Benefits of organic farming

Safer working conditions.

One of the most direct benefits by the omission of pesticides is the safer working conditions for farmers and farm workers. It is well known that many farm workers actually die each year because of pesticide-use, especially in third world countries. But even in regions where farming is modern and the knowledge of the importance of protection is well known the rate of certain forms of cancer among farmers is much higher than in the average population, due to use of pesticides.

Less food and drinking water contamination.

There is also a substantially reduced risk of contamination of food when no pesticides are used. Several studies show increased fertility for animals and people getting organic food/feed. However, organic food can be contaminated by wind-drift and by persistent pesticides in the field and should not be defined as completely pesticide free.

The problem with pesticides in drinking-water is getting bigger all over the world, even in countries with low use of pesticides and an ample water supply like Sweden.

Greater biodiversity

The use of pesticides is a threat both to plants, insects and higher life. The pesticides threaten the survival of some weed species, but even more they restrict the general biodiversity in the fields as well as in the surroundings. Feedstuffs for birds etc. are heavily reduced, by this. There are many observations done, showing that the number of birds as well as the number of species increases on ecologically managed farms.

The crop-rotations practiced in ecological agriculture contribute to a more varied landscape and allow greater biodiversity, and also protect farmers from economical catastrophes caused by damaged crops or falling prices.

Reduced leaking

The organic approach with as much recirculation of nutrients as possible and the non-use of chemical fertilisers reduces leaking of nutrients, an enormous problem in many countries, and a threat to drinking water, lakes, rivers and the sea.

On a theoretical level an organic farmer could cause a lot of leaking by bad management of green manures and lguminous crops. In the actual case this is not common since such a farmer will not survive many years, because an organic farmer can not afford big losses of nitrogen to the air or to nearest river.

Recent case-studies in Denmark show, that with a comparable production in the fields, the organic farms nitrogen losses are half of that from neighbouring convetional farms. Organic agriculture could therefore help reduce the costs for cleaning drainage water from agriculture, which only in Germany is estimated to around 300 USD per hectare.

Reduced erosion and better water management

Both soil improvement and the concept of keeping the ground “covered” as much as possible, either by mulches or cover crops, reduces soil erosion. Soils with improved structure and higher content of organic matter and the more compact growth of an organic crop also reduces the water consumption in agriculture.

Low use of non-renewable resources

The low-input concept of organic farming also reduces transports and other threats to shrinking resources.

In addition to its own benefits organic farming is also influencing the “conventional” production by the introduction of biological pest controls etc.