Organic Food Production Methods vs Industrial Production Methods Research Paper

Introduction

It is not a secret that in order to develop a sustainable food production system, there is a need for implementing a number of effective strategies by relevant intergovernmental organisations. Various types of  agricultural management systems affect the sustainability of the food production system in its own way. Some methods are more harmful for human health, animal well-being, food security and environmental sustainability, while other food production methods are either less harmful or do not have any negative effects on human health, animal well-being, food security and environmental sustainability. In this paper, due attention will be paid to discussion of organic food production methods used in farming systems and industrial production methods that are considered to be conventional farming. According to food production experts, “conventional agriculture” is the major form of intensive farming, which depends on “high inputs of synthetic pesticides and mineral fertilisers, and a high proportion of conventionally-produced concentrate feed in animal production” (Mie et al. 111). Conversely, experts define “organic agriculture” as a form of farming that depends on the established standards for organic production and  that requires the use of organic fertilisers, farmyard and green manure, “a predominant reliance on ecosystem services and non-chemical measures for pest prevention and control and livestock access to open air and roughage feed” (Mie et al. 111). In other words, in organic food production, the use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals is strictly restricted, while residues in conventional industrial food production constitute the key source of human exposures (Mie et al. 112).

Thesis statement: Although organic food production methods are less effective in terms of productivity than industrial production methods, they are much better for human health, soil and the environment.

Overview of organic food production methods

Organic food is very popular today. Recent studies show that many consumers prefer to regularly buy organic food, including organic vegetables, fruit, wholegrain products and meat because of the need to meet the dietary requirements (Mie et al. 111). There is much evidence that organic food consumption reflects not only individual lifestyles, but also consumers’ motivations and dietary patterns (Mie et al. 112).  Researchers suggests that the role of organic food consumption in human health is widely recognized, but because of high costs, organic food is not selected by consumers with low incomes (Mie et al. 111). It has been found that organic production methods help to improve sustainability in the food industry (Aschemann-Witzel & Zielke 211). In addition, the analysis of the quality of food derived from organic food production and non-organic food production shows that consumers can benefit from purchasing organic food (Zalecka et al. 2600). Organic food “contains fewer pesticide residues and statistically more selected health-related compounds such as poly-phenols in plant products and poly-unsaturated fatty acids in milk and meat products” (Zalecka et al. 2600). Researchers define organic food production methods as consumer-oriented farming (Zalecka et al. 2600). Hence, organic food production has become a key priority for many farmers.

The benefits of organic food production methods

The positive impact of organic food production methods on human health

Organic food production methods have a positive impact on human health. Recent research findings show that consumption of organic food helps to improve health because of the lack of pesticides and other harmful substances (Mie et al. 111). Many consumers believe that local food should be produced by means of organic food production methods in order to provide an opportunity to make a sustainable choice (Hempel & Hamm 733). Conventional food, which is produced by means of industrial production methods, fails to address the needs of consumers. Because of the shorter transport distances, it is possible to deliver high quality food, including organic vegetables, fruit, wholegrain products and meat. This type of delivery provides support to local economies (Autio et al. 564). In addition, there is much evidence that organic food production helps to reduce the risk of a number of diseases, such as allergic disease, heart disease and overweight and obesity (Mie et all. 113). Recent studies show that “animal experiments suggest that growth and development is affected by the feed type when comparing identically composed feed from organic or conventional production” (Mie et al. 113). According to personal interview with an organic food expert, organic food production methods guarantee positive effects on human health due to lower nitrate contents, less pesticide residues, increased levels of vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, phenolic compounds, conjugated linoleic acid.

