Why should you go organic?

Agriculture

Agriculture (Photo credit: thegreenpages)

Click here for a Good Dirt Radio 5-minute eco-spot on eating locally and organically.

On the shortlist of major causes that affect the stability of the biosphere, factory food systems are very near the top. Proponents of the return to organic food, claim that big ‘Ag’s current energy and petrochemical intensive systems are toxic and too centralized. Petroleum based industrial agriculture is a major contributor to climate change and continues to damage air, water, soil, and a rapidly growing number of species. Tune in to hear how grassroots organizations across the US are working to clean up our mainstream food supply by going local and organic.

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Read transcript below.

On the shortlist of major causes that affect the stability of the biosphere, factory food systems are very near the top. Proponents of the return to organic food, claim that big ‘Ag’s current energy andpetro-chemical intensive systems are toxic and too centralized.   Petroleum based industrial agriculture is a major contributor to climate change and damages air, water, soil, anda rapidly growing number of species. But the good news here is the expanding movement across the US to clean upour mainstream food supply by going local and organic.

We spoke with Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director and Editor for Organic Consumers Association, a national advocacy group with hundreds of thousands of members. In Washington, DC, she lobbies for strong organic food standards as well as cleaner agricultural and environmental standards.  She explains the roles of current systems in climate change.

Baden-Mayer:  Industrial agriculture is responsible for between 44 and 57% of total greenhouse gas emissions.  Part of that are the agriculture activities, especially growing food with chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers that are derived from natural gas.   And the other big contributor is the fact that we keep animals in factory farms and we’re basically stockpiling their waste, which is a terrible source of methane gasses.  Another piece is the food processing, packaging and transportation and the last piece related to our food system is our organic waste.  We let it rot in landfills and that contributes as much as 4% to greenhouse gas emissions.

Baden-Mayor says organic agriculture provides major global solutions and that by eating organic, locally grown and transported foods, consumers can help change the course of climate history.

Baden Mayor:  Going organic is the answer to climate change.  If we go to local, organic agriculture, not only can we can eliminate the 57% of global greenhouse gas emissions that are related to our industrial ag food systems, but we can sequester 40% of current global greenhouse gas emissions.  So, if everyone converted just 10% of their diet to organic, we could capture an additional 6.5 billion pounds of carbon in the soil.  That’s the same as taking 2 million cars off the road.

The Rodale Institute in S.E. Pennsylvania has been educating people fordecadesabout their research on the positive effects that organic farming can have on the environment as well as our personal health.  Jeff Moyer, Rodale’s Farm Director, describes howorganic agriculture sequesters carbon from the atmosphere.

Moyer:   The reason carbon can be sequestered so easily, in organic systems, is because we’re working with the soil.  Treating the soil as a living, breathing set of organisms that are physically active and very dynamic and can work in our favor in terms of sequestering carbon.   In a conventionally farmed system, when chemically based nitrogen fertilizer is used, it’s a little bit like dumping gasoline on something flammable like wood and it just burns it up, almost instantaneously, and sends it right back into the atmosphere, so you’re not really sequestering it.  But in organic systems, that doesn’t happen.

Moyer explains that living, breathing fungi and other microbes absorb carbon and other nutrients, enriching the soil.  He says there are multiple benefits to switching to organic food systems.

Moyer:  We can protect our ground-water, we can improve our surface water because we no longer have all these chemicals, nitrogen, phosphorus, in terms of fertilizer, and all the other agricultural herbicides and insecticides getting into our environment. So we’re improving our environment and helping to mitigate some of the problems we have with climate change.  But the real emphasis is on the quality of the food and our own personal health and there’s no reason for us to not start down that path on a much larger scale than we’re doing today.

Baden-Mayer:  To think about how our world can be impacted by climate can be incredibly de-spiriting but to know that the solution lies right in what we do every day, with every choice we make about what food to eat, we can be part of the solution.  Locally grown, organic agriculture not only reduces and eliminates emissions related to our industrial food system, but it can sequester an enormous amount of current greenhouse gas pollution.

Please visit gooddirtradio.org for more on eating organic and locally and look for the USDA Certified Organic label in your shift… to renewable living.

Personal health is the microcosm of global health and as they say…wearewhat we eat. Organic living is a powerful way everyonecan help reverse a climate crisis.

I’m Tom Bartels and I’m Tami Graham.  Thanks for joining us on Good Dirt Radio, digging up good news…. for a change.

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