Organic this, organic that, it seems like everything is organic now. But what even is organic farming, and how does it differ from conventional farming? Organic refers to how farmers grow and process their crops. The essential difference between organic and conventional farming is that conventional farming relies on chemical intervention while organic farming relies on natural principles in its farming practices. According to USDA guidelines, organic farming practices are designed to reduce pollution and conserve water and soil, while seeking to preserve biodiversity and local ecosystems.
Before we get deeper into the differences between organic and conventional farming, it is important to know how food becomes certified organic. The U.S. Department of Agriculture certifies organic products according to strict guidelines, and to be certified, organic farmers have to apply for the certification, pass a test to see if their crops are really organic, and then pay a fee (this is how it works in the US, not other countries). It’s important to note that this means not all organic foods become certified, even though all certified food is organic. If an item has the “USDA Organic” label, it means that at least 95% of the food’s ingredients were organically produced (this label is voluntary, not mandatory). Products that are 100% organic are labeled as such and given a small USDA label. Some product labels state that the product was “made with organic ingredients,” which means the product contains at least 70% organic ingredients.
Organic farming methods differ from conventional farming in several different ways. To promote plant growth, conventional farming uses chemical fertilizers while organic farming employs manure, compost, and other natural fertilizers. Organic farms also use insects and birds, mating disruption, or traps for pest control instead of pesticides, and to manage weeds, they rotate crops, use mulch, or handpick weeds instead of using herbicides. When raising animals, organic farmers feed their animals organic feed, give the animals a balanced diet and clean housing, and allow them to roam, while steering away from antibiotics and growth hormones.
These requirements make organic food cost more than food produced using conventional farming methods, which is why conventional farming still exists. That being said, spending the extra money to buy organic is totally worth it as you are making yourself and the planet healthier. So, the next time you are at the store, try to buy organic.