The positive impact of organic food production methods on soil

The impact of organic food production methods on soil is positive. Organic food production eliminates soil contamination because it does not need the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and other types of synthetic chemicals. In fact, organic food production methods are developed in a way that helps to reduce erosion. The fact that organic crop production does not lead to elimination of  vegetation means that large amount of soil is covered with vegetation. These methods prevent damage of soil that may be caused by strong winds, which carry away the top fertile soil layers. Researchers suggest that  “the organic systems show efficient resource utilization and enhanced floral and faunal diversity, features typical of mature systems” (Maeder et al.1697). The organic food expert states that organic food production should be expanded to address current environmental problems in the San Luis Obispo area in California, namely soil related challenges.

The positive impact of organic food production methods on the environment

The impact of organic food production methods on the environment is positive. As organic food production is based on healthy methods, the use of all types of synthetic chemicals is strictly prohibited. This fact means that organic food production methods do not pose any risk on water resources. Underground water contamination is caused by industrialized farming which is based on the use of large amounts of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. Organic food production methods help to  increase local wildlife because these methods do not rely on the use of toxic chemicals. Mixed planting is presented as a natural pest control measure on organic food production. Moreover, these methods help to maintain field margins and hedges. As a result, local wildlife is preserved. Organic food production methods lead to conservation of  biodiversity, preventing ecological imbalance. According to researchers, concerns for the environment and animal welfare make many consumers buy and organic food (Zalecka et al. 2604).

Overview of industrial production methods

However, some experts consider that industrial production methods are more effective than organic food production methods. Industrial food animal production methods are very popular across the world. The key idea is to raise animals of similar genotypes, such as pigs, layer hens, broiler chickens, ducks, and turkeys with the goal of rapid population turnover and under properly controlled conditions. As a rule, these animals are raised in confined area, with sufficient amount of nutrient dense and artificial feeds that replace forage crops. According to recent studies, “the feeds supplied to confined animal populations are significantly different from the foraged feeds traditionally available to poultry, swine, or cattle (with relatively minimal supplementation by minerals or other substances)” (Silbergeld et al. 151). Industrial food production methods require using feeds that are formulated with the proper substances for animal growth, namely “proteins, fats derived from corn and soy bean, animal fats and proteins recycled through rendering, additions of industrial waste streams, animal waste, and antimicrobials” (Silbergeld et al. 151). Also, industrial food production is oriented on large scale operations; therefore, it is more effective in terms of productivity than organic food production (Mie et al. 112). 

Criticism of industrial production methods

Industrial production methods are harmful to human health. According to researchers, “understanding interactions between animals and humans is critical in preventing outbreaks of zoonotic disease” (Graham et al. 282). It is clear that any diseases that affect animals lead to the low quality level. Transformation of small-scale food animal production methods led to emergence of industrial-scale operations. Actually, there is much evidence of pathogen movement between industrial facilities, increased release to the environment, and high level of exposure to farm workers (Graham et al. 282). Hence, modern food animal production, which is based on the use of industrial food production methods is less biosecure and biocontained as compared with small-scale food animal production  operations (Graham et al. 282). Due attention should be paid to the new and re-emerging zoonotic diseases in the industrialized food production systems, which are described as  “major sources of antimicrobial drug–resistant bacterial pathogens that are among the most globally prevalent and emerging infectious diseases” (Silbergeld et al. 1503). Researchers characterize industrial food production methods as ineffective practices that involve “crowded and unsanitary confinement of animals and routine use of antimicrobial agents in animal feeds” (Silbergeld et al. 1503).

In addition, industrial production methods are less attractive to consumers because of their negative effects on soil and the environment. The results of recent studies show that many consumers prefer organic food which is more environmentally friendly than conventional food. For example, in recent study, experts in the environmental health sciences criticize a well-known Stanford University study, which provides evidence that “there is little difference in the healthfulness and safety of conventional and organic foods” (Holzman a458). They place emphasis on the adverse effects of pesticides on soil and the environment. Eating organic food reduces the exposure to pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which have negative impact on human health (Holzman a458). Children need a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Organic food is appropriate for this type of diet because it has less amount of pesticide residues than conventional food (Holzman a458).

