10 Pros and Cons of Organic Farming

In this article, we are going to discuss the pros and cons of organic farming. Statistics show that since 1990, the market for organic food and other products has grown rapidly, reaching $63 billion worldwide in 2012.

This demand has driven a similar increase in organically-managed farmland that grew from 2001 to 2011 at a compounding rate of 8.9% per annum. As of 2020, approximately 75,000,000 hectares (190,000,000 acres) worldwide were farmed organically, representing approximately 1.6% of total world farmland.

These developments have had a positive impact on the availability of organic food in local markets, which enables more people to enjoy the benefits of eating organic (chemical-free) food. But just like any other way of farming, organic agriculture also has its downsides.

Organic farming makes use of agricultural production systems reliant on green manure, compost, biological pest control, and crop rotation to produce crops, livestock, and poultry. Organic-centered agricultural production systems foster the cycling of resources to conserve biodiversity and promote ecological balance.

India is the largest producer of organic-based products, while Australia has the largest proportion of organically farmed land.

To find out more about organic farming, we will take a look at the list of pros and cons of organic farming in this article.

What is Organic Farming?

Organic farming, also known as ecologically based farming or biologically based farming, is an agricultural system that does not use synthetic pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, and growth hormones to enhance its production but instead makes use of fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, animal manure, and bone meal for the enhancement of farm produce.

Organic agriculture can also be defined as “an integrated farming system that strives for sustainability, the enhancement of soil fertility and biological diversity while, with rare exceptions, prohibiting synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, and growth hormones”.

In addition, organic farmers also make use of techniques such as crop rotation and the use of a plant’s natural enemies or natural defenses to combat pests.

Organic farming originated early in the 20th century in reaction to rapidly changing farming practices. Certified organic agriculture accounts for 70 million hectares (170 million acres) globally, with over half of that total in Australia.

Organic farming continues to be developed by various organizations today. Modern organic farming was developed as a response to the environmental harm caused by the use of chemical pesticides and insecticides.

Organic farming methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations, based on a large part of the standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an international umbrella organization for organic farming organizations established in 1977.

Organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally-occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances. For instance, naturally-occurring pesticides such as pyrethrin are permitted, while synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are generally prohibited.

Synthetic substances that are allowed include, for example, copper sulfate, elemental sulfur, and Ivermectin. Genetically modified organisms, nanomaterials, human sewage sludge, plant growth regulators, hormones, and antibiotic use in livestock husbandry are prohibited.

Vegetables from Ecological Farming

Pros and Cons of Organic Farming

Unlike other agricultural practices, organic farming performs better about water and soil conservation, maintaining ecological balance, and utilizing renewable resources. On the contrary, it also has its drawbacks. Here are the pros and cons of organic farming.

