Organic Food and Farming FAQs
"Organic food is just too expensive. How can I justify the extra cost?"
Chemical farming has many hidden costs, which we pay for through our taxes and utility bills. For example, removing pesticides from drinking water costs water companies around £120 million per year. A recent study, by Professor Jules Pretty from Essex University, shows that food actually costs about three times more than the price you see on the supermarket shelf. Organic food appears to cost more, but as the farming method significantly reduces some of these hidden costs, we will pay less for our food overall. At the moment, the market for organic food is just getting off the ground, but as it grows, prices are expected to fall. However organic farmers need higher incomes to compensate for their current higher costs and the prices we pay now are also an incentive for farmers to consider organic farming.
"Why do organic farms need government support?"
Organic farmers need support as they cover some of the hidden costs of agriculture by, for example, decreasing the amount of money that needs to be spent on cleaning up water. Many farmers wanting to convert to organic farming are prevented for technical reasons so they need practical and financial support from Government to help them convert to organic methods. Organic farmers, for instance, have trouble finding local abattoirs that can separate organic and 'conventional' meat supplies. Changes in planning laws could also allow them to process their meat products on the farm.
"Are artificial farming chemicals really a threat to human health?"
We are all exposed to pesticides on a daily basis in our diet and the cumulative, long-term effects of this are unknown. Some pesticides used in the UK, like lindane and carbendazim are known to have hormone-disrupting effects. Lindane has been linked to breast cancer and is banned in many other countries. The UK Government recommends that parents should peel all fruit and vegetables for their children, to try get rid of pesticides left on the skin.
"Doesn't organic farming deny the progress brought about by science & technology?"
Organic farming uses the best of old and new technologies that respect human and animal health and the environment. Organic farmers welcome technologies that help manage the water, land and crops more effectively. Scientific organisations such as HDRA-The Organic Organisation and the Elm Farm Research Centre continue to do excellent work into modern techniques to improve organic food and production methods, and to share this knowledge with farmers all over the world. Farmers and researchers would like to be able to progress faster with this work, but organic farming only receives a tiny percentage of the agricultural research budget.
"Without herbicides & pesticides, can we grow enough food to feed the world?"
Yes we can. The main problem with the world's food supply is that it isn't distributed fairly. Often this is for political reasons, such as trade disputes or civil war. Food exists, but people can't get access to it. These problems need to be addressed by governments and international organisations, urgently. In the West, the problem is overproduction, and to combat this, about 10% of farmland has to be set-aside each year to reduce production. When land is turned over to organic production, there is a decrease in the amount of food it produces. But over time (about four years), as the soil becomes more fertile, output increases.