Environmental Effects of Fast-Food (French)

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Organic Agriculture
The primary goal

What Is Organic Agriculture?

of organic agriculture
is to optimize
the health

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and productivity

of interdependent

According to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic agriculture is “an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on

communities of

management practices that restore, maintain, or enhance ecological harmony. The

soil life, plants,

primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of

animals, and people.

interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals, and people.” (NOSB, 2003) Though the term “organic” is defined by law (see “Legal” section on pages 3 and 4), the terms “natural” and “eco-friendly” are not. Labels that contain those terms may imply some organic methods were used in the production of the foodstuff but do not guarantee complete adherence to organic practices as defined by a law. Some products marketed as “natural” may have been produced with synthetic or manufactured products (those not

considered to be “organic”), such as “natural beef.” While eco-labels are encouraged for producers
interested in lowering synthetic inputs and farming
with ecological principles in mind (biodiversity, soil
quality, biological pest control), eco-labels are not
regulated as strictly as USDA organic labels.

Products labeled as “organic” meet strict legal
requirements, including certification by a third party.

PM 1880 May 2003

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Organic Agriculture

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. . . the largest
purchasers of

U.S. Statistics

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Organic agriculture is the oldest form of
The USDA reported on organic producorganic products
agriculture on earth. Farming without
tion statistics in the United States
the use of petroleum-based chemicals
(USDA-ERS, 2002). This census, conductare young people
(fertilizers and pesticides) was the sole
ed in 2002, identified U.S. farmers who
and college-educated
option for farmers until after World War
reported 2.5 million acres of land
II. The war brought with it technologies
dedicated to organic production. This
consumers.
that were useful to agricultural producfigure probably under-represents current tion. For example, ammonium nitrate
production because many organic farmused for munitions during World War II ers produce their products organically,
evolved into ammonium nitrate fer tilizer;
but sell less than $15,000 per year and are exempt
organophosphate nerve gas production led to the
from inspection (see “Organic Certification”), or do
development of powerful insecticides. These technot label their product as organic and, in general, nical advances since World War II have resulted in
are direct marketing to a local customer. In 1999,
significant economic benefits as well as environIowa farmers reported 150,000 acres of organic mental and social detriments. Organic agriculture
cropland to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and
seeks to use those advances that consistently yield
Land Stewardship (IDALS) survey. This increase in
benefits, such as new varieties of crops, precision
organic acreage in Iowa represents a doubling from
agriculture technologies, and more efficient
the previous year and a sixfold increase since 1996.
machinery, while discarding those methods that
The U.S. organic industry continues to grow at
have led to negative impacts on society and the
a rate of 20 percent annually. Industry estimates
environment, such as pesticide pollution and insect
placed it at $10 billion in 2001. The organic industry
pest resistance. Organic farming is considered a
is a consumer-driven market. According...
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