organic farming to solve global food scarcity may not be evident.
In conclusion the replacement of conventional farming practices with organic farming practices may not be readily realizable. Much of the challenge of the process stems from its economic unsoundness of employing high production cost alternatives. Similarly the production capability of organic farming may not meet the current world food demand. Organic farming however presents a best practise to reducing adverse environmental impacts of farming.