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How is Organic Farming Different from Industrial Farming

written by: Robin L.•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 11/21/2008

A brief look at how organic and industrial farming differ as well as how they effect the environment.

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    The outcome of organic and industrial farming is ultimately the same, they both produce food. However, the effects the different farming methods have on the environment, the health of consumers, and the way they produce the food are vastly different.

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    What is Industrial Farming?

    Industrial farming focuses almost entirely on production and only limitedly, if at all, on the environment. The goal is to produce food in much the same way that any item would be mass produced. Industrial farmers rely heavily on new technology, genetic engineering, and chemical solutions to problems such as soil fertility, feeding of livestock, pests, and diseases. Industrial agriculture tends to require massive amounts of energy and water as well as chemicals which increases pollution and can damage the land and water in or around the farm. Continued use of chemicals is also changing the invasive pests and weeds that farmers wage war with by making them resistant to those chemicals.

    Industrial farming that focuses on the production of animals is also harmful to the environment and to those that live near these large scale farms. The large amounts of animal waste, in the form of nitrogen, produced in these farms can also pose a risk to the environment. Excessive waste spillover has been linked to a reduction in local aquatic biodiversity.

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    What is Organic Farming?

    Organic farming focuses on being environmentally friendly and humane while maintaining economic profitability. Organic farmers attempt to protect soil fertility by engaging in plant diversity and using plant based, instead of fuel based, fertilizers. When addressing threats such as pests, weeds, or diseases they use options that address those individual concerns naturally. Crop rotation can be used to prevent species specific bacteria or disease from becoming prolific. Natural predators, such as lady bugs and some forms of wasp, can be utilized to prevent the damage associated with some invasive and damaging species of insects. Nitrogen can be introduced into the soil naturally, without chemicals, by including legumes and livestock manure in the field maintenance.

    In regards to livestock, organic farmers focus on the natural environment and food preference for the different species instead of focusing simply on mass production. This may require fewer numbers on any given parcel of land but it also reduces or eliminates the need for antibiotics or commercially produced feed. Additionally the hormones and other chemicals that the meat industry injects into the animals are also often eliminated in organic farming.

    The benefits of organic farming include having a sustainable and environmentally friendly food source. The negative consequences associated with organic farming include a reduction in food supply as the methods used in organic farming necessarily require the land be used less rigorously; however, due to the amount of waste in traditional food production this could balance itself out. Organic food is also more expensive although this could change and more and more people switch to organic.