Moreover, it is critical to resolve the problem of food security today through the proper changes in the food industry. Food security can be achieved if the identified challenges are addressed in a proper way. Jan Jansa and colleagues suggest that “improving crops and agricultural practices is an ongoing and indispensable aspect of these efforts” (874). Organic food production methods should be expanded at the global scale. Due attention should be paid to the key aspects of environmental sustainability, including biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions, because they are influenced by the food production methods (Mie et al. 112). These aspects have a considerable impact on human health through food security (Mie et al. 112). There is a need for reduction the prevalent use of antibiotics in food products in order to improve health of the nation. Recognition of the fact that antibiotic usage is less intensive in organic food production methods means that agricultural scientists are ready to benefit human health (Mie et al., 2016). Due to application of organic food production methods, it is possible to promote pest management at the global scale.

Conclusion

Thus, it is necessary to conclude that although organic food production methods are less effective in terms of productivity than industrial production methods, they are better for human health, soil and the environment. Organic food production methods definitely reduce the exposure of consumers to pesticides, as well as reduce the spread of diseases, which are associated with antibiotic resistance. It is important to provide consumers with healthy food. Organic food production methods guarantee a clinically relevant nutritional advantage over industrial production methods.

Works Cited

Aschemann-Witzel, Jessica & Zielke, Stephan. “Can’t buy me green? A review of consumer perceptions of and behaviour toward the price of organic food,” Journal of Consumer Affairs, vol. 51, no. 1(Spring 2017): 211-251.

Autio, Minna; Collins, Rebecca; Wahlen, Stefan; Anttila, Marika. “ Consuming nostalgia? The appreciation of authenticity in local food production,” International Journal of Consumer Studies, vol. 37,  no. 5 (September 2013): 564-568.

Graham, J. P., Leibler, J. H., Price, L. B. et al. “The animal-human interface and infectious disease in industrial food animal production: rethinking biosecurity and biocontainment,”Public health reports (Washington, D.C. :1974), vol. 123, no. 3 (2008): 282-99.

Hempel, Corinna & Hamm, Ulrich. “Local and/or organic: a study on consumer preferences for organic food and food from different origins,” International Journal of Consumer Studies, vol. 40, no. 6 (November 2016): 732-741.

Holzman, D. C. “Organic food conclusions don’t tell the whole story,” Environmental health perspectives, vol. 120, no.12 (2012): A458.

Jansa, Jan; Frossard, Emmanuel; Stamp, Peter; Kreuzer, Michae; et al. “Future food production as interplay of natural resources, technology and human society,” Journal of Industrial Ecology, vol. 14, no. 6 (2010): 874-877.

Maeder, Paul; Fliessbach, Andreas; Dubois, David; Gunst, Lucie; Fried, Padruot; Niggli, Urs. “Soil Fertility and Biodiversity in Organic Farming,” Science, vol. 296, no. 5573 (2002): 1694-1697. http://woodsend.org/pdf-files/maeder.pdf

Mie, Asel; Andersen, Helle A., Gunnarsson, Stephan; Kahl, Johannes; Kesse-Guyot, Emanuelle;  et al. “Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: a comprehensive review,” Environmental Health,vol. 16 (2016): 111. https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-017-0315-4

Silbergeld, E., Davis, M., Feingold, B., Goldberg, A. “New infectious diseases and industrial food animal production,” Emerging infectious diseases, vol. 16, no.9(2010): 1503.

Silbergeld, Ellen K., Graham, Jay; Price, Lance B. “Industrial Food Animal Production, Antimicrobial Resistance, and Human Health,” Annual Review of Public Health, vol. 29: 151-169. http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev.publhealth.29.020907.090904

Zalecka, Aneta; Bugel, Susanne; Paoletti, Flavio; Kahl, Johannes; et al. “The influence of organic production on food quality – research findings, gaps and future challenges,” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, vol. 94(2014): 2600-2604. https://iris.unipa.it/retrieve/handle/10447/99564/130192/Zalecka%20et%20al.%202014%20jsfa%206578.pdf

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