s/nPros of Organic FarmingCons of Organic Farming
1Improves Soil Fertility and ConservationIt is not Cost Effective at the beginning
Improved soil fertility means a higher yield of crops!
Organic farming highly depends on nourishing the soil naturally through the use of compost, natural powders, and green manure.
Crop rotation, intercropping and minimal tillage are also used to improve soil fertility, structure, and water-holding capacity in organic farming.
Crops are grown without the use of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.
Instead, natural techniques of soil enhancement are applied and as a result, this helps to support the soil microbial activities that transform and release soil nutrients while conserving and protecting the soil in the long run by fighting against soil degradation.
The soil required for carrying out organic farming is more expensive than the soil used in traditional farming methods. 
For example, rock dust and organic soil amendment can be more expensive than conventional agricultural chemicals.
This means that the initial investment required to carry out organic farming is higher.
However, as the soil becomes healthier naturally, the need for inputs should be reduced over time, and soil fertility requirements can be maintained on-site through compost and other ecological-based inputs.
2More Nutritional ValueMore Skill is Required
The use of organic farming leads to the production of food products that are more and high nutritional value; consisting of higher nutritional content because they do not contain modified ingredients as compared to products produced from conventional methods of farming.
Products such as vegetables and fruits produced through organic farming are very fresh to eat as well!
According to the Quality Low Input Food report, the milk of grazing cows found in organic farms is richer in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamin E when compared to milk from intensive dairy farm systems
 The flavors and taste of the products produced through organic farming are also substantially better and more natural.
Furthermore, another important factor that makes them highly nutritious is that they are given time to develop and are provided with the best natural conditions for growth.
The vitamin and mineral content of organic food products is always high as soil life and health offer the most suitable mechanism for crops to access soil nutrients.
The use of organic farming leads to the production of food products that are more and high nutritional value; consisting of higher nutritional content because they do not contain modified ingredients as compared to products produced from conventional methods of farming.
Products such as vegetables and fruits produced through organic farming are very fresh to eat as well!
According to the Quality Low Input Food report, the milk of grazing cows found in organic farms is richer in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamin E when compared to milk from intensive dairy farm systems
 The flavors and taste of the products produced through organic farming are also substantially better and more natural.
Furthermore, another important factor that makes them highly nutritious is that they are given time to develop and are provided with the best natural conditions for growth.
The vitamin and mineral content of organic food products is always high as soil life and health offer the most suitable mechanism for crops to access soil nutrients.
3Climate-friendlyLack of Infrastructure
Organic farming is more climate-friendly because it; Reduces energy requirements. Organic farming tends to rely more on physical and animal labor rather than fossil fuels. This eliminates the use of petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides, and chemicals.
The plants produced by organic farming help to store carbon thus reducing the production of greenhouse gases which leads to the greenhouse effect causing global warming and in the long run climate change sets in.
Less fossil fuel is utilized as organic farming requires more work from animals and manual labor. This way the plants also help to support the ecosystem around it and create biodiversity in it.
Most large organic farms still operate under the ancient agricultural style but the transportation of the goods is industrialized leading to a High carbon footprint and environmentally harmful practices as those of factory farms which are however hidden under the cover of being organic.
However, these issues remain hidden under the banner of organic farming.
4A healthy environment for farmers to workTime Consuming
Organic farming creates a non-toxic working environment for people working around the farm.
Farm workers and local communities are not exposed to toxic synthetic agricultural chemicals.
Those who come in contact with pesticides have a higher risk of neurological diseases.
This is because organic farming aims to stop using chemicals that may create health problems among people working on the farm health problems such as headaches, fatigue, respiratory problem, and memory loss.
Organic farming requires a lot of patience, commitment, and an uphill task to effectively grow crops.
Organic farming needs a high amount of interaction between a farmer and his/her crops or livestock.
The farmer has to spend most of the time, day after day, observing and catering to the needs of his/her crops and animals with utmost care in the best natural way.
Whether it is ensuring the crops are pest and disease free in an organic way or the use of natural methods to control weeds or organically raising animals, the process is highly time-consuming.
As well as labor intensive compared to conventional mechanical or chemical agriculture.
5Improvement of Human HealthMarketing Challenges
Organic products are high in nutrition content, contain lower levels of chemicals, and they do not have modified ingredients.
They offer the safest products for human consumption compared to any other available food products.
Accordingly, the risks of diseases like infertility, cancer, and immunodeficiency are minimized as a result of the consumption of organic products.
Besides, organic standards have set strict regulations to ensure all products that are labeled organic are truly organic in production and processing which ensure that they are free from genetically modified production technologies and synthetic chemical component.
For any product, marketing and promoting that product to the community is often challenging.
While conventional farmers generally have a well-defined market for their commodity crops and have a fairly simple field-to-market process, organic farmers may find it much more difficult to compete and market their products on their own.
Most people are not aware of some benefits of organic products the market environment for organic products is highly affected making it difficult for organic farmers to compete in an already competitive market.
6Considers the FutureOrganic Products are Expensive
Sustainability is key!
 Organic farming methods are restorative and require low inputs, and therefore it does not destroy the land and natural resources for future generations.
Organic farming doesn’t damage the soil and it stops the process of desertification.
This is in contrast to many conventional farming techniques which reduce the natural capital values of our planet.
Research reveals that organic farming can provide impressive mechanisms for advancing ecological harmony, biodiversity, and biological cycles which are environmentally sustainable.
For example, the primary objectives of organic farming are soil management and conservation, promoting the nutrient cycle, ecological balance, and conserving biodiversity.
Properly managed organic farms could be a part of the solution to long-term sustainable farming of our lands.
This low input and restorative process help to preserve the land for future generations.
Furthermore, since most organic farming production methods are energy efficient compared to traditional farming, it saves energy.
The use of natural methods in place of chemicals also saves the world’s water sources and lands from contamination and pollution.
In supermarkets, for instance, organic vegetables and fruits cost as much as 30 to 40 percent more than their non-organic equivalent, making organic foods the most expensive agricultural product in the market. 
Consumers tend to pay the price of the product and this is said to be one of the major disadvantages of organically produced food products.
The exorbitant prices of organic products are linked to the notion that organic farmers do not yield as much out of their farms as conventional farmers do.
7Pest and Disease Resistant
The major benefit of growing plants in healthy soil with adequate pH and nutritional status is that it helps strengthen the immune system of the plant. Healthy plants that are naturally grown in healthy soils are more resistant to pests and diseases.
Plant resistance in organic farming is created by reinforcement of the plant cell wall making it stronger against pests and diseases with a natural substance such as rhubarb.
These solutions promote healthy plant growth and natural pest resistance.
Organic farming requires more manual and physical control of weeds than other cultivation techniques.
This implies that more physical manpower is required to carry out organic farming.
This may also give rise to the overall costs of organic farming in the long run.
 However, with ecological farming methods or smart techniques such as permaculture or bio-intensive farming, good and effective design dramatically reduces the labor that is required over time.
8No Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)Lacks the flexibility of utilizing Genetically Modified Organism (GMOs) Advantages
Organic farming does not allow the growth or production of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
This is the biggest advantage of organic farming. This helps to save a lot of costs and also makes organic farming efficient.
The risk of mutations (dangerous changes in DNA) in crops also decreases as they are not genetically altered.
This is probably one of the strongest arguments in favor of organically-grown produce.
The classic nature of organic farming is the complete avoidance of any sort of genetic modification.
However, even though this helps to bolster a healthy lifestyle, organic growers miss out on significant genetically engineered technologies which can assist crops to better resist pests and diseases or tolerate weeds.
Conventional farmers have the flexibility of taking advantage of genetic modification, which is generally lacking in organic farming.
9Organic Farm Products are poison-freeLack of subsidies for Organic Farmers
Aspects such as bio-magnification and bioaccumulation are reduced through the practice of organic farming as chemical pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, and artificial growth hormones are all prohibited on an organic farm.
All the practices are natural and thus do not harm the consumer.
Therefore, organic food products are free of contamination with health-harming chemical substances.
Farmers practicing organic farming face a lack of subsidies enjoyed by farmers using conventional farming methods.
This makes organic farmers more vulnerable, from a financial point of view to bad weather events that could wipe out their entire crop for the year or if the crop itself fails.
This goes a long way to affect them when bad weather conditions damage their crops as they are not compensated accordingly.
And this may lead to farmers losing their lands and even their livelihood as they are completely dependent on their lands as a source of income.
10Fertilizers are created on-siteMore observations required
Organic farmers improve the soil fertility on a farm and increase crop yield by using natural methods of boosting the level of available nutrients which is on-site fertilization.
Some of these methods include green manure, cover crops, crop rotation, worm farming, or the application of compost.
Monitoring is a very crucial and essential aspect of organic farm management because any mistakes or bad weather conditions may ruin the entire batch, thus making organic farming more labor-demanding and time-consuming as compared to other farming approaches.
This implies that organic farming requires regular monitoring of the crops being grown.
This is done even more so during the critical periods of the crops so that they can be well-grown without any pests or weeds spoiling the crops.
This makes organic farming more labor and time-demanding than conventional farming.

Conclusion

Looking at the long list of the pros and cons of organic farming justifies the reasoning that whatever has advantages is accompanied by some disadvantages of which organic farming is not left out.

In as much as it has been considered by many as an important and more environmentally friendly way of farming, we cannot still negate its very few disadvantages.

However, the long term-benefits are way more than these seemingly difficult hurdles. And certainly, if you look forward to providing food security to your next generation, you will opt for organic farming!

10 Pros and Cons of Organic Farming – FAQs

Is Organic Farming the future of Agriculture?

Organic farming has been practiced in India for many thousands of years.
These days, people from all walks of life are more than ready to invest in a nutritious and chemical-free product that can enrich their overall health in the long run, and are doing their bit to promote healthy living within society.
The basic aim of organic farming is to maintain human welfare without affecting the environment, and it follows the principles of health and cares for all, including the soil. So there is every possibility that organic farming will be sought after in the world’s agricultural system in the future.

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Environmental Consultant at Environment Go! | + posts

Ahamefula Ascension is a Real Estate Consultant, Data Analyst, and Content writer. He is the founder of Hope Ablaze Foundation and a Graduate of Environmental Management in one of the prestigious colleges in the country. He is obsessed with Reading, Research and Writing.

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