Protect Future Generations: The average child receives four times more exposure than an adult to at least eight widely used cancer-causing pesticides in food. The food choice you make now will impact your child’s health in the future.
Prevent Soil Erosion: The soil Conservation Service estimates that more than three billion tons of topsoil is eroded from United States croplands each year. That means soil is eroding seven times faster than it is being built up naturally. Sustainable farming builds soil.
Protect Water Quality: Water makes up two-thirds of our body mass and covers three-fourths of the planet. Despite its importance, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates pesticides and some cancer-causing contaminates in groundwater in 38 states are polluting the primary sources of drinking water for more than half the country’s population.
Save Energy: Modern farming used more petroleum than any other single industry, consuming 12 percent of the country’s total energy supply. More energy is now used to produce synthetic fertilizers than to till, cultivate and harvest all the crops in the Unites States. Organic farming is still mainly based on labor-intensive practices, such as weeding by hand and using green manures and cover crops rather than synthetic fertilizers to build up soil. Organic produce also tends to travel fewer miles from field to table.
Keep Chemicals Off Your Plate: Many pesticides approved for use by the EPA were registered long before extensive research linking these chemicals to cancer and other diseases had been established. Now the EPA considers 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides and 30 percent of all insecticides carcinogenic. A 1987 National Academy of Sciences report estimated that pesticides might cause an extra 1.4 million cancer cases among Americans during our lifetime. The bottom line is that pesticides are poisons designed to kill living organisms, and can also be harmful to humans. In addition to cancer, pesticides are implicated in birth defects, nerve damage and genetic mutation.
Protect Farm Worker Health: A National Cancer Institute study found that farmers exposed to herbicides had a six time greater risk than non-farmers of contracting cancer. In California, reported pesticide poisonings among farm workers have raised an average of 14 percent a year since 1973 and doubled between 1975 and 1985. Field workers suffer the highest rates of occupations illness in the state.
Help Small Farmers: Although more and more large-scale farms are making the conversion to organic practices, most organic farms are small, independently owned and operated family farms of less than 100 acres. It is estimated that the United States has lost more than 650,000 family farms in the past decade. And with the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicting that half of America’s farm production will come from one percent of farms by the year 2000, organic farming could be one of the few survival tactic left for family farms.
Support a True Economy: Although organic foods might seem more expensive than conventional foods, conventional food prices do not reflect hidden costs borne by taxpayers, including nearly $74 billion in federal subsidies in 1988. Other hidden costs include pesticide regulation and testing, hazardous waste disposal and cleanup, and environmental damage.
Promote Biodiversity: Mono-cropping is the practice of planting large plots of land with the same crop year after year. While this approach tripled farm production between 1950 and 1970, the lack of natural diversity of plant life has left the soil lacing in natural minerals and nutrients. To replace the nutrients, chemical fertilizers are used, often in increasing amounts. Single crops are also much more susceptible to pests, making farmers more reliant on pesticides. Despite a tenfold increase in the use of pesticides between 1947 and 1974, crop losses due to insects have doubled – partly because some insects have become genetically resistant to certain pesticides.
Taste Better Flavor: There’s a good reason why many chefs use organic foods in their recipes – it tastes better! Organic farming starts with the nourishment of the soil, which eventually leads to the nourishment of the plant and, ultimately, our palates.
The environment secretary said organic food was more of a "lifestyle choice that people can make".
There is no "conclusive evidence either way" concerning the health effects of pesticides, he told the Sunday Times.
The Soil Association, which regulates organic food, said studies show a difference between organic food and food produced using industrial methods.
“ I would not want to say that 96% of our farm produce is inferior because it's not organic ” David Miliband
It was critical of Mr Miliband's suggestion that food grown with the use of pesticides and other chemicals should not be regarded as inferior.
Mr Miliband: "It's only 4% of total farm produce, not 40%, and I would not want to say that 96% of our farm produce is inferior because it's not organic."
He said despite the rise in organic sales being "exciting" for shoppers, they should not think of conventionally-produced food as "second best".
Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers' Union, added that he had seen "no evidence" to prove organic food is healthier.
"If there's a small but growing percentage of consumers who want a different product, then that's a great opportunity for members," he said.
"But I have a real problem with conventional methods being demeaned at every opportunity."
According to the Soil Association, organic food sales in the UK increased by 30% to £1.6bn in 2006.
Robin Maynard, the association's campaigns director, said the environment secretary's comments were "slightly disappointing".
"It has been shown over the years that there is a difference between food produced organically and that produced using industrial methods.
"It is not just a lifestyle choice in terms of the environment, organic is better for that.
"Mr Miliband's own government has recognised in the past that organic food can be better for that. In fact organic farmers get an extra payment due to this."
However, Mr Maynard admitted there was a lack of studies showing how organic food could be healthier.
He said this stemmed from the difficulties of pinpointing exactly how such food was healthier and because research needed to be carried out over "tens of years".
The association's website says organic food does not contain many of the artificial additives used in modern food production, and also have more natural vitamins and minerals.
It also argues organic food is better for wildlife because it does not use pesticides or dangerous sprays.
Pressure from shoppers has boosted the volume of organic UK produce in supermarkets, the association said last year.
Pete Glanville, secretary of the Shetland Organic Producers Group, said organic food is about producing local goods that are chemical free.
"You only have to look at the list of things that goes into creating lots of things to realise just how much we are not putting into our bodies by eating organic."
"We are not saying the other 96% which is farmed conventionally is rubbish. We personally are making a choice about what goes into our bodies."