In the past few years, there have been heavy criticisms about organic farming, mainly that it began to be similar to some of the methods of conventional farming. According to some studies, organic farms have started to follow the monoculture practice of conventional farms, as well as its reliance on purchased inputs and industrial processes.
The criticisms mostly came from advocates of what is referred to as “sustainable agriculture,” which is not conventional farming but neither is it organic farming. Instead, sustainable agriculture hopes to maintain the status quo in conventional farms while adopting practices and approaches that would help sustain the environment and lessen the impact of degradation that conventional farming practices cause.
American food authors Michael Pollan and Julie Gutham have even argued the fact that when organic farming started to go mainstream, “it has lost its commitment to building an alternative system for providing food” and instead, “replicating what it set out to oppose.”
But that is not entirely true, is it? New research shows that the link between conventional farming and organic farming is more complex than we can ever imagine. In fact, it seems that conventional farms are leaving their comfort zones and adapting practices we only used to see in truly organic farms.
According to the study, conventional farmers are “borrowing” techniques from organic farms on how to reduce the use of pesticides, artificial fertilizers, and excessive tillage. They also want to know how to increase on-farm biodiversity, beneficial insects, and soil conservation. Quite suddenly, conventional farms are after the same things that organic farming has been aiming for since the practice was first introduced.
It is not that the agriculture world is unaware of this happening though studies and news articles about the uptick in organic farming adaption are certainly not overflowing. In 2016, there was an article in the New York Times profiling conventional farmers in Indiana who started to use cover crops to build organic matter into the soil, fix nitrogen content, and add biodiversity to an agroecosystem. The cover crops also reportedly allowed farmers to reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers.
Going mainstream means that organic farming is also gaining credibility in the marketplace as they are directly being consumed. It also means that organic products can now be produced on a bigger scale (nothing in the law prohibits that, by the way). When this happens, those high price tag you see in grocery stores will begin to level down to the prices of products from conventional farms and more people are going to have access to organic food.