Should consumers demand more organically based products other than fruits and vegetables? It would seem that if you are not internally consuming a product it shouldn’t need to be organic; however, your skin is your largest organ, not to mention permeable. Consider our interaction with personal care items, soaps, or even textiles? Understanding the impacts requires a view of the whole system to fully appreciate the role organic farming practices play in modern society.
Organic is more than a hot buzzword. It symbolizes sustainable practices and offers a multitude of social, environmental, and economic benefits beyond the ingredient in of itself. The USDA National Organic Program defines organic agriculture as products using methods that preserve the environment, natural resources, and biodiversity, and avoid most synthetic materials like pesticides and antibiotics. By not using synthetic materials, the surrounding community will not suffer the health detriments of consuming high concentrations of chemicals entering into groundwater, food, or air. This makes for a more productive community, having fewer sick days, and less associated medical costs.
Organically grown plants and their surroundings foster a biologically dynamic system that stems from a nutrient dense soil. The symbiotic relationship between microorganisms and certain plants (legumes), for example, provides key elements like nitrogen to the soil. Instead of providing nitrogen rich fertilizer, or fertilizers with only three nutrients, organic practices allow for dozens of nutrients to be available. This provides the foundation for stronger plant health and in return produces high quality products.
Buying products with organic ingredients directly improves the overall interrelating social, economic, and environmental system. Currently, direct costs of many organic products tend to be higher. This can be attributed to the more labor-intensive requirements. It is a complex system that requires a greater understanding of the specific environmental system in use. For example, according to Paul Vossen, Farm Advisor of the University of California Cooperative Extension, olive trees tend to be very hearty and benefit from less nutrients in the soil like that of the Mediterranean and their rocky soil. They do, however, have a greater need for water and weed control (root competition). Instead of having to apply herbicides, an organic olive farmer would either create a condition unfavorable to the weeds, employ caretakers to weed the farm, or a combination. When considering olive trees prefer a more rocky soil, where runoff and groundwater pollution will be more prolific, it makes sense as a conscience consumer to go organic. In the end, does anyone really want to consume a product than directly (or indirectly) is more socially, economically, and environmentally negative?