Hon. English 1
13 February 2012
“Pesticide residues have been ranked among the top three environmental cancer risks by the American government” (Cleeton). This startling statistic fuels some of the arguments between organic farming and conventional farming. Although organic products cost more, they have many benefits to humans and rural societies. Organic farming is better than conventional farming because of the benefits to the natural environment, the methods used to fertilize soil and deter bugs, and the safety and health of people. Different farming techniques cause negative effects on organic matter in the soil. Because chemical fertilizers are so cheap and effective, they have been overused and have damaged soils. The effects of the chemical fertilizers have killed much of the organic matter in the soil. This loss in organic matter lowers the soils aeration and water holding abilities. Soil aeration is important because it allows water to get to the roots. Soil aeration also helps to get nutrients to the roots of a plant. The microorganisms that are destroyed can help to degrade the amount of pollution in the soil. Tests have been taken on the transition from conventional farming systems to organic systems which showed that the transition had an increase of microorganisms in the soil (De Araújo, Ferreia, and de Melo 2423). On the other hand, organic farms use legumes to fertilize their soil. Some examples of legumes are beans, peas, and peanuts. “Organic systems are extremely important for the increase of soil fertility” (De Araújo, Ferreia, and de Melo 2423). Organic farmers use legumes to fertilize their soil because legumes take nitrogen from the air and transfer it to the soil. Leguminous green-manure crops can add anywhere from 40 to 200 pounds of nitrogen to an acre of soil (Fossel 31). Along with legumes, organic farmers also use a technique called green manure. Green manure is any cover crop that is turned under while it is green to add nutrients. Examples of green manure plants are alfalfa and any type of clover. Green manure works by decomposing organic material so that minerals are made available to the next crop (Schwenke 11). Green manure does not add nitrogen directly to the soil but makes it available to the next crop. “The compost that organic farms use such as manure is composed of high levels of easily decomposable carbon that enhances soil microbial biomass or organic matter”(Araújo 2423). Cover crops also help to prevent erosion, capture nutrients, and help to break up and bring nutrients to compact subsoil (Fossel 30). Cover crops also suppress weeds and improve the structure of soil. Cover crops and green manure also attract and harbor beneficial insects such as lady bugs, praying mantises, and ground beetles. Tests have shown that organically fertilized crops contain ten percent to fifty percent more antioxidants than conventional crops. Antioxidants are important for the body because they help to protect and build up the immune system. Eating organic foods can reduce the amount of toxic chemicals taken in by eating conventionally grown food. Eating organic foods also increases the amount of beneficial vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and D, which are absorbed into the body (Cleeton).
Another harmful factor in conventional farming is chemical pesticides. “Pesticide residues have been ranked among the top three environmental cancer risks by the American government” (Cleeton). When multiple pesticides are acting in a combination, their effects can be very harmful to humans. Conventional farms use chemicals called organophosphates. These organophosphates can cause cancer, male infertility, fetal abnormalities and Parkinson’s disease. In today’s conventional farming, over 400 chemicals can readily be used to kill weeds, insects, and other foreign bodies (Cleeton). Organic crop production relies less on pesticides,...
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