Monday, November 24, 2008

Is Organic Agriculture Still Profitable?

Even though the organic farming / agriculture industry is now worth several billion US dollars worldwide, there are many who question it’s profitability when compared to mass produced low retail cost rivals. Is it just mere marketing ploy?

By: Ringo Bones

More that just a “If we build it, they will come” kind of industry, organic farming or organic agriculture is more than just a profit-driven business. It started out due to increasing ethical concerns over the negative side effects of conventional intensive chemical pesticide and chemical fertilizer dependent agricultural methods born out of post World War II Green Revolution. Even though the first Green Revolution kept our less fortunate brethren from starving for most of the 20th Century, many now question if our current industrialized food production systems is slowly but inexorably doing irreparable harm to our environment.

When European settlers first came to the New World, their then environmentally compatible method of agriculture made them wealthy plus the bonus of a safe and secure supply of food. Years later when these small settlements grew into big cities, most of the money was still made in the countryside farms rather than the banks and the brokerage firms within walking distance from the ports. So “armchair economists” at the time with a disdain for the old fashioned Protestant Work Ethic tested out their rigmarole-driven money making schemes which sadly became the groundwork for futures trading and commodities trading. Their “new economic model” was the major factor that caused farmers to adopt high-volume high-profit farming methods with inherently questionable environmental sustainability. Given that Mother Nature seriously abhors such ecologically perverted practices thus making the large-scale use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers a necessity, rather than as a corrective measure.

The folly of this system manifested itself during the early part of 2008 when the move from futures trading to commodities trading of agrarian produce caused the skyrocketing food prices. Causing food riots in various parts of the world. But is there a way out of this somewhat conundrum?

Currently, the organic farming / organic agriculture industry only provides a quarter of the food that’s currently available on the market. In my opinion, the money being spend on agricultural research and development should be spent on improving or increasing the yield capacity of organic farming methods, rather than on genetically modified organisms with questionable effects on our environment and ecosystem. Given that the corporate entities that manufacture these genetically modified crops and their support chemicals had been devoid of any semblance of corporate social responsibility for the past 40 years or so (remember the Agent Orange fiasco) only gives credence to everyone clamoring for agricultural industry reforms.

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