Please could you explain and include cost and practicality in your answer.
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I guess it depends on what you mean by "better."
There is no real indication that organic foods have any less of a "carbon footprint" than foods that are grown in a more conventional way. So in terms of carbon and resources used, it's not much different.
You can argue that they are better because they use fewer chemicals and are therefore less likely to pollute the water with chemical runoff.
However, they do require a great deal more care and effort. This makes them a great deal more expensive, generally, than foods that are grown the regular way.
"Better" is a pretty subjective term. Organic agriculture is a booming industry that commands premium prices in the market, so there is huge profit potential for both agribusiness and the small farmer. To be considered an "organic" farm and maintain your certification, your soil and water must remain pesticide and chemical free for three consecutive years. This adds an element of risk in that the simple spray drift from nearby orchards, or a mistake by a crop duster can not only damage but destroy your farm's profitability.
Less chemicals in produce is almost always good for public health, though the crops might be smaller in yield and more subject to disease or infestation. This limits supply, but consequently increases profitability.
The best testament to organic agriculture's profitability is the explosion in sales and the number of organic acres under cultivation.
Before answering this question it will be better to develop some clarity on meaning of the the term "conventional farming". Organic farming was the original conventional method of farming before synthetic fertilizers came to be used in large scale for farming. This, combined with development of high yielding varieties of food products, resulted in many fold increase in farming production in terms of yield acre of land. This increased the total food supply to feed the increased population and increased levels of nutrition in the society. However this method of farming depending on synthetic fertilizer, and high yielding varieties of farm products resulted in drop in the nutritional value and other quality characteristics of the farm products because the synthetic fertilizers are only able to provide the basic nutrients for farm production called NPK, referring the trio of chemical elements nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). But for producing good quality of food rich in all kinds of vitamins and minerals, plants also need other micro-nutrients. Synthetic fertilizers do not provide these. Rather the higher yield of farm production, made possible by modern method of farming deplete the naturally present micro-nutrients in the soil much faster.
What we call organic farming is the return to the original method of farming which uses organic manure or fertilizers for replenishing the nutrients in the soil depleted by farming. These organic fertilizers which are made from farm waste have well balanced mix of NPK as well as micro-nutrients. This produced much more nutritious, and often better flavoured, food as compared to that produced by use of synthetic fertilizers.
Thus in a way organic farming is better than farming using synthetic fertilizers. However the total food production is much lower using this method. Further it is not possible to increase the production of organic manure also that easily. In sum total the result is that it is not possible to meet the total food requirements of world by organic farming alone. As a matter of fact if use of synthetic fertilizers was to to completely eliminated today, it will result in severe shortage of food and other agricultural products across the world. As things stand today, organic farming can be used only in a small way catering to a small market willing and able to pay substantial premium for better quality. It cannot replace the current methods of farming as the main method of farming.
Organic farming differs from conventional farming in many ways. Organic farming does not include chemical fertilizers like conventional farming does. Organic farmers use manure and compost to fertilize. Organic farming also does not include the use of pesticides. Instead, they use natural means to destroy pests such as birds or traps. In addition, conventional farming includes the use of herbicides for weed control while organic farming includes crop rotation or even weeding by hand. Organic farmers also do not believe in the use of hormones in animals.
The main concern that people have with organic foods is the cost that is associated with them. One way to get around this is by shopping at local farmers markets. Here, you can usually get organic foods at a fraction of the cost.
The USDA certifies organic products according to strict guidelines. Organic farmers must apply for certification, pass a test, and pay a fee. It’s important to note that this means not all organic foods become certified, even though all certified food is organic. Controversy exists over whether all organic foods carry substantial benefits over their counterparts—organic onions, for example, might not be much different from their conventional cousins when it comes to health benefits—but in all cases, organic means the foods were grown on farms with USDA guidelines.
As the other posters have noted, there are advantages and drawbacks to organic farming. It certainly seems more sustainable than conventional farming methods, especially in the areas of soil nutrition/depletion. However, when shopping at the typical grocery store, organic items are often more expensive than their "regular" counterparts. One of the best ways to shop organic and keep costs down is to shop at a local farmer's market. The produce (and eggs, bread, honey, chicken, etc.-farmer's markets often have a wide variety) is usually much less expensive than even the conventionally grown produce in the grocery stores.
Also, buying locally has many benefits. It keeps money in the local economy, and builds a sense of community. You can develop a relationship with the vendors, and become even more involved in the process your food takes to get to your table. Eating locally also generally takes less energy overall to produce. The less the food has to travel, the less energy is used. Of course, if someone is locally growing tomatoes in a hothouse, that may use more energy than field-grown tomatoes from farther away. Finally, local produce is often organic, which means you get the same advantages without the prohibitive costs